Juventus cruise, Ibra red card could cost PSG dear
Juventus took a huge step towards the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday by beating Celtic 3-0 away, and although French outfit Paris Saint-Germain also won away, 2-1 at Valencia, it came at a cost.
The huge investment made in players by PSG’s Qatari owners was paying handsome dividends until a catastrophic final few minutes which saw them concede a goal and then have star Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic rather harshly sent off.
The volatile Swede will now miss next month’s second leg as a result.
It could therefore fall upon the shoulders of their latest high-profile signing, David Beckham – who was watching from the stands – to produce some of his old inspiration to see them into the last eight.
Things were much more straightforward for Juventus in Glasgow, however.
They silenced the raucous home crowd within three minutes as a mistake by Nigerian defender Efe Ambrose – perhaps still feelign the effects of his country’s Africa Cup of Nations triumph on Sunday – let in Alessandro Matri for the opening goal
Further goals late in the second half from Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic ensured there was no repeat of the famous home win over Barcelona in the group stage.
Celtic manager Neil Lennon was not happy with the referee, but accepted that his decision to play Ambrose had backfired.
“The scoreline flatters Juventus,” he said.
“For 70-odd minutes we were by far the better side but you can’t give away sloppy goals.
“We took a gamble on Efe Ambrose but he was poor for the first goal and he missed a great chance to equalise. We switched off for the second and third goals.”
Juventus coach Antonio Conte was delighted with how his side handled a hostile crowd.
“It was a difficult match and in this atmosphere with Celtic playing with the intensity they did we could have lost the match,” he said.
“But my players kept their heads and showed great maturity and overall it was an excellent result for us.”
PSG looked to be cruising as first-half goals from Argentinian duo Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore gave them a comfortable lead until the mad last two minutes where Valencia’s French centre-back Adil Rami scored and Ibrahimovic saw red.
PSG coach Carlo Ancelotti – who will also be without the increasingly influential young Italian midfielder Marco Verratti for the second leg due to suspension – was not happy with the sending-off decision.
“I don’t understand the decision,” said the Italian.
“He went for the ball at the same time as another player did. It was a forceful tackle but a football tackle. I really don’t understand.”
His Valencia counterpart Ernesto Valverde said his side had not been cautious enough and discounted the importance of the absence of Ibrahimovic in the second leg.
“They were very strong. Every counter-attack they had was very dangerous,” he admitted.
“We managed to get a late goal, which means we still have a chance, but we must take into account the fact they have some extraordinary players.”