To be one of the final 16 teams standings and advance to the Women’s Champions League group stage, things were rather simple for Juventus Women on Thursday night: don’t screw up the work you’ve done in the first leg in Albania. Juve entered the second leg of their final qualification round tie against Vllaznia up a comfortable 2-0 lead on aggregate and were playing said second leg at home in Turin.
They had everything going for them, so much so it allowed first-year manager Joe Montemurro to feel comfortable enough to do a good amount of squad rotation.
And even with a rotated squad, Juventus was able to make a little bit of history Thursday night.
After seeing their last couple of Women’s Champions League adventures end seemingly right after they got started thanks to being draw against two of the best clubs in the world, Juventus Women officially advanced to the new-look group stage of the competition with a 1-0 win over Vllaznia at Vinovo thanks to Andrea Staskova’s first-half goal. It gave Juve the 3-0 win on aggregate — which spoke more to how solid they were over two legs rather than exuding their domination like they had in previous qualification rounds this season.
It was just good, uneventful play over the course of 180 minutes.
Because of it, Juve’s heading to the first-ever Women’s Champions League group stage.
That has a nice ring to it.
And while there has been a surprise or two during this complicated qualification process that comes along with a group stage being added once the amount of teams still playing hits 16, Juventus Women worked their way through multiple rounds while also getting a hold of what their new manager has in mind for them. Sure, the competition wasn’t what they will see in the group stage and they likely won’t be a favorite to win their group, but the fact that one of the reasons as to why Montemurro was brought in was to (hopefully) make a greater mark in Europe and the UWCL. And, with the advancement to the 16-team group stage — which will be drawn on Monday — Juve has taken a big first step in doing just what they have set out to do with Montemurro at the helm.
Thursday’s result was more about securing the bigger prize rather than anything else. Juventus held firm against a Vllaznia side they’re obviously better than no matter how many players Montemurro replaced in the starting lineup. And even then, with the quality depth that Juve has, it’s not like there was a significant drop off from the first-leg performance despite the fact that players like Cristiana Girelli, Barbara Bonansea and Annahita Zamanian weren’t in the starting lineup.
It was just a solid performance that never put the first-leg aggregate lead in any kind of danger. And once Staskova found the back of the net in the 34th minute after tapping home Agnese Bonfantini’s cross, then things were feeling pretty good for the home side.
Luckily for us, we root for that home side.
And that only continued as the night went on.
So now we wait to see what the group stage draw has in store for Montemurro and his talented Bianconere squad. They will likely have to go through a club that is in the upper tier of women’s footballing powers just like they tried to do with Lyon last season and Barcelona the year before. And if that’s the case, then so be it.
But they’ve gotten to the point in the game that gives them that chance — and that’s what is the most important thing to take out of all of this. You can’t try and beat the best in the world if you don’t get to that point in the Women’s Champions League. And Juve’s there, which is pretty damn good to see.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Six games played in all competitions, one goal allowed. That’ll do just fine.
- And it’s not just the small number of goals allowed so far, but goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, again, didn’t have much to do in this game. It was an impressive defensive showing from Sara Gama and the rest of the back four.
- Basically, when your keeper only has to face a pair of shots on goal and neither of them are anything close to difficult saves, then you’re doing your job as a defense.
- Those away kits ... they’re good! They’re very, very good.
- One of the more interesting and enjoyable parts to come out of Montemurro’s squad rotation was the fact that with not as many Italians was that you got to hear him switch between languages with the utmost of ease. Like, literally yelling at somebody in Italian one second and then switching to English the next. The best part of Joe’s English? The fact that he’s got a badass Australian accent to go with it. (He’s taken quite the path to get here!)
- As you can probably guess, as much as I miss Rita Guarino, Joe Montemurro amuses me and I am very happy that Juventus hired him for simple entertainment value. Like this:
BIG MOOD JOE pic.twitter.com/sX3No9c77G— Black & White & Read All Over (@JuventusNation) September 9, 2021
- I know I say it pretty much every time I write about the Juve women — or at least it feels that way from my end of things — but the amount of progression Lisa Boattin’s game has made is so damn impressive. She’s developed into such a good defender. It really is so damn impressive.
- In short, I don’t care if I repeat it. It deserves to be said.
- Juventus had two very legitimate shouts for a second-half penalty and neither of them were called. Good thing they were up 3-0 on aggregate at the time or else things would have been a whole lot different in the final 20 or so minutes.
- The midfield depth the Juventus women have is pretty remarkable. Montemurro can rotate his squad, take out arguably his most in-form player of the group in Zamanian and then bring her and Valentina Cernoia off the bench. Nice problem to have.
- Another nice problem to have: Montemurro has one of his best central defenders out injured in Linda Sembrant, but can turn to somebody like Martina Lenzini to come in and pair with Gama (or Cecilia Salvai) when he wants to rotate. Lenzini could surely start on a lot of other Serie A Femminile squads, yet she’s third- or fourth-choice at Juve.
- Arianna Caruso forever.
- This game was one where you saw Agnese Bonfantini very involved in the chances Juve were creating, especially in the first half. The problem was, some of the time those chances ended up going for naught because Bonfantini was maybe trying to do a little too much or holding onto the ball a little too long. Her assist to Staskova was very good, weaving her way through a couple of would-be tacklers before sending in a very dangerous cross. If she can find consistency, she will be a very, very good player. It’s just about finding that consistency these days — which is something that a lot of Roma supporters would tell you.
- Sara Gama playing as a sweeper is fun as hell to watch.
- Same goes for Gama channeling her inner Giorgio Chiellini and making runs forward down the left wing. Something about central defenders at Juventus who wear the No. 3 and the captain’s armband. My captains!!
- In conclusion: This team is good and I am very curious to see how they do in the group stage.