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Celtic v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Two stories of similar ilk from two different places on this Saturday afternoon. For those far removed from the front lines, the idea of ‘hooliganism’ has been romanticized by popular films like ‘Green Street Hooligans.’ Where we learn that underneath the most hardened thugs is a heart of gold, people who love their club to the point where violence is an option when honour is on the line.

The reality, however, is much different. Violence has marred football for too long, jeopardizing the health of supporters and security officials alike. The Footballing history of Scotland and Australia are dissimilar. But like most nations, they share common ground when the line between fans and fanatics is questioned by police. Read the rest of this entry »

Georgios Samaras’ goal in the fourth minute of injury time sent Parkhead into hysterics yesterday. Great goal and wonderful scenes aside, I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for anything Greek Jesus does. Celtic are coasting to another SPL title, leading Motherwell by 15 points.

Juventus v Celtic - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Game in a sentence

There were no miracles on the pitch as Juventus triumphed over Celtic 2-0 (agg. 5-0).


  • The Old Lady started with Paul Pogba, who replaced Claudio Marchisio in midfield, and striker Fabio Quagliarella for Mirko Vucinic.
  • Nicolas Anelka was also on the injured list, but considering the way the Old Lady has been playing it clearly made no difference in this match.
  • Celtic were happy to have Georgios Samaras back in the lineup, who formed a key partnership with Kris Commons and Gary Hooper. Injured were Tony Watt, Scott Brown and Mikael Lustig (interesting last name, means funny in German).
  • Neil Lennon must have also been content that there was far less manhandling from the Italians on set pieces.
  • It was a phenomenal atmosphere in Turin. The stands reflected the black and white colours of the team. With some media pundits even giving this match the movie title of ‘Mission Impossible’, clearly referring to the Scottish side’s poor chances of coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the first leg.
  • It was a wet pitch in Turin, but luckily that didn’t create too many problems for either side.
  • From the get go, it was an exciting 90 minutes. Celtic wasted little time and started pressing immediately after the whistle blew. Both teams settled in quite speedily. And despite conceding the first goal, Celtic played a much better defensive game than in the first leg.
  • Beram Kayal and Samaras pushed forward with the help of Charlie Mulgrew and Joe Ledley. Their efforts to play the ball to Commons and Hooper faced stark opposition though. Juve frustrated the Scottish side, clearing the ball before they could make anything of it. The Italians remained defensively tight and neatly organized throughout the game.
  • Leonardo Bonucci was key in the Turin side’s defence, throwing his body in front of several shots. Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, and Arturo Vidal made it tricky for the opponents to penetrate deep into their zone.
  • Gianluigi Buffon, the team’s most assertive leader along with Pirlo, was constantly communicating with his defensive line. He was stellar in net (once again), having conceded only four goals in this competition. He also has four clean sheets in the past four matches.
  • Juventus remained calm and were silently commanding the match, even when the Glasgow side turned up the pressure. Pirlo reflected that control. He barely panicked even when he was swarmed by two to three opposition players.
  • At first it appeared Celtic may score the first goal, especially after producing several build ups. Ledley had one of the better goal attempts. But his long shot was too weak and went wide in the 21st minute.
  • Minutes after that attempt, the Bianconeri took the lead. Quagliarella’s initial attempt was saved by Fraser Forster, but Alessandro Matri got to the rebound to score in the 24th minute.
  • Celtic really needed to be more careful of Juve’s quick counterattacks. The Italian side caught the team off guard countless times with their speedy diagonal passes. They were lucky one of Vidal’s long shots went far above the bar.
  • As the game went on, it became quite apparent that Celtic had no chance of recovery.
  • But knowing the type of team this is, the deficit didn’t damper their spirits. Celtic soldiered on.
  • Mulgrew was a busy player. He was all over the field, moving from left to centre and trying to set up his team’s strikers. It’s not as if Celtic didn’t have their chances. The targets on goal were pretty balanced in the first half.
  • In the 35th minute, for example, Samaras rushed down the left flank. His cross ended up in front of Hooper, who was unable to get a proper touch on the ball to convert the chance.
  • Minutes later Kayal had another glorious opportunity, but his header fell straight into Buffon’s arms. That’s pretty much how it would continue into the second half.
  • Victor Wanyama, who wasn’t very effective in this match, was eventually replaced by Efe Ambrose (who supposedly missed the bus to the team’s training session before the game). It was later reported the Kenyan was suffering from a hamstring problem.
  • On the other end of the pitch, Quagliarella served as a nuisance for the Scottish side all night. Celtic clearly didn’t do enough to mark such a clear danger. They would soon pay the prize.
  • Matri and Quagliarella were a deadly pairing. In the 65th minute, Pirlo with is incredible vision made a diagonal pass to Vidal, who chested the ball and flicked it to Quagliarella who scored his fourth goal of the competition.
  • Juventus excelled at converting their chances even though they recorded less attempts for the night. It’s the ability to capitalize under pressure that determined why the Italian side were the better team.
  • As the match continued it was obvious all Celtic wanted was a single goal to at least exit the competition with a sense of dignity. While their wish wasn’t fulfilled, they definitely leave the Champions League with a spirit that was unmatched in the tournament.
  • As for the winners, Juventus have recorded their fifth clean sheet and continue their unbeaten streak.

Three Stars


Celtic loses the media war

Do media narratives matter?

I know we abuse the n-word on this blog, but media, whether social, DIY, or traditional, still largely wags the dog when it comes to consequences in the footballing world. If the Daily Mail thinks that Andre Villas-Boas is a hyper-intellectual pipsqueak for example, then consciously or unconsciously, it has an effect on his future at a club notorious for wielding the ax, like Chelsea.

If you think this is a stretch, consider Sir Alex Ferguson’s very self-conscious media strategy, in which he maintains strict control over messaging, and maintains the aura of someone who will withdraw access if they don’t feel coverage is fair.

Celtic lost 0-3 to Juventus in the Champions League last night. Fine. Few expected a return to their form when they beat Barcelona. Maintaining such a low total shots ratio over several knockout stage matches generally only works for Roberto Di Matteo.

Anyway, at home (i.e. the English speaking bits of Europe), both Celtic’s players and more importantly Celtic’s manager Neil Lennon had a ready-at-hand scapegoat, with the popular theory that Gary Hooper was ‘abused’ by Juventus defenders, particularly Stephan Lichtsteiner. Moreover, Hooper came in for praise for not ‘succumbing’ to his temper by screaming out over various instances of holding. The club had all the ammunition they needed for an honourable discharge from Europe in the second leg.

And then Kris Commons opened his mouth, to BBC Scotland:

The Celtic midfielder Kris Commons has pointed the finger at his team-mate Efe Ambrose following Tuesday’s 3-0 defeat by Juventus in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

Ambrose, the Nigeria defender, only arrived back in Glasgow on the morning of the match after the Africa Cup of Nations, but was included by Neil Lennon in Celtic’s starting lineup after insisting he felt fit to play.

Ambrose gifted Alessandro Matri an early goal, missed Celtic’s best chance of the night when he sent a free header straight at Gianluigi Buffon from six yards and then lost possession to allow Mirko Vucinic to claim a late third and virtually send Juventus into the Champions League quarter-finals.

Lennon must be rueing his decision to pick Ambrose but Commons believes the player is responsible. Commons said: “Look, the manager picked him. The manager pulled him to one side and asked him if he was feeling OK. He said he was feeling brilliant. If he wasn’t feeling OK then he should have said so. If he felt good then he should have put in a better performance.”

And so suddenly we have a completely unnecessary dressing room fracas. Celtic lost the message. There may or may not be consequences, but now the media have tasted blood, and no one cares whether or not Hooper got jobbed.

Celtic 0-3 Juventus

Celtic v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Round of 16

Game in a sentence

Juventus continue their unbeaten streak and win their first Champions league round of 16 leg over Celtic.


  • Juventus were heavy favourites before the game and ended the match with a convincing 0-3 victory over Celtic. The Old Lady entered the knockout phase on an unbeaten streak, conceding only four goals in the group stage. But Celtic also held bragging rights before the match with an interesting record at home against Italian teams. The club had not lost in their last eight games against a Serie A team. That record, of course, was broken today.
  • Before the match even Antonio Conte said he wouldn’t underestimate Celtic after they beat the likes of heavyweights Barcelona in the group stage.
  • The atmosphere inside Celtic Park was electric even before kick-off (as expected). It definitely had the energy found only in a World Cup or Champions League Final. Even when Juve were leading by three goals, the Scottish fans continued to cheer on their side. No wonder Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta called them the best fans in the world.
  • Despite the fear that Celtic would play an ultra defensive game, Neil Lennon employed a very different tactic than the one we witnessed against Barcelona. The Scottish side attacked relentlessly. They played an open game and pressured high-up the pitch from the get-go.
  • Within the first two minutes, Victor Wanyama had the first chance of the game with an explosive strike from a distance that caught Gianluigi Buffon by surprise, but the Italian keeper managed to block the shot quite effortlessly.
  • Although Celtic attacked first, it was Claudio Marchisio that gave Juventus the lead in the first half after Celtic failed to clear the ball on Alessandro Matri’s attempt. Terrible defending from the Scottish side. The goal was later awarded to Matri as replays showed the ball actually did cross the line on his shot.
  • Juventus played their usual passive style of football. Defending for the most part, but making it difficult for Celtic to muster any decent crosses and opportunities to score.
  • While the Old Lady sat back for the majority of the match, they always seemed to be in control. They were exceptional at marking opponents and made it difficult for Celtic to operate in front of the net.
  • Celtic, however, remained resilient throughout the match. Even when trailing, they continued to threaten, especially with James Forrest and Wanyama making strides deep into Juve’s side of the pitch. Kris Commons and Gary Hooper also continually menaced the Italian side’s defence.
  • The main difference between the two teams lay in their capacities to finish. While Celtic had more scoring opportunities and possession, it was Juve that managed to capitalize on their chances.
  • Celtic had 10 corners, but the absence of top scorer Georgios Samaras due to a hamstring problem was felt heavily. The Greek scored all his three Champions league goals on headers and provided the team up front with a physical threat that was missing today, especially on set pieces.
  • Celtic’s best chance likely game in the 62nd minute when Charlie Mulgrew provided a beautiful cross from the left to Efe Ambrose, who headed it straight at Buffon. Still, a great effort from Ambrose, who only arrived in Glasgow this morning, after winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Nigeria. Tired legs probably affected his performance.
  • Juve benefited from having Marchisio back in the line-up, who no only made an immediate impact in midfield, but also helped seal the win in the 77th minute along with Mirko Vucinic, who made it 3-0 in the 83rd.
  • With less than five minutes to go, Nicholas Anelka also made his debut for Juventus, coming on for Vucinic. Not that it mattered at this point with the team already leading by three goals.
  • I’m unsure how Celtic will approach the second leg of this match. They deserve credit for playing with their hearts on the line. Their performance was exciting, but they need to finish if they hope to advance to the next round.
  • Former Scottish manager Kenny Dalglish said before the game, “if there’s a will, there’s a way.” And Celtic still have one more game to prove how badly they want this.

Three Stars

1. Marchisio
2. Buffon
3. Matri

Banner of the Day


(H/T Kevin Cummins).

Celtic manager Neil Lennon was trying to conduct a serious press conference, and if all had gone well, you and nobody else would read/care much about it further. Instead, a journalist thought they’d take advantage of the iPhone’s pretty reliable Voice Memos app, and instead found their phone ringing on the table.

And so Neil Lennon answered the phone, which is about the most wrong a wrong number can be…