Juventus, PSG cross first hurdle

Juventus, PSG cross first hurdle

Italian and French clubs tame their opponents in opening-leg matches in contrasting style.

Juventus capitalised on Celtic's decision to throw Efe Ambrose into their Champions League last 16 first leg two days after he won the African Nations Cup by exposing the tired defender in a 3-0 win on Tuesday.

Ambrose was part of the Nigeria team which triumphed in South Africa but he was at fault for Juve's third minute opener by Alessandro Matri, missed a key chance at 1-0 in the second period and faded badly as the Italians raced away.

Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic netted after 77th and 83rd minutes with Ambrose floundering to all but put the twice European champions into the quarter-finals with Celtic facing a monumental task in Turin in the second leg on March 6. In the other match, Paris St Germain beat Valencia 2-1 but they will be without the talismanic Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the return match. The big-spending Ligue 1 leaders looked to be strolling into the quarter-finals when they took the lead in the 10th minute through Ezequiel Lavezzi and his Argentina team-mate Javier Pastore added a second goal two minutes before halftime.

Valencia improved after coach Ernesto Valverde made a couple of astute changes at the break and it was no more than the Spanish team deserved when centre back Adil Rami surged into the area and volleyed home from close range in the 90th minute.
But it was Juventus night all the way as they battled it out against Celtic’s. The Scottish champions did beat mighty Barcelona at home in the group stage but even those heroics will pale by comparison if they somehow knock out the Italian title holders and league leaders.

Big fight

A rugged Juve had to fight in the first half against a fast and furious British pace they are not used to in the more leisurely Serie A and jubilant goalscorer Marchisio was already looking past the second leg. Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had tried to play down the impact of Celtic's famously noisy fans ahead of the match but even the coolest of Italians would have struggled not to have been affected by the almost 60,000 screaming home supporters.

Almost all of the Celtic fans stood with scarves aloft and sang a stirring rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" before kick-off but soon they were cursing their luck after Ambrose's feelgood factor from Nigeria's title win quickly evaporated. The centre back got caught out by a ball played over the top of the defence and Matri easily outmuscled him before prodding it between goalkeeper Fraser Forster's legs.

Wilson ran back to hook it away and although the ball had already just crossed the line, Marchisio fired home the clearance just in case. That was the only real chance Juve had in the first half as they were then forced to withstand a Celtic onslaught. But Celtic, the 1967 European Cup winners who last reached the Champions League first knock-out round in 2008, ran out of steam after the break but Ambrose spurned a chance to redeem himself by heading straight at Buffon when free.

Slightly out of the blue, Italy midfielder Marchisio then struck after being set up by Matri and Montenegro forward Vucinic made it three in style as Celtic, and especially Ambrose, hit a wall of fatigue. Paris St Germain would be slightly wary going into the return match without Ibrahimovic, who was shown a straight red card for a wild lunge on defender Andres Guardado in the second minute of added time and he will be suspended for the second leg in Paris on March 6.

The home team were dealt an early blow when Lavezzi exchanged passes with Pastore before racing past his marker into the area and blasting the ball into the net. Lucas, who struck a long-range effort against a post moments before Lavezzi's goal, then set up the second goal. The Brazilian burst into the box from the right and pulled the ball back for fellow midfielder Pastore to send a first-time shot past goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.

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