Thanks to what happened in the first round of games in the Women’s Champions League group stage, Chelsea’s trip to Turin to face Juventus Women took on just that much more importance than it did at the beginning of the competition. Juve were at home, they entered the day atop their group and they were looking to make a statement against the English champions who just so happen to be one last season’s UWCL finalists.
Juve went out and did a lot of good things Wednesday night in their return to the Juventus Stadium. But when you’ve got the kind of class that Chelsea does, it’s hard to keep them completely quiet.
The end of some ping-pong action in the Juve box ended poorly for the Bianconere, as Pernille Harder saw a deflected clearance attempt land at her feet and the Danish star did the rest from there. It was the goal that put Chelsea ahead, and it was where the scoreline stayed the rest of the second half, as Juventus Women suffered a 2-1 defeat on its home ground. Combined with Wolfsburg’s win over Servette earlier in the day, Juve went from first to third in the span of a couple hours and must now hope for a little bit of help if they want to get back into one of the two quarterfinal spots.
Of course, the headline will be the loss as well as the implications in the group that comes with it.
But what shouldn’t be lost is the fact that Juve could have had a better result in this game. And that’s probably the toughest part of all.
Until Harder’s game-winning goal midway through the second half, these two teams weren’t just even on the scoreboard. Juve were definitely holding their own against a Chelsea team that has a star-studded attack as well as damn good players all over the field. Joe Montemurro’s tactics were, for the large part, working against a team they knew they would have to do a lot of defending against. And, when you looked at the numbers before the second half kicked off, Juve and Chelsea were just about even in everything other than the possession numbers, with the visitors holding a 60-40 advantage.
The problem was, outside of Barbara Bonansea’s first-half equalizer six minutes after Chelsea took the lead, Juve’s attack wasn’t able to take advantage of the chances they did have. And, yes, they had chances to both take the lead before Harder’s go-ahead goal and then tie the game after it. Chelsea deserved the win, sure, but it’s not like they were perfect or anything close to it. Juve had some good chances, but couldn’t put much on frame. And when they did put them on frame, it’s not like they were all that difficult for Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger to stop.
Basically, Juve were able to fight back from a deficit once, but not twice.
It’s a loss, and a loss at home on top of that. The good to come out of it is that they were able to hang against one of the most talented teams in both England and all of Europe. The bad thing is that qualifying for the quarterfinals is now just that much tougher knowing what’s left on the group stage schedule.
If they play like this again, good things could very well happen. But this was a chance to send some major shockwaves through the group, and they came up just a little bit short.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus has a talented attacking trio, but you can just see the game-changing talent that Chelsea has all over the field. That’s the difference between a team that is as accomplished as the Londoners are the last few seasons.
- A lot of Montemurro’s lineup choices worked out pretty well. But I’m struggling to think about why it took so long for him to bring on Arianna Caruso. You don’t leave a talent like that in the bench for 80 minutes, especially when you’re starters are probably getting quite tired as well as your team being in need of a goal.
- Chelsea has won 10 of Joe Montemurro’s 13 games against Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. That’s not great.
- That’s not to say Montemurro did poorly in this game. Like I said, he got a lot of things right Wednesday night. But Chelsea were never going to be easy to beat — and they showed why in Turin.
- Lisa Boattin with another assist. These are just the (unwritten) rules, folks.
- I mean, seriously. Boattin’s assist to Bonansea on Juve’s lone goal of the night was absolutely perfect. Same goes for Bonansea’s finish on the volley. Just a beautiful goal all the way around — and with one Italian assisting another, which is a nice touch.
- The save Pauline Peyraud-Magnin made to keep it a 2-1 ... my friends, it was a thing of beauty.
- Harder has 27 goals in 30 appearances in the Women’s Champions League. That’s absurd.
- For all the credit Harder will earn after this game, Peyraud-Magnin almost saved the shot. There was just too much pace on the ball to stop it in full.
- Something that wasn’t a thing of beauty: Juventus’ defending on Chelsea’s opening goal. I don’t really know what anybody in a black and white jersey was doing on that sequence, and it’s never a good thing to give such a good player like Erin Cuthbert that much space. (Hint: She had all the space she could desire and then some.)
- I have to imagine Lina Hurtig left the field rather frustrated after not being able to take advantage of the scoring chances she had. Whether it was either shooting too late or not shooting at all, this wasn’t Hurtig at her best against Chelsea.
- Of the 20,000 tickets made available for this game at the J Stadium, nearly 17,000 were snatched up and used. That’s pretty good considering the current restrictions in place.
- Now two straight games against Wolfsburg. We may know just how much of a chance this team truly has after those two fixtures, the first of which comes in Germany on Nov. 9.