Juventus Women manager Joe Montemurro was clearly unhappy with the way his team played in the first half of Thursday night’s Women’s Champions League match against Lyon.
And as Barbara Bonansea put it after the game, simply getting things back to a much more preferred level was the message from Montemurro as they sat in the Juventus Stadium dressing room at the half.
“The coach told us to have more confidence in ourselves,” Bonansea recalled.
Bonansea continued: “We listened to him.”
Indeed they did.
A noticeable second-half performance saw Juventus give the reigning European champions Lyon a run for their money for the third straight year in Turin. There wasn’t a win in shocking fashion like we saw in the Women’s Champions League quarterfinals last year, but there was the sight of the Bianconere pulling even with the French giants through an own goal on a Bonansea attempted cross in the 52nd minute and coming away with a point after a 1-1 draw on Thursday night at the Juventus Stadium.
It was very an early second-half reward for what proved to be a much-improved showing from Montemurro’s crew at the halftime break. And honestly, if you look at some of the faces after the final whistle sounded, it seems as though they expected more — like a win.
That’s the expectation level that Montemurro has set in. And it’s been there for everybody to see once again against Lyon, arguably the most-accomplished women’s club Europe has and one that a couple of current Juve players can talk about when it comes to their success.
But on this night, Juve showed that it can hang with one of Europe’s biggest names. Yes, Lyon is not at full strength and has injuries up and down the roster. But based on how things went against Arsenal last week, you know Lyon was coming to Turin hungry for a result that involved more than just one point. (Don’t forget that Juventus’ most recent domestic result this past weekend was ... less than ideal, a 4-3 loss to AC Milan that dropped them to fourth in the Serie A Femminile table.)
Instead, Juve was able to maintain their spot in second place in Group C as we head into the portion of the group stage schedule where Juve faces Arsenal in back-to-back games.
On Thursday, the shot count was totally in Lyon’s favor, with Juve being outshot 24-10. Yet with all of those shots, all of those attempts, Juve keeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin had to make all of three saves. Three! That’s it. She wasn’t having to be the super hero that she was, say, against Chelsea in London during last season’s group stage.
Basically, Lyon could have done more. But same can be said for the Juve women.
That’s why there might be a small feeling of regret in knowing that they could have gotten more than just a point against a shorthanded Lyon side that was definitely a little wounded after their big loss to open the UWCL group stage.
Regardless of all that, though, through two group stage games, we can say that Juventus Women are right in the thick of it in a group with a red-hot Arsenal squad — which roll into Turin on Nov. 24 — and the reigning Women’s Champions League winners. You can’t ask for much more than that.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Joe Montemurro — pretty good at this coaching thing!
- Since it’s almost November, you know what’s coming next, folks. Let’s check out Joe’s scarf on this chilly late-October evening in Turin ...
- By the end of the game, though, Montemurro had the scarf off and a button or two undone on his white dress shirt, so he definitely was back to looking like a guy who just got done with his shift at the financial broker’s company.
- How nice it is to see a Juventus team with a manager who is both adaptable to the opponent his team is facing but also very much confident enough to not just have his team hunker down against one of the best teams in the world. The domestic season still needs some things to improve, obviously, but Montemurro is really doing another fantastic job when it comes to managing this team in Europe again.
- I would love to have there be a microphone that is only responsible for counting how many words Pauline Peyraud-Magnin says to her defense throughout a game. When it comes to keepers who are always talking, PPM definitely is atop that list.
- One last note on PPM: I know I’ve said this before in posts this season, but you compare her level of play from this point last year to where she is now, it’s pretty remarkable. Such a confident goalkeeper at the moment, and her form shows it. Plus she’s got a badass haircut.
- Lyon’s goal was just two really good players combining for one hell of a sequence.
- Even as things weren’t necessarily going all that great in the first half, Lineth Beerensteyn was working her ass off on both ends of the field. These are the kinds of games in which you can see why Montemurro wanted her at Juventus.
- This is the part of the observation section in which we pose this question: Is Julia Grosso becoming Juve’s best midfielder? I know, I know, for somebody who is one of the leaders of the Arianna Caruso hive, this might be crazy to say. And I know that Juve just signed somebody like Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir from Lyon over the summer. But man, Grosso just continues to impress in big games and, at 22 years old, is starting to really become a force as she close in on her 1-year mark at Juventus.
- I mean, just check out these numbers from Grosso against Lyon. Eight tackles! Nearly 90 percent of her passes completed! What a game. (And again, she’s only 22 and signed through 2024.)
- Montemurro brought these players off the bench against Lyon: Valentina Cernoia, Arianna Caruso, Agnese Bonfantini, Amanda Nilden and Sofia Cantore. Now that the squad is pretty much all healthy, I think I can speak for Joe and say that having all that depth again is fun.
- This is the first time since the 2014-15 season that Lyon has failed to win two consecutive Women’s Champions League matches, excluding those lost on penalties. Let that sink in for a second.
- For the first time since taking over at Juventus, Montemurro will face his former team in Arsenal the next time the Bianconere hear the UWCL anthem over the loudspeakers. That’s going to be a fun one to watch, and you know the squad is going to be pretty amped up to try and get another impressive result against a squad that helped get to where it is today.