Champions League wrap: Arsenal and Celtic struggle in last 16
Champions League wrap: Trevor Murray reflects on what has been an indifferent start to the round of 16 for the British clubs
Juve all but seal Celtic’s fate
Last week, Antonio Conte’s Juventus ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over plucky Celtic at Parkhead. It took only three minutes for the Italians to undo Celtic as Efe Ambrose was muscled off the ball inside his own 18-yard box by Alessandro Matri before the striker beat Fraser Forster with a cool finsh. Ambrose, who recently returned from the Africa Cup of Nations, had a momentary lapse of concentration on more than one occasion on a torrid evening for the Nigerian as he was also dispossessed on the edge of the box in the build-up to Juventus’ third goal. However, despite going behind to an early and avoidable goal, Celtic never gave up. Victor Wanyama and Kris Commons both had chances denied as the Celts continued to pressurise for the rest of the match. Neil Lennon’s men battled away tenaciously and they threw everything they had at the Serie A champions’s defence, but, unfortunately for the Parkhead faithful, it wasn’t enough. The Old Lady sit atop the Serie A, and it’s no wonder, considering their ruthless performance in Glasgow. Celtic are in need of a miracle if they are to over-turn this deficit. Unfortunately for the spirited Scots, even all their determination and tenacity will probably not be enough to secure their passage to the quarter final stage, with the Glasgow-based outfit lacking that little bit of quality needed to reach the latter stages of Europe’s elite competition.
United snatch vital away goal at Bernabeu
This tie is still wide open as the first leg ended in a thrilling 1-1 draw last Wednesday night. Real Madrid were the more composed side for much of the match and created the majority of the chances, however, they only managed to rattle the net once – via a superbly headed Cristiano Ronaldo effort in the 30th minute, ten minutes after Danny Welbeck’s opener. The England international’s 20th-minute header forced Los Blancos to hit back, and Ángel Di Maria’s beautifully delivered cross from the left wing was directed expertly past David de Gea’s left post by the Portuguese international. There were a plethora of chances on display throughout the match as Ronaldo, Mesut Özil and Di Maria all threatened for the home side, while the Red Devils also caused numerous headaches for Mourinho’s men at the back. The second leg also promises to be full of drama and excitement, considering Madrid must score if they are to keep their Champions League hopes alive. In truth, Sir Alex Ferguson certainly won the tactical battle on the night as Mourinho’s men were unable to navigate their way past United as the English side’s youngster Phil Jones and Welbeck starred. They’ll need to produce a similar display if the Red Devils harbour hopes of edging past the La Liga champions at Old Trafford.
Gunners shot down by Bayern
Arsenal’s Champions League chances were dealt a terrible blow on Tuesday night as they went down by three goals to one at The Emirates. The north-London based club were made to look second best for much of the night, as the Bundesliga side, who are 15 points clear, domestically, put three past Wojciech Szczęsny. Toni Kroos, Tomas Mueller and Mario Mandžukić all got on the score sheet for the Germans, while Lukas Podolski pulled one back for the Gunners in the 55th minute. Phillip Lahm was a particular treat to watch on the night as he caused the Gunners some real problems down their troublesome left flank. If Arsene Wengers’ men are to give themselves any chance when they visit the Allianz Arena for the return leg, they will need to rediscover their defensive verve from earlier in the season, stifle Lahm’s plundering runs and be über clinical in front of goal. As for Bayern, the quarter-final stage looks rather likely now, following their emphatic victory.