6 Things We Learned from the Celtic vs. Juventus UEFA Champions League Clash
Parkhead, in the east end of Glasgow. One of football's most famous venues. Known for its crowds, its incredible voice and its intimidating atmosphere. And regarded as the sort of place at which you don't want to be the visiting team, especially on one of the big European nights. A night like this one.
Problem is, no one told Juventus. The Old Lady of Turin met the green half of the Old Firm in what was billed as the romance tie of the round. Celtic were the minnows, there against all odds. But the Hoops had enough about them to cause Antonio Conte's men problems. Or so we thought.
There was plenty to admire in Celtic's performance. The tempo remained high throughout, the players were not overawed by the opposition and they admirably did not park the proverbial bus in an attempt to stifle Juve. But in the end, there was nothing they could do to stop the Bianconeri onslaught.
So what are the key points to take from the game? Read on to find out.
Antonio Conte's Men Seem Fearless
Antonio Conte must have been a proud man heading back to Turin. His side had soaked all the pressure that Celtic could apply and brushed off the intense atmosphere inside Parkhead.
There'll be tougher opposition farther down the road, but Juventus have sent a message: they're not afraid of anyone. Conte spoke on that after the game (via Football Italia).
It was certainly a very important victory. I personally as a player have been in this competition for many years, but had rarely seen a passionate atmosphere like this.
At the start the Celtic players went above and beyond their capabilities, but we held out under their pressure. The moment they dropped the tempo a little, we got our goals and created more dangerous opportunities.
It wasn’t easy to play in that atmosphere, and I can say that as someone who has experienced these things as a player. I couldn’t communicate with the players because it was so loud.
Every time there was a corner, it felt like the stadium was coming down. The lads deserve praise for getting this result in Glasgow.
Physicality Is Nothing Without Panache
Celtic were certainly up for this tie, and brought all of the grit and determination that we'd expected to see from the Scots. But at this level, brute strength isn't everything.
Fans of British soccer always point to the game's innate physicality in the UK, the battling nature of the players and their willingness and ability to "get stuck in." Against the continent's finest sides, however, you need more than just aggression; you need ability, too.
For all their physicality, Celtic could not hide the gulf in class between themselves and the visitors. This shouldn't be read as a slight on the Glaswegians, but rather as a clarification for anyone who still believes that simply being rough and ready is enough to prevail.
Juventus were physical and well-organised, willing to tackle and happy to take the blows from the boys in green. But crucially, they were also light-footed and delicate with the ball when they needed to be; they were capable of skillful exchange and clever footballing. And in the end, it was that which made all the difference.
Might, whatever they say, is not always right.
Stephan Lichtsteiner Is a Nightmare to Play Against
If Celtic were hoping to bully and intimidate the Juventus back line, they obviously didn't do their homework on Stephan Lichtsteiner. A nightmare to play against when he's on form, the Swiss defender is physical, troublesome on the ball and not afraid to test the rules off of it.
Though there were no innocent parties on a night that saw a lot of aggressive football, Celtic were furious about what they saw as unfair tussling in the box, with the aforementioned Lichtsteiner playing a starring role in the rule-breaking. After the game Neil Lennon spoke about the officiating (via Goal.com).
I'd like to ask the referee: "Is the game different in Spain and Italy?" Every time one of my players was moving or trying to lose his man he was fouled, time and time again. He should have given a penalty on at least two occasions for us.
Lichtsteiner gets under people's skin, and he certainly ran the risk of conceding a penalty at some stages of the game, but Juve fans will point out that he only gave as good as he got from the Celtic players, which is a fair point.
A note for Neil Lennon: People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
Celtic Were Let Down by More Than Just "Certain Individuals"
Rather pathetically, after the game some of the Celtic players chose to turn on one another.
They were well beaten by a better, more experienced and more expensive team at the business-end of Europe's premier club competition. There's no shame in it. But that didn't stop Kris Commons complaining about his teammate Efe Ambrose (via The Guardian).
The manager picked him. The manager pulled him to one side and asked him if he was feeling okay. He said he was feeling brilliant. If he wasn't feeling okay then he should have said so. If he felt good then he should have put in a better performance.
It was just very sloppy individual mistakes – something you'd probably get away with on a playground, not in the last 16 of the Champions League. There are certain individuals who let the team down.
It's true that Ambrose was at fault throughout the game, letting Alessandro Matri loose for the first, missing Celtic's best chance and then allowing Mirko Vucinic to score the third, but his inclusion was a choice made by Commons' boss, Neil Lennon.
The manager chose to gamble on the Nigerian despite the fact he'd only arrived back in Glasgow that morning following the Africa Cup of Nations. It didn't pay off. These things happen in football, and Commons' moaning can come to no good. For the sake of team harmony and fairness, Commons should be made to understand that such comments won't be tolerated again.
Juventus Went to Glasgow Well-Prepared
Juve did their homework on their Champions League hosts. That much was clear on the pitch even before it was confirmed by the midfielder Claudio Marchisio after the game.
“We saw they scored many goals from corners and with crosses into the box," said the Italian, who himself got on the score sheet. "So we tried our best to make it difficult for them. It is their nature to be gritty and physical, but we gave as good as we got.”
The reward for their forward thinking is almost-certain progression to the next phase, and the luxury of being able to turn one eye to matters closer to home. Marchisio elaborated on that following the match (via Football Italia).
It is a very important victory, especially as we can be a little more concentrated on Serie A. We haven’t passed through yet, but it is a great win in a difficult arena and we put in a fine performance.
It’s true it is tough to overturn a 3-0 away win, but we must never be certain and always go out there with the same determination.
This team is having a great Champions League. This was an important signal to ourselves and nobody else. It was crucial to come here and score a goal, but we ended up getting three.
Celtic Now Need a Miracle
Their manager is right: Celtic now need a miracle to progress in this year's Champions League.
“We need a miracle now," said Neil Lennon after the tie. "That's the harsh reality of Champions League football.
“The scoreline flatters Juventus," added the former player. "For 70-odd minutes we were by far the better side but you can't give away sloppy goals."
The Northern Irishman and his side know only too well that they face a seemingly impossible challenge in Turin. The idea that Celtic could score four goals at the Juventus Stadium without the hosts netting themselves seems like pure fantasy, especially given the Bianconeri's form at home.
Only the most optimistic Hoops fan would be expecting Buffon to let in so many goals in front of a packed house in Turin.