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06 Mar 2013

Juve march into Champions League last eight

Goals from Matri and Quagliarella see off the threat of Celtic and guarantee Conte's men a place in the quarter-finals with a 5-0 aggregate success

A convincing 2-0 victory over Celtic at Juventus Stadium saw the Bianconeri safely through to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time in seven years.

Having staved off a spirited start by the visitors, Conte’s men produced an assured performance to wrap up a merited 5-0 aggregate score and confirm the club’s return as a genuine force on Europe’s greatest stage.

Alessandro Matri shot the hosts into a 24th minute lead after capitalising on Fabio Quagliarella’s blocked effort to score his second in as many games against the reigning Scottish champions.

And Quagliarella got the goal his hard graft deserved midway through the second half, tapping home Arturo Vidal’s cut-back to register his fourth strike of the current Champions League campaign.  

There was little to separate the sides in a combative opening to the game, with most of the endeavour focused on gaining control of a densely packed midfield area.

Celtic, bolstered by the aerial presence of the returning Samaras, created the first threat on goal when a stray ball fell into the path of Kayal on the edge of the area, only for the midfielder to be crowded out by a host of bodies as he prepared to pull the trigger.

The hosts, looking to maintain their 100% home record against Scottish opposition, subsequently upped the tempo and some neat skill by Pogba on the edge of the area almost presented Matri with the opportunity to test Forster.

Unfazed by the uphill task facing them at Juventus Stadium, the Bhoys began to forage forward with intent and Ledley had Buffon at full stretch with a venomous strike that whistled marginally past the upright with 20 minutes played.      

But Juventus stuck diligently to their task and took a giant stride towards the quarter-finals when Matri bundled home from close range after Forster failed to fully gather Quagliarella’s snap-shot on the turn, sparking wild celebrations from a vociferous crowd at Juventus Stadium.

Lennon’s men, however, refused to lie down and Juventus had Buffon to thank for preserving their lead after the goalkeeper pulled off a top-notch save to prevent Commons’ deflected strike from levelling matters on 28 minutes.

The end-to-end nature of proceedings continued as the pendulum swung back in the Bianconeri’s favour moments later, only for Vidal to turn his left-footed attempt from 25 yards over the crossbar after gathering Quagliarella’s square ball.

And after Hooper and Kayal went close to grabbing an equaliser for the Scottish Premier League leaders, it was the Chilean midfielder who again threatened to double Juve’s advantage, this time seeing his drilled shot thwarted by Forster’s diving stop.

Boosted by Conte’s words during the interval, Juventus were quick out of the blocks and almost extended their lead when Matri’s cleverly executed backheel was turned goalwards by Quagliarella, who saw his instinctive shot blocked by the sharp reflexes of Forster.

With the security of a 4-0 aggregate lead, Conte’s men settled into their slick passing game and put the final outcome beyond any doubt midway through the second half with a goal that exhibited Pirlo’s exquisite ability on the ball.

Sensing an opportunity to unlock the Celtic rearguard with the ball at his feet on the edge of the area, the talismanic playmaker opened the door with an inch-perfect searching pass to Vidal, who duly squared for Quagliarella to add to his impressive scoring run in Europe’s most prestigious competition.     

An entertaining affair culminated in the Bianconeri faithful generously applauding their Scottish counterparts for the unwavering support shown throughout the 90 minutes.

Firat Aydinus’ final whistle drew cheers from a delighted home crowd who will go home believing Conte’s men may well enjoy a few more special European nights before the current campaign draws to a close.

JUVENTUS 2-0 CELTIC

GOALS: Matri 24, Quagliarella 65

JUVENTUS

Buffon; Bonucci, Marrone, Barzagli; Padoin, Vidal (Isla 67), Pirlo (Giaccherini 69), Pogba, Peluso (Asamoah 58); Quagliarella, Matri.

Substitutes not used: Storari, Chiellini, Giovinco, Vucinic

Manager: Conte

CELTIC

Forster; Matthews (Forrest 49), Wilson, Wanyama (Ambrose 46), Izaguirre; Samaras, Kayal, Ledley, Mulgrew, Commons (Lassad 73); Hooper

Substitutes not used: Zaluska, Miku, Stokes, McGeouch.

Manager: Lennon

REFEREE: Aydinus (TUR)

ASSISTANTS: Ok (TUR), Tascioglu (TUR)

FOURTH OFFICIAL: Satman (TUR)

BOOKINGS: Peluso 17, Matthews 64