Coming out of last weekend’s rare loss to Roma in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals, Juventus Women manager Rita Guarino had a decision to make. One of her most in-form players, Barbara Bonansea was out injured. Her top scorer, Cristiana Girelli, was also injured in the game, but was called up to the trip to Florence even though she wasn’t 100 percent fit.
So, in a big rivalry game, it’s never a good thing to be without two of your best players.
As it turned out, it was Juventus’ No. 9 who stepped in for No. 10 and provided all of the offense that Juve needed.
Andrea Staskova, a talented striker in her own right, scored a first-half brace to give Juventus a hard-earned 2-1 win over Fiorentina on Saturday that kept the Italian champions undefeated in Serie A Femminile play. Combine Juventus improving to a perfect 16 for 16 on the 2020-21 season and the back-to-back wins the club recorded before the 2019-20 campaign was halted as a result of the pandemic, and the Juve women have now won 18 consecutive games, which is a new record for an unbeaten run in Serie A Femminile.
Not bad for her second start of the season, huh?
Pretty good call from the best manager Serie A Femminile has to offer, huh?
Yet, as this team has proven plenty of times before — and, on this day, they were also without captain Sara Gama due to injury — their depth is so important and a luxury that not many other women’s teams in Italy can compete with. Like, say, the team they played on Saturday.
But on this day, it was pretty clear how Juventus Women won this game: The first half was all about Staskova, the second half was how strong the defense and midfield played to keep the 2-1 scoreline right where it was. It was a classic Italian get ahead and then pack the defense in to hold things down, but Juve’s defense delivered almost every single time when Fiorentina tried to time the game for a second time Saturday. Juve definitely had chances to extend their lead in the second half, but couldn’t take advantage of it.
That meant the defense had to bend a few times and not break.
And they did just that like so many times before as they extended their lead in the league table to nine points over AC Milan, who plays against Empoli on Sunday.
Imagine not losing a game in league play for over 13 months. But if you need to ask, go ahead and check in with the Juve women. They know what it’s all about.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Every single time I watch this team it is pretty remarkable how many good midfielders they have and how all of them just seem to work really, really well together. The combinations that Guarino rolls out there makes sense, they know their roles and most of the time they’re usually pretty good. What a luxury to have.
- One of those midfielders, Sofie Pedersen, had what felt like 45 tackles in this game. Since stats for Serie A Femminile games are incredibly difficult to find in the first few hours (and sometimes days), I’m just going to go with it. With how she played against Fiorentina, you’re just gonna have to go with it because she was great.
- One more midfield thought: Guarino brought on Aurora Galli for Arianna Caruso. That’s one of Italy’s best midfielders for another. And they’re on the same team. Again, what a luxury to have available on this team.
- Cecilia Salvai, filling in as captain in Gama’s absence, put on an absolute defensive clinic in the second half. She was great, and with the way Fiorentina was bombing forward at times after halftime, that kind of defensive solidarity was needed. Laura Giuliani barely had anything difficult to do in goal, and it was because of how Salvai and Co. played in front of her.
- It’s the middle of March and this team has allowed all of EIGHT goals on the season.
- For comparisons sake, Juventus Women had also played 16 games when things were shut down for good due to the pandemic. They had allowed 10 goals.
- I’ve said while covering men’s games that one of my favorite things is watching Federico Chiesa react to a referee’s call that he doesn’t like. Maybe even more enjoyable is watching Martina Rosucci — who was another one of Juve’s standouts in this game — give a referee just loads and loads of Turin-bred sass when a call doesn’t go her way and doesn’t get her stamp of approval. It’s quite amusing regardless of whether it was the right or wrong call.
- Lina Hurtig has been one hell of a summer signing for this team, Exhibit 17,004:
- And she’s gonna be a mom soon. That’s just as awesome. Hell yeah, Hurtigs.
- Credit where credit is due: The goal Lana Clelland scored to tie the game at 1-all in the first half was an absolutely beautiful individual effort and subsequent strike of the ball.
- Linda Sembrant has played every single minute of every single game this season. She’s the model of consistency. She’s the model of professionalism. I, for one, am very glad she decided to re-up her contract for another season a few weeks ago.
- Hurtig this past summer, Sembrant the summer before. Juve’s last two summers have involved them signing very important Swedish players. So let’s make it three straight in a few months, OK?
- In case you’re wondering, there’s still a month before the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals against Roma, so there’s still plenty of time for both Girelli and Bonansea to get healthy before playing one of the more important matches this team will have in the last two months of the season. I’ve personally enjoyed watching this team win multiple trophies each season, so let’s just keep that trend going.