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Juventus Women 1 - AC Milan 0: Initial reaction and random observations

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A vintage defensive performance from the champions sealed up another three points.

AC Milan v Juventus - Women Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

In Juventus Women’s first three games of the 2020-21 season, the defensive solidarity that we have become so incredibly accustomed to with this team wasn’t there. For a team that allowed all of 10 goals in the shortened 2019-20 campaign, allowing three goals in your first three games of the new season was a trend that wasn’t going in the right direction.

After Monday night’s historic game at the San Siro, those defensive issues might have been put to rest.

Nearly a month away from Serie A Femminile play didn’t equate to the same defensive struggles we saw from Juventus Women in September. Far from it, actually. Thanks to what was easily the best defensive performance of the young season — led by stand-in captain Cecilia Salvai — and another Cristiana Girelli goal, Juve was able to edge AC Milan in the first-ever women’s match to be played at the historic San Siro.

Milan might have been the better side overall in this game, but thanks to a Juve defense that allowed very little to actually trouble goalkeeper Laura Giuliani — especially in the second half — the second shutout of the season looked a lot like so many games of the past when playing against a close Scudetto rival.

Throw in the fact that Fiorentina lost to Sassuolo 48 hours earlier and you’ve got what adds up to a pretty damn good weekend for the Juventus ladies. As well as a two-point lead atop the table over second-place Sassuolo (!!) going into Sunday’s game against Fiorentina in Turin.

Things fell Juve’s way both Saturday and then Monday night.

And if the defense is able to replicate the performance they put forward against Milan, then that’s a sign that things are trending in the right direction.

We know the attack is going to be there with the quality they have up front. Girelli is picking up right where she left off last season and recording a goal-per-game pace despite the long layoff. Even though she was quiet in the second half Monday night, Barbara Bonansea is always going to be a threat to score. They are the leaders of an attack that scored at least two goals in three of the season’s first four games even though they haven’t exactly been as ruthless in front of goal as they can be when everything is clicking.

But it was the defense’s stability that needed vast improvement after the September slate of games. That improvement came against Milan, one of the teams that is aiming to challenge Juventus Women’s reign as Scudetto holders.

So you can probably figure out just how important this win is for Juve heading into a big stretch of games the next couple of weeks. Not only because they get a win over Milan, but they did so on a big stage like this one (even though it wasn’t a crowded stadium like it might have been in “normal times”) and they took a big step forward in an area that has been so reliable over the last three years.

This was a good win against a good team.

And when you’ve got the target on your back like Juve does, those kinds of victories never get old. Neither do shutout wins.

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • There were around 1,000 fans in attendance at San Siro for this game. It sucks because there could have easily been 20 times that if it wasn’t for this stupid, stupid pandemic.
  • When Juventus played Fiorentina at Allianz Stadium toward the end of the 2018-19 season, it was Cecilia Salvai’s serious knee injury that dampened what was an otherwise fantastic day for women’s football in Italy. After playing in all of three matches last season, this was her 2020-21 debut due to some lingering injury issues that prevented her from taking part in the first three matches of the year — and, man, what a way to return to the starting lineup. She was everywhere. Tackle after tackle, clearance after clearance, interception after interception — it didn’t really matter. She was the best player on the field, and it makes me happy to write that because of what she’s been through the last 18 months or so.
  • Not only was Salvai great, but the rest of Juve’s back four as well as Giuliani barely put a foot wrong in this win. Milan were throwing numbers forward much of the second half to try and get a tying goal at the very least, but so many of those chances were either shut down entirely or nothing serious in the end. Milan’s attack had started strong in their first three games, but Juve’s defense was up to the challenge.
  • Your Cristiana Girelli goal update: Since the start of the 2019-20 season, Girelli has played in 20 league games and scored 20 goals. That’ll do just fone.
  • This is a bullet point just to say that Valentina Cernoia is awesome and I am glad she plays for Juventus. That is all.
  • This is a bullet point just to say that Aurora Galli is awesome and I am glad she plays for Juventus. That is all.
  • Galli had a scoring chance in stoppage time where she dribbled nearly all of Milan’s defense before seeing her shot get deflected out for a corner right after making contact with the ball. A half-second more of space to shoot and it would have been your early winner for goal of the season. It was a fantastic individual effort.
  • I lost track of how many tackles Galli and Sofie Pedersen had in midfield. They were covering so much ground it’s absurd.
  • After all of the craziness that was the Juventus-Napoli fixture that never happened on Sunday night, it was pretty refreshing to watch an actual game, have it be a really enjoyable watch over a couple of hours and have Juve win to top it all off. I’m tired, but sometimes this simple game we enjoy so much can be the cure for a lot of ills.