There was a point in Juventus Women’s game Saturday where you just knew the final score wasn’t going to resemble the gulf in quality between the three-time defending champions and one of Serie A Femminile’s newly promoted sides. Maybe it was the 60th or 65th minute, not too long after a Juve player missed a chance to score that they usually score.
Yeah, it was one of those days.
Juventus didn’t score gobs of goals against San Marino Academy like most people expected them to in the build-up to kickoff. No, it was very much the opposite of that. There were chances — plenty of them, really. But it wasn’t until late in the second half when the two players who scored in the season opener against Empoli, Cristiana Girelli and Arianna Caruso, got on the scoresheet again to give Juventus Women a 2-0 win at Vinovo and avoid any kind of a early-season disaster result against an opponent that is struggling in the top flight of Italian women’s football.
It wasn’t exactly the perfect way to go into the first international break of the season.
Far from it.
This was a struggle. A very uncharacteristic struggle — which you can say happens every now and then, but isn’t exactly common knowing how much this team has dominated the league for the better part of the last three seasons.
Scoring chances were squandered. Passes in the final third weren’t finding their end target. The overall sharpness and efficiency of the team as a whole — regardless of what the current injury situation may be — just wasn’t there even though they recorded another win to begin the new season.
Girelli could have had a hat trick if her finishing was better. Just like in the season opener against Empoli, Barbara Bonansea hit the woodwork twice. At one point in the second half I lost count of how many shots were either blocked or went whizzing just wide of the San Marino goal. This could have been a blowout if Juve was just the tiniest bit better in front of goal.
That obviously didn’t happen, with both Girelli and Caruso scoring ugly kind of goals to make sure that what would have easily been the most surprising result of the young season didn’t take place in Turin on Saturday.
So now as we head into the first international break of the season the hope is that the more minutes the Juve players get back in their legs after six months off, the more it will help them start to resemble the team we know they can be when things are right. There is still plenty to improve with this team — especially with the likes of Milan and Fiorentina on the schedule in early October. Just like that stretch last season where Juve played Milan, Roma and Fiorentina all within a couple of weeks of one another, setting a tone in October and November can go far when you’re the team everybody is trying to catch.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I guess if you’re going to only have one of your top three central defenders available for a game, it isn’t a huge issue when it’s against a San Marino team that has been outscored 15-0 the first two weeks of the season.
- That being said, Juve nearly had an all-Scandinavian backline outside of Lisa Boattin at left back. Very different from the all-Italian midfield we see on a regular basis.
- Laura Giuliani was subbed off at halftime in what you would think is nothing other than an injury related reason. Not that Juve’s backup keeper, Doris Bacic, isn’t capable, but it’s just a little worrying that the starting goalkeeper was subbed off at halftime after barely doing anything for the first 45 minutes.
- Your Cristiana Girelli goal counter since the start of last season: 19 games played, 20 goals scored. All three of Juve’s game-winning goals this season have been scored by Girelli, by the way. But that’s probably not a surprise even if you’re somewhat out of the loop.
- One of the talking points before the season that I mentioned was the competition for playing time in the midfield. So far, there’s only been one midfielder who has started all three games: Aurora Galli. She’s been the best one out of the bunch, too, so that isn’t exactly earth shattering news or anything. But this is a group that’s constantly going to be rotated throughout the season because that’s exactly what happened last year.
- Speaking of the center of the park, in the closing minutes the ages of Juve’s midfield: 23 years old (Galli), 20 years old (Caruso), 18 years old (Dalila Ippolito), the latter making her official debut after arriving from Argentina earlier this summer. It will be interesting to see how manager Rita Guarino works Ippolito in knowing that there are so many good players already in front of her.
- Barbara Bonansea’s game summed up in one picture. It was ... a frustrating one.
- Three wins out of three when you’re playing nowhere near your best isn’t the worst situation in the world. Knowing that Fiorentina and Milan have also won all three of their games to open the season, simply picking up points while trying to shake off the rust might be the most important thing right now. Other teams might be getting their wins in more impressive fashion, but the key head-to-head matchups in the next month or two will tell the story about just how close the Scudetto rivals are getting to the current champions.