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Juventus Women 4 - Empoli Ladies 3: Initial reaction and random observations

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The stars of the team proved to be the stars of this show.

Juventus v Empoli Ladies - Women Serie A Photo by Filippo Alfero - Juventus FC/Juventus FC via Getty Images

By the simple number of goals they’ve allowed since their first games in 2017, there just haven’t been many times where Juventus Women have had to come back from a second-half deficit. This team has been so good defensively that the need to try and dig out of some kind of hole is almost as rare as them actually losing to Italian opposition.

But, under the lights Saturday at Vinovo, a comeback attempt was needed.

And it just so happened that Juve’s two best attacking players were up for it.

In one of the more wild games Juventus Women will likely play this season, the reigning Italian champions blew a lead not once, but twice against an Empoli side that had hung 10 goals on San Marino Academy in its 2020-21 season opener. Luckily for the Juve women, one final swing of emotions resulted in the game’s third penalty kick, which was calmly taken by Cristiana Girelli in the 93rd minute and allowed the Bianconere to record a 4-3 win to maintain their winning start to the new season.

Both of Girelli’s second-half goals came from the penalty spot, while Barbara Bonansea — who hit the post twice in last Saturday’s season-opening win over Hellas Verona — also recorded a brace in the win.

Bonansea’s goals ... oh, they were pretty.

(Bonansea’s first goal was pretty good, too, by the way.)

And, honestly, with how this game played out, Juventus Women needed their two best strikers to be at their best when they needed them the most.

Just think about how this game went from a second ...

  • 1-0 Juventus
  • 1-1
  • 2-1 Empoli
  • 2-2
  • 3-2 Juventus
  • 3-3
  • 4-3 Juventus

Got it? There will be a quiz on that at the end of the day.

The uncharacteristic defensive miscues made this a shootout in a game where you probably didn’t expect it to be knowing just how good Juve’s been the last few years. Even with the fact that this is just their second competitive game since Italy was put in lockdown all the way back in March, seeing a Juventus Women side allow three goals in one game is just something you rarely see happen.

They allowed more than one goal in a game just once last season.

They allowed more than one goal in a game just twice the season before.

Basically, the last time in the previous two seasons where a Juventus Women side allowed three goals in a single game happened all of once: In a 3-1 loss to AC Milan on Nov. 4, 2018. (They went on to allow one goal in the next 11 league games combined after that loss, for whatever it’s worth.)

The good thing is that Juve has the attacking quality that can overcome the rare game where they struggle defensively. And, as we saw, Bonansea and Girelli were up to the task to pull the squad out of the deficit they found themselves in.

It might not have been the way they’ve won so many games in the past, but it was three points in a game where they were expected to get three points. You gotta appreciate that when it’s all said and done.

I just need to catch my breath first. That should be easy after this one. (Not really.)

RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS

  • I pointed out in the season preview article that Girelli is going to be looking to pick up where she left off before the 2019-20 season was postponed and then eventually not restarted. And, well, Juve’s two games into the 2020-21 season and Girelli already has three goals. That’s after she scored 16 goals in 16 games a year ago. I think she’s doing just what she’s sought out to do.
  • Two games, two starts for Arianna Caruso. Not sayin’, just sayin’.
  • Benedetta Glionna, who is on loan from Juventus and is very much a name to remember for the future, showed a small bit of her big-time talent as she assisted Empoli’s first goal. Glionna, still just 21, spun out of one tackle then evaded another tackle before putting in a cross to the back post that absolutely threaded the best defense in the league. If she happens to return to Juve next season, she’s going to add yet another creative talent to an already really good forward group.
  • Juve captain Sara Gama had to be helped off the field late in the second half with what looked like a hamstring injury. Considering Cecilia Salvai has missed the first two games of the 2020-21 season, seeing Gama miss any kind of significant amount of time isn’t a good development. (It never is.) So, prayer circles for Gama’s hamstring are welcome.
  • This game had the same kind of feeling as the season opener against Hellas Verona at halftime where Juve were clearly the dominate team yet didn’t really have a whole lot to show for it. They had the bulk of the shots, the bulk of the possession, but only one goal to show for it.
  • Also a common theme from last weekend’s season opener: Some defensive errors came back to haunt Juve when the opposition did have the chance to attack. This time, though, Empoli did what Hellas Verona couldn’t — make Juve pay for their defensive mistakes.
  • Rita Guarino made two really good subs in the second half that brought a whole lot of energy to both the midfield and the team in general. Bringing on Valentina Cernoia and Martina Rosucci, both of which were really good after coming on, really gave the midfield a different kind of energy. That’s the beauty of this team — there are just so many different options in the midfield that if one player isn’t playing all that well, there’s another really good player that Guarino can turn to with the snap of her fingers.
  • If Lisa Boattin plays this 2020-21 season like she has in the first two weekends of the new campaign, then she may well go and establish herself as one of the best fullbacks in Italy. (If she isn’t already there.) She’s been an absolute rock defensively and, as she proved with her perfectly placed assist to Bonansea on the opening goal, her contributions to this team on the offensive end are becoming more and more important. As much as we talk about how young Caruso is, it’s easy to forget that Boattin is still just 23 years old.
  • Next up on the schedule before the first international break of the season: San Marino Academy. Yes, the same San Marino Academy that allowed 10 goals to Empoli last weekend. It very much could be a game where the defense gets back on track even if Gama has to miss out due to injury. As well as the very one-sided possession numbers become even more one sided.
  • The first game back after the international break will be the first big test of the season against Milan, who have also won their first two games of the 2020-21 campaign and recorded a 5-0 win over San Marino Academy earlier in the day on Saturday.