Juventus Women manager Joe Montemurro took a little bit of a chance with his starting lineup for his team’s Women’s Champions League group stage opener on Wednesday night. Coming off a hard-fought win over Roma this past weekend, Montemurro rested some of his top players knowing full well that this was probably going to be one of the matches his team had to have if they want any chance of finishing in one of Group A’s top two spots.
Ah, the beauty of squad depth.
And also the beauty of having difference makers all over the field even with the likes of Cristiana Girelli and Barbara Bonansea not playing a single second.
It might have been a bit of a frustrating opening 30 or 35 minutes, but once Lisa Boattin and Arianna Caruso combined for one of the best Juve goals you will see this season, the weight was lifted off the Bianconere’s shoulders. Lina Hurtig and Valentina Cernoia added goals after the halftime break, helping Juventus Women open the Women’s Champions League group stage with a 3-0 win over Swiss champions Servette.
I mean, really. Look at this opening goal from Caruso and try telling me it’s not going to be one of the best things you see a Juventus player — male or female — do this season.
That cross from Boattin. That finish from Caruso. That stiff-arm from Caruso to Agnese Bonfantini on the celebration before the latter is able to recover and actually deliver the hug she always wanted to give to the former. It was a thing of beauty all the way around.
And it was the thing that finally got Juve on the scoreboard and shook off some of the early struggles that Montemurro’s team were dealing with.
It’s not like they were playing terrible by any means, but you could sense a little frustration in front of goal was starting to stack up on top of each other with every scoring opportunity that went by. It wasn’t just because Andrea Staskova saw her penalty kick attempt saved, but also because Juve were very quick to start settling for long-range shots that had very low percentages of going in.
But once Caruso scored her goal — and, gotta say, what great timing from her with the contract extension happening earlier in the week — it was onward and upward.
Juve were simply able to create a better quality of scoring opportunities after Caruso’s opener. Hell, they nearly made it 2-0 just a few minutes later after Boattin put in another gem of a cross that Hurtig wasn’t able to put on frame. The opening goal just seemed to take some of the pressure off, some of any remaining nerves away and just allow Montemurro’s squad to get back to what they do best — score goals and defend effectively.
They did just that, and it’s why they’re heading back to Turin with three points.
When you see who else is in this group, getting two wins against Servette is essentially a must if they want any kind of chance of advancing. They got the first one with a solid showing to open the group stage schedule. Now we see what happens against the cream of the crop in the group before Servette comes back around.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Juventus Women outshot Servette 23-7. That’s good, right?
- If not for Servette keeper Ines Pereira this game would have been a complete blowout. She made seven saves, many of them really good. And she was also one of the most animated players on the field, so that added a little extra spice whenever she yelled at her defense.
- Servette, to its credit, nearly got a goal in the second half. Thank goodness for posts because Pauline Peyraud-Magnin was definitely beaten.
- Ines Sebayang came on as a second-half substitute for Servette in this game. Why am I mentioning Ines Sebayang? Well, it’s because she’s 15 years old and already appearing in a Champions League game. That’s nuts. Think about what you were doing at 15 for a second, and then realize it definitely wasn’t playing in the top European competition your sport has.
- Arianna Caruso is so good, man.
- Lisa Boattin is so good, man.
- Caruso is 21, Boattin is 24. It’s nice to know two of Juve’s best players are still young enough to continue to improve a lot as well as being locked into contracts for at least another couple of years.
- It really is such a luxury to be able to rest two of your top players like Montemurro did. It’s not like Juve have a tough game over the weekend against a Napoli side that has only four points in its first five games of the season, but giving the key cogs rest whenever you can is going to hopefully pay off down the road. Plus, you get the younger players like Staskova and Bonfantini some valuable playing time in general and in Europe.
- If you were to looking at the immediate returns, Roma have easily gotten the better side of the Bonfantini-Benedetta Glionna swap deal from the summer. And I think it’s safe to say that this game was essentially the kind of player that Bonfantini is right now: you can see what she’s trying to do and can totally agree with why she’s doing such, but the execution is still lacking a little bit to consider her a consistent player. That was a little bit of her rep during her last season with Roma, so it will be interesting to see if she can find some consistency when she is very much a reserve on a team with the likes of Hurtig and Bonansea very much established as starters on the wings.
- While she did miss a penalty, the assist Staskova provided in Hurtig’s goal was pretty nice. Staskova had some positive moves in the final third — especially in the second half — after such a tough moment from the penalty spot.
- Cernoia’s goal was just a classic kind of Cernoia goal — left-footed strike, tons of pace and perfectly placed out of the keeper’s reach. She’s surrounded by so many talented players that it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the shuffle, but she’s such a solid player for this team and has been for years.
- You want to see how deep this squad is? Just look at Montemurro’s second-half subs.
- Same goes for who he was both able to start and then also rest in this game, I guess.
- As I type this final sentence out, Wolfsburg and Chelsea are currently beating each other up, with the German side up 2-1 at halftime. That is a score of note, and with all of the quality attacking talent on the field I don’t think that’s where the scoreline will finish.