There will be a point during this 2020-21 Serie A Femminile season when the main picture on one of these Juventus Women recaps isn’t Cristiana Girelli. I don’t know when that will be, but I’m just guessing that at some point it will happen.
That is unless she never stops scoring.
Which, based on the last two seasons, is a distinct possibility.
The goal-every-game pace that Girelli has found herself on to start the new season didn’t slow down Sunday evening. It didn’t even matter that the field at Vinovo was being absolutely pounded by rain and the occasional clap of thunder, too. This was a game where Juventus took the lead through their in-form No. 10, got a major refereeing decision to go their way when Fiorentina was shown a crystal clear red card and rolled from there. Girelli got it started, Maria Alves doubled Juve’s lead before halftime and the defending Italian champions capped off a huge seven-day stretch with a 4-0 win over Fiorentina.
For Girelli, who has been on fire since the start of last season, Sunday’s goal was just more of the same. Seriously, just look at what she’s done to start out the 2020-21 campaign:
Cristiana Girelli this season ...— Black & White & Read All Over (@JuventusNation) October 11, 2020
Goal vs. Hellas Verona.
Two goals vs. Empoli.
Goal vs. San Marino.
Goal vs. Milan.
Goal vs. Fiorentina.
Let me check ... yeah, that’s pretty good.
To update our Girelli goal counter, which is getting a pretty good workout so far this season: Since the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign, she has scored 22 goals in 21 Serie A Femminile games. That is something that continues to absolutely blow my mind every time I type it. It’s not just fantastic consistency, but it’s just proof of how central she is to Juve’s success even though they’ve got so many other quality players around her.
And when they play like they have over the last 180 or so minutes, you are reminded why everybody else in the league has been chasing them for the better part of the last three years.
Whatever it was that manager Rita Guarino did to get her team snapped into place over the international break, it has worked. The defensive inconsistencies and instability that we saw in the first three games of the season before the international break, those aren’t currently present. The more impressive thing is that Juve’s recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time this season and Sara Gama, their cornerstone of a captain, hasn’t played in either of those games. Despite Gama’s absence due to injury — and it’s not all that clear when she will be returning to the starting lineup at this point — the defense has looked as good as its been all season.
As much as beating two teams that viewed themselves as potential Scudetto contenders is important — and this is very reminiscent of the run they had toward the middle of last season — the fact that the issues they had in the first three games of the season are suddenly not there anymore is just as important going forward. So much of this team’s success since its early days has been just how good they’ve been at the back, and shutting out both Milan and Fiorentina — sure, say whatever you want about La Viola being down a player for 75 minutes — is a sign that things are getting back to how they used to be.
You combine defensive stability with a red-hot goal scorer and an overall quality team effort that pretty much cruised to a win after going up 2-0 ... that’s a pretty good thing to see.
The champs are starting to look like the champs again.
And not even the pouring rain or occasional thunder slowed them down in this one.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- At least Juve’s blowout win allowed our blog friends over at Viola Nation to educate the masses on Twitter about some animals. So that was fun.
- Guarino has so many options in the midfield where she can just take off somebody who is on a yellow like Sofie Pedersen was after the first half, put on another quality option and the squad doesn’t really miss a beat. It’s such a luxury to have that kind of depth in the midfield, and it’s safe to say that Guarino has taken full advantage of it.
- Also what we learned in this one is that Guarino also has a whole lot of depth in attack, too. Say what you want about the fact that Fiorentina was down to 10 players, but Juve just dropped four goals on a solid opponent and one of their most creative players, Valentina Cernoia, didn’t even play Sunday. That
- Lina Hurtig’s first Juventus goal ... that finish was as cold as ice.
- Cecilia Salvai and Linda Sembrant were fantastic once again in the center of Juventus’ defense. Fiorentina didn’t have the volume of chances that Milan did in Monday’s win, but Laura Giuliani had very little to do in goal again against Fiorentina. When your goalkeeper only has to make one or two saves and you record a shutout, that’s a pretty good sign that the defense and the midfield are doing things right.
- Salvai, especially, was near-perfect again. For a player who hadn’t played much AT ALL from February until a few weeks ago, she certainly has looked like there’s absolutely no rust at all. Maybe I should get some pointers because that’s not how I feel when I go six or seven months without playing.
- Barbara Bonansea was having a tough game before her goal made it 3-0. Like, nothing was working — at all. Then ... BANG. You could tell by her celebration that she needed something good to go her way in this game. As much as Girelli has been rolling this season, getting Bonansea in form will be a pretty big development for the squad.
- Lisa Boattin went down in a heap of pain after a second-half tackle and my heart dropped into my stomach. She was down on the turf for a few minutes before slowly walking to the sidelines, which didn’t help ease my concern. Thankfully, she was back on the field a few moments later and all was right in the world again.
- Juventus has a three-point lead over Milan, a six-point lead over Fiorentina and are seven points ahead of Roma. After five rounds of play, that’s a pretty good situation. And knowing that there’s going to be a team in Bari that has scored all of two goals so far this season next up on the schedule, that’s a nice little development.