Nantes 0-3 Juventus (1-4 agg): Di Maria hat-trick fires Bianconeri into round of 16
An Angel Di Maria hat-trick fired Juventus into the Europa League round of 16 as they secured a 4-1 aggregate triumph over 10-man Nantes on Thursday.
A 1-1 draw in Turin meant Juve faced a tough task to progress at a loud Stade de la Beaujoire, but Di Maria's spectacular opener set them on the way to victory.
Nantes' task was made harder when Nicolas Pallois saw red for handling Di Maria's inventive goalbound flick, before the Juve winger slammed the resulting penalty into the top corner.
Di Maria capped his excellent display with a late header to seal Juve's progression, and Massimiliano Allegri's men await Friday's draw to find out who stands between them and the quarter-finals.
Nantes started brightly but found themselves behind after five minutes when Di Maria's stunning curler found the top left corner from outside the area.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts shortly after as Di Maria weaved into the box before backheeling towards goal, with the Argentina international's effort striking the arm of Pallois.
The referee awarded a penalty and sent the Nantes defender off, before Di Maria thumped home the spot-kick.
It should have been game over just before the break, but Filip Kostic could only drill off the post from a tight angle.
Di Maria nearly completed his hat-trick shortly after the restart, though Alban Lafont palmed away his attempt from range.
Di Maria did get his treble with 12 minutes to play though as his header from a tight angle squeezed just over the line to put Juve through to the next round in style.
What does it mean? Bianconeri cruise through
After winning just one of their six Champions League group-stage matches to drop into the Europa League, Juve's strong second-leg performance helped them to progress from a potentially tricky tie and keep their hopes of European silverware alive.
While Pallois' red card undoubtedly made their task easier, Allegri's men were still full value for their win as they held 60.7 per cent of the possession while recording 12 shots on target to Nantes' four, and accumulating 3.3 xG (expected goals) to the French side's 0.4.
Di Maria the difference
Nantes started the match on the front foot, but Di Maria took over the game with a magnificent display to help his team into the next round.
He came off in the 82nd minute having scored three goals from just 1.49 xG, while leading his team in completed dribbles (two) and finishing joint-highest among his team-mates in chances created (two) in what was an outstanding performance.
Pallois red card changes the game
Nantes were the brighter of the two teams early on, but the referee's harsh decision to send off Pallois for the penalty incident completely swung the game in Juve's direction.
Pallois knew very little about his hand blocking Di Maria's shot at such close range, and his dismissal meant any possibility of Nantes pulling off a comeback was made much slimmer.
Both teams are in league action next, with Nantes hosting Rennes in Ligue 1 on Sunday while Juve welcome Torino in the derby on Tuesday.