By G9ija

Angel Di Maria scored a hat-trick on Thursday as Juventus thumped 10-man Nantes 3-0 to reach the Europa League round of 16.

Juventus who are playing away qualified on a 4-1 aggregate.

They played to a 1-1 draw against the French side in the home leg as they eyed a long run in the European competition to boost a miserable campaign in which they have been deducted 15 Serie A points for financial irregularities.

“I am happy with the performance, it was not an easy game after the first-leg result, as the crowd here is very passionate.

“Just because we were eliminated from the Champions League does not mean it will be easy to win the Europa League. It isn’t, but we have the duty to try and go all the way, just as we do in Serie A,” Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri, said.

Argentine Di Maria put Juventus ahead after five minutes with a delightful curling strike from the edge of the box into the top corner.

The evening got worse for Nantes after 18 minutes when defender Nicolas Pallois was sent off for using his arm to stop another goal from Di Maria and the 35-year-old Argentine player had no problem converting the penalty.

Filip Kostic was close to getting a third for Juventus in first-half stoppage time, but his shot hit the inside of the post and the rebound landed in the hands of Nantes keeper Alban Lafont.

Juve’s Alex Sandro sent in a diving header late in the second half but Lafont was down quickly to make an impressive one-handed save.

Di Maria completed his treble 12 minutes from time when he sent in a glancing header and the ball just crossed the line before being pushed away.

It was Juve’s first hat-trick in a UEFA competition away from home since Filippo Inzaghi in 2000.

“He is a champion and different to the others,” Allegri said.

“Everything comes easily to him, he raises the overall level of the squad and the others all feel more relaxed in his presence. Di Maria is in the category of real champions.”

In other encounters, PSV humbled Sevilla 2-0, Midtjylland lost 0-4 to Sporting CP, Union Berlin overpowered Ajax 3-1, Roma ran away with a 2-1 defeat of RB Salzburg, while Manchester United defeated Barcelona 2-1.

The draw for the round of 16 will be held on Friday.