Celtic should receive plaudits for their approach to the visit of Juventus, which was about as bold as any onlooker could reasonably expect. Nonetheless, it is Juventus who departed with the comprehensive win that all but secured their passage to the last eight of the Champions League.
The Serie A leaders, among the list of illustrious names who have encountered trouble at Celtic Park on previous visits, claimed two late and decisive goals to add gloss to a victory that they had only just about merited. The game had proved far closer than the outcome suggests.
Neil Lennon will lead Celtic to Turin early next month for a far tougher assignment than should be the case. At this level, though, the combination of generous defending and failure to capitalise on dominant spells is always likely to be punished.
Juventus would have had no excuse should Celtic have taken them by surprise. The Scottish Premier League champions gained widespread coverage and recognition on account of their victory over Barcelona here in November; the claiming of 10 points from a group that also included Spartak Moscow and Benfica was an excellent achievement.
Lennon did, however, cause a surprise with his team selection. There were unexpected starting places handed to James Forrest and Efe Ambrose; the latter starred in Nigeria's Africa Cup of Nations win on Sunday evening and landed back in Scotland only on Tuesday morning. Celtic's attacking force was blunted by the absence of Georgios Samaras, a player so important to them in European outings, because of a hamstring problem.
Perhaps Ambrose would point to fatigue as he was beaten to the ball which triggered the opening goal. With two minutes played, Juventus had a start as ideal as it was disastrous for their hosts.
Federico Peluso had launched it forward, with Alessandro Matri getting the better of Ambrose. Matri's shot was kicked from beyond the Celtic goalline by Kelvin Wilson with Claudio Marchisio refusing to stand on ceremony and blasting home the rebound. Later, the goal was credited to Matri.
It had seemed barely possible, but Marchisio's intervention had merely heightened the pace of an already frantic opening. Kris Commons tested Gianluigi Buffon as Celtic sought an instant reply before the midfielder fired over the crossbar from Emilio Izaguirre's cross.
Yet Juventus's opener had afforded them a swagger. It also highlighted a frailty in the Celtic defence that was increasingly apparent, albeit against excellent strikers, as the first half wore on. The only question mark surrounded the extent of Juventus's ambition to push for a second away goal.
With 24 minutes played, the isolated Mirko Vucinic rounded Fraser Forster in the Celtic goal but found himself at too wide an angle to shoot. Commons again attempted a reply, with an overhead kick which bounced only narrowly wide.
By the interval, Celtic could lay claim to 14 attempts on Buffon's goal. If Lennon needed to preach anything during the break, it was a more ruthless streak alongside defensive obduracy. A recurring theme of the match was shenanigans – or pushing – inside the penalty area at Celtic corners; more pertinently to Lennon, his players did not maximise their set pieces during the first 45 minutes.
The Celtic manager's Juventus counterpart, Antonio Conte, had claimed it was a "dream" for his team even to feature at this stage of the Champions League. That represented a clear downplaying of talent towards a team who made Chelsea, the reigning European champions, look distinctly average during earlier group matches.
Celtic opened the second period as the more prominent team, without creating the chances that would have emphasised that superiority. Forrest also appealed, in vain, for a penalty when challenged by Andrea Barzagli.
A glorious home opportunity was to follow. Charlie Mulgrew curled a fine cross from the right, with Ambrose wasting the moment to atone for his earlier slackness by heading straight at Buffon. It was the kind of profligacy which, fittingly, would be associated with a centre-back. There was almost immediate punishment, Wilson doing well to block a net-bound Vucinic effort from 18 yards.
The next Juventus foray was to cause meaningful damage to Celtic's quarter-final aspirations. The excellent Matri, who Lennon had singled out as a special talent before kick-off, played in Marchisio. This time there was to be nothing dubious about the midfielder's goal, Marchisio easing past Scott Brown and supplying a shot for which Forster was woefully exposed.
Worse was to follow for Celtic with seven minutes to go. Ambrose was robbed of the ball and it allowed Marchisio to play in the unmarked Vucinic. The striker was never going to miss from there.
The Italians celebrated as if the tie had been successfully negotiated. It is virtually impossible to argue with that assumption.