As much as they have been dominant again in Serie A Femminile action this season, the last couple of rounds and fixtures in the Coppa Italia have been a little bit of a different story for Rita Guarino and the Juventus women. The first leg of the quarterfinal tie against Empoli was a nine-goal thriller, which was followed up by Juve roaring to a 5-0 win. And, of course, there’s the first leg of the semifinals against Roma, one where a last-minute goal meant that the Italian champions fell 2-1 in the Italian capital five weeks ago.
(Hey, a 2-1 scoreline after the first leg of a two-legged tie — sound familiar?)
That meant the second leg in Turin on Sunday afternoon was the kind of situation that the Bianconere haven’t had to do much of in their short yet accomplished history: try and flip the aggregate scoreline in their favor.
Following an opening 45 minutes where Juve was clearly the better team, the same good vibes couldn’t be carried over and the 1-0 lead couldn’t be extended. That allowed Roma to both hang around and then go ahead on aggregate, with a pair of late goals from Cristiana Girelli and Sara Gama right before the final whistle proving too little, too late. Roma, playing in one of its biggest games of its brief club history, lost to Juventus Women 3-2 on the day, but they advanced thanks to those two precious away goals and will now face AC Milan in the Coppa Italia final.
And thus ends the chance to sweep the domestic trophies this season.
A disappointing end surely. But Roma played Juventus about as close as any domestic opponent has both this season and the season or two before that. Because of it and the 2-1 aggregate lead they had entering Sunday’s second leg, they just needed a couple of breaks to go their way to eliminate the reigning cup holders.
A couple of defensive breakdowns from the best defense in Italy — uncharacteristic breakdowns at that — is what made the difference. You can point to some missed chances in the first half and a couple of really good saves from Roma’s goalkeeper as to why Juve only scored one goal in the opening 45 minutes. But when looking at this team, you usually feel pretty good about them holding onto a 1-0 lead when they’re heading into the final 15 or 20 minutes of a match.
But on this day, one where the win ends up being the secondary prize that they didn’t necessarily want to settle for, the usually air-tight defense allowed Roma to take advantage of two chances on corner kicks and flip the aggregate scoreline back in their favor after Sofie Pedersen’s brilliant header in the first half put Juve in front on away goals.
Roma deserves their spot in the Coppa Italia final with how they played over the two legs. They earned it. Juve, on the other hand, will now look to prevent any other slip-ups from happening as they look to close out their unbeaten season in Serie A.
One thing is for sure, though: This one is going to hurt, and rightfully so. Juventus had a chance to win every single one of the trophies in Serie A Femminile this season, and they simply couldn’t close this one out to give themselves a chance to do so.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Lina Hurtig had a fantastic chance to open the scoring within two minutes of kickoff after she was sent through on a great ball from Valentina Cernoia. Can only imagine with the game would have been like if Juve had tied things up on aggregate within 180 seconds.
- Then, of course, Roma nearly score all of three minutes later. Thank goodness Lisa Boattin was there with not one but two goal line clearances to keep the visitors off the scoreboard.
- Here I sit at halftime telling you all that the first half Boattin had was absolutely fantastic. Death, taxes and Lisa Boattin frustrating the absolute hell out of any Roma player who tried to get past her. What a showing.
- As Juve walked out of the locker room and toward the pre-game lineup, Sara Gama was about 20 or 25 feet in front of Laura Giuliani, who was second in line behind her team’s captain. Gama, about as much of a leader as you will ever see wear this jersey, had that look in her eye that she was not going to take any sort of B.S. against Roma. She then went out and played fantastic game where her heat map was essentially the entire field. Oh captain, my captain!
- Manuela Giugliano is a Roma player, sure, but she is a joy to watch. She’s just so smooth on the ball and exactly what you want out of a player who is going to be your deep-lying midfielder who can pick out a pass out of pretty much any situation.
- I don’t know what was said to Roma’s players in the locker room at halftime, but man did they nail their game plan for the second half. You look at the chances Juve had before halftime and after halftime and it was night and day. The free-flowing attack that Juve was working with in the opening 45 minutes was gone pretty quickly in the second half.
- I guess Barbara Bonansea was just called up as a decoy?
- With the way Lina Hurtig was struggling to get going, the game was just crying out for Bonansea to come on and add another dimension to Juve’s attack. Instead, that never happened. Guessing that her match fitness just isn’t up to what Rita Guarino thinks is useful after missing time due to injury.
- Guarino usually nails her substitute decisions. This wasn’t one of those days.
- Before her goal, that was about as quiet of a second half as Girelli has had in a long time. She barely saw any of the ball and didn’t get much service at all. Hard for the best striker in the league to score when she can’t even get the ball to try a shot on goal.
- Then again, Juve barely put anything on goal until stoppage time in the second half, so it’s not like it was just Girelli who was quiet as the game went on.
- I guess it’s a sign of just how much success they’ve had that you’re at somewhat of a loss forwards when they do fail to advance to another cup final. (Yeah, I know it’s Ironic after about 1,000 words, but just go with me on that.)