Twenty games down. Twenty wins to Juventus Women’s record.
And now, the ultimate end goal has been added to the 2020-21 résumé: Serie A Femminile champions.
There would be no hiccup in Juve’s first chance to clinch the league title for the fourth time in as many years. Instead, it was a business-like effort for Rita Guarino and Co., getting first-half goals from Cristiana Girelli and Barbara Bonansea to build a comfortable early lead and cruise to a 2-0 win over Napoli at Vinovo on Saturday afternoon. The win, Juve’s 20th in as many games this 2020-21 season, allowed the Bianconere to clinch their fourth Serie A Femminile title in as many as seasons, as the top women’s team in Italy only continued to reign supreme since joining the party four years ago.
Not bad. Not bad at all.
And I guess it was only fitting that it was Girelli, whose first-half goal was her 50th in a Juventus jersey, that got things going. Remember, all the way back in late-August it was her goal against Hellas Verona that officially kicked off this latest title defense and helped Juventus Women secure the first win of the 2020-21 season. It was her goal Saturday, off a couple of slick passes from Cecilia Salvai and then Maria Alves, that was what kicked things into gear against a Napoli team that gave Juve a bit of a run for their money back in December.
But as time went on in this game, the champions’ mettle truly showed. The start wasn’t great, and whether that was simply down to nerves knowing what was on the line is anybody’s guess. Then things clicked, and a Napoli team that was clearly trying to absorb the likely pressure they would face found themselves trying to stop Juve much more often than they were able to attack themselves.
Blame poor finishing for the score being what it ended up being and not the dominant display that it was for much of the subsequent 75 minutes after Juve’s slow start. They did hit the crossbar twice within a couple of minutes and almost certainly should have added a goal or two to their tally before the game came to an end. (Just ask Martina Rosucci about how frustrating the second half was in front of goal for her team.)
The main objective, though ... that was achieved. They needed a draw to clinch a fourth straight Serie A Femminile title. Instead, they did what they’ve done in the previous 19 games of the 2020-21 season — win, and do so in very solid fashion.
The favorites at the start of the season lived up to the lofty billing eight months later. And now, they get to celebrate — which is something they couldn’t say this time last year.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- This team ... they’re good!
- First thought when the 4-4-2 starting formation was announced: Cristiana Girelli and Andrea Staskova up top are about to get A LOT of crosses sent in their direction.
- Second thought when the 4-4-2 starting formation was announced: No Valentina Cernoia was rather surprising for the simple fact that she’s been Juve’s best midfielder of late.
- It took about 15 minutes for the Juve players1 to look truly comfortable in the 4-4-2 formation they were deployed in. But after Girelli found the back of the net, things really seemed to settle down and they looked so much more comfortable. Rita Guarino couldn’t have drawn it up any better — get a goal to shed any nerves and then get better as the first half goes on while also building on the early lead.
- Laura Giuliani didn’t have a lot to do in goal, but man, her first-half save on Eleonora Goldoni right after Bonansea made it 2-0 was huge. Instead of seeing Napoli cut the deficit in half, it stayed at a two-goal margin and kept Juve in front heading into halftime. Things haven’t always been routine for Giuliani in recent weeks, but she played that scoring chance about as well as a goalkeeper can, coming out to cut down the angle and then making a really nice save on top of it all.
- Maria Alves had the assist on both of the first-half goals. That’s very Cuadrado-y of her. (Must be a South American thing where assists are recorded in bunches.)
- And much to her credit, Alves could have had a hat trick of assists in the first half if one or two chances were put away. She was great down the right wing in the opening 45 minutes, and really proved to be a player that Napoli had absolutely no answer for.
- Here is your reminder that Arianna Caruso, who is already very good, is not 22 years old until November and she just continues to shine in whatever role Guarino puts her in.
- Sabrinna Tasselli started in goal for Napoli on Saturday. At the start of the season, she was Juve’s No. 3 goalkeeper behind Giuliani and Doris Bacic. Must have been a little weird to be going up against your former teammates and then conceding a few goals on top of it.
- Lisa Boattin, again, was absolutely rock solid at left back in this game. She’s had a fantastic season, and if she’s not in the conversation as one of the best at her position in Europe then we might need to have a talk because this really has been a breakout season for her.
- Fans weren’t allowed inside Vinovo for obvious pandemic reasons, but they were right outside on the other side of the fences flying their flags proudly. When you think about it, it’s honestly not a bad place to watch the game.
- Many might have felt like this Juve team winning the title was inevitable, but the sheer consistency they’ve shown during a season that was anything but normal has to commended over and over again. They’ve only seen a couple of players be diagnoses with COVID-19 during a time in which Italy’s case numbers have gotten a whole lot worse than when the season began. And all of the outside factors going on never derailed what has turned into a truly special season. That just shows what kind of team this is, and it is a compliment to Guarino the manager, the ever-steady captain in Sara Gama and the roster as a whole.
- In conclusion: What a team. What a great and enjoyable team.