The cards had fallen all in favor of Juventus Women heading into Thursday night’s group stage finale.
To put another piece of history onto this run in the Women’s Champions League, Juve needed to get a victory over a Servette side that they had already beaten 3-0 in the group stage opener. Servette, the bottom-dwellers of the group, had been outscored 19-0 in its first five group stage games, and — just because sometimes we can have nice things — the game was to be played at the Juventus Stadium in front of a few thousands fans.
It had the makes of being a pretty nice night in Turin.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Thanks to first-half goals from Lina Hurtig and Cristiana Girelli, Juventus Women made sure that there will be European football happening come the new year. Juve did exactly what they needed to do to make the Women’s Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in club history — get a win, with the 4-0 victory over Servette clinching a spot in the knockout rounds. And for added measure, with Wolfsburg beating Chelsea 4-0 in Thursday’s other Group A finale, Juve were able to maintain their spot in the group and finish in second place, flirting with a first-place finish while Wolfsburg were ahead by just a goal before pulling away.
Juve, Wolfsburg and Chelsea all finished on 11 points, but the tiebreakers favored the first two, with the Londoners heading out of the competition much earlier than they expected.
That means the team that was thought to be the third-best team in the group made it out of Group A and into the quarterfinals. And the team that was thought to be the best one of the bunch which made last season’s UWCL final and entered Thursday atop of the group has finished in third place and eliminated from the competition.
This team. This season. What a freakin’ trip, man.
As I wrote a couple of weeks back, the first four matches in December are going to be massive both domestically and in the Women’s Champions League. Now, as we sit here a little bit more than a week before Christmas, this is how that four-game stretch went:
- Juventus Women at Sassuolo: 2-0 win.
- Juventus Women at Chelsea: 0-0 draw.
- Juventus Women vs. AC Milan: 5-2 win.
- Juventus Women vs. Servette: 4-0 win.
That’s what you call taking care of business. Those four games couldn’t have gone much better. Well, unless you want to be a total perfectionist and say that Juve should have beaten Chelsea — which, based on how things were went in London, wasn’t exactly going to be a big-time possibility.
Either way, because of how first-year manager Joe Montemurro — he’s doing a pretty good job! — and Juventus were able to get a huge result in London last week, they were able to go into Thursday night’s finale able to control their own destiny against the worst team in the group. They took control of the game early, were up 2-0 at halftime and never looked in any sort of danger — something that must have been a nice change from the hectic and sometimes heroic defending Juve had to do in their scoreless draw with Chelsea.
On this night, not only did Juventus Women win a game, but they also made sure that this run in the Women’s Champions League wasn’t going to end a week before Christmas.
No, this run is going on for a team that very few people gave much chance to make it out of Group A and into the quarterfinals. I’m completely OK with being wrong in this case, and will continue to own it as far as the Bianconere go in this tournament.
That’s just what happens when they defy the expectations and play a part in ousting one of the best and most talented clubs in the world today. Juve earned their trip to the quarterfinals, and hopefully this isn’t the last time we’re saying something like that the next time Juventus Women take the field in Europe this season.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- As will become the norm during the winter months, we shall check on the Joe Montemurro scarf game — and it’s pretty damn great as always.
- Notable attendees for Thursday night’s match: A certain guy named Weston McKennie.
- Having a couple of players with the last names of “Bonansea” and “Boho Sayo” playing on the same field against one another certainly made for some interesting listening.
- Lina Hurtig’s volley for the opening goal was a thing of beauty. So was the whole sequence off the free kick. All it took was three touches and, bang — Juve up 1-0.
- Cristiana Girelli from the penalty spot ... cool, calm, and absolutely ruthless.
- Agnese Bonfantini’s capper to end a great night at the stadium — pretty nice.
- And it could have been more than a 4-0 win. Girelli hit the Upper V on a first-half free kick and Annahita Zamian grazed the crossbar on a sweet effort from outside of the box late in the game. Either way, Juve got this win with plenty of room to spare.
- Lisa Boattin, the only outfield player to play every minute in Europe entering Thursday night’s game, got to take a good chunk of the second half off when she was subbed out. With how she’s played this season, I think it’s safe to say she deserves it.
- Also deserving of a low-key night: Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, who had to make a couple of saves in goal but nothing nearly as difficult as what she did against Chelsea.
- Martina Lenzini is technically a backup on this Juventus roster, but man has she been great filling in for Sara Gama both the last couple of weeks but just the entire season in general. As if this team needed another talented Italian pushing for more playing time, right? Well, Lenzini is doing just that with how she’s played this season after coming back from a loan spell at Sassuolo. She’s one to keep around.
- Still struggling to believe Chelsea got walloped in that kind of fashion by Wolfsburg. I know they were missing some important players due to positive COVID tests and protocols, but that is a rough way to go out for a team that was atop the group at the start of the day.
- In a game in which Juve were in cruise control the entire second half, they still outshot Servette 19-9 and only allowed the visitors to put two shots on frame.
- This was fun, even if the atmosphere at the J Stadium wasn’t as raucous as it was when Chelsea and Wolfsburg came to town. Still a pretty good way to clinch another piece of history on the European stage.
- It will be either Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals. The draw is Monday.
- Just as a reminder, the Women’s Champions League final is being played in Turin this season. Surely there’s a little more belief that a run is possible now.