Entering Thursday night’s Women’s Champions League group stage matchup against group leaders Arsenal, I felt safe in saying that this Juventus Women season had been a weird one. On one hand, they are once again starting the year very well in Europe, with a home draw against reigning UWCL winners Lyon already on their résumé. But in league play, things have been up and down, with a genuine uphill battle to be done to win a sixth straight title.
The feeling that was there in my gut after Juve’s 1-1 draw with a shorthanded Arsenal squad at the Juventus Stadium was basically the same one I had when the final whistle sounded against Lyon.
As much as the draw is far from a bad thing, this could have been — should have been? — another European game that had the potential for more.
Juve manager Joe Montemurro, who was facing his former club for the first time since coming to Turin two summers ago, was able to work his second-half magic on the European stage once again. The only problem was that Arsenal — coming off a stunning 3-2 defeat to Manchester United over the weekend — was able to pull even after Lineth Beerensteyn gave Juve the lead seven minutes after the break.
This was a game that Juventus could have won. This was also a game that Arsenal could have won based on the sheer number of chances the visitors had.
But it was the chance that Juve had to pull another big kind of statement result as they scratch and claw to break into that next level of clubs at the European level.
As much as the result may be disappointing seeing as Arsenal tied things up all of nine minutes after Juve went ahead, Juventus showed once again that they can hang with some of the biggest names in the women’s game. Did it probably help that Arsenal didn’t have some of their best players? Well, of course. If Juve got blown out and were without the likes of Cristiana Girelli, Barbara Bonansea and others, we’d be saying the same kind of thing. So, a lot like when the draw against Lyon happen, Juve caught one of the biggest clubs in Europe that had started their European campaign out quite well, at the right time.
And they hung with them.
A draw combined with Lyon’s win means that the gap between second place and third place in Group C is a smaller one, down to all of one point heading into the second half of the group stage. And Juve now has the daunting task of trying to hang onto second place in the group knowing full well they still have to play at Lyon and Arsenal in the coming weeks. So, in that sense, things might not be all that great when it comes to hanging onto second place in the group and advancement into the UWCL quarterfinals.
This is a good result.
it could have been better.
But, when you consider that Arsenal had been absolutely dominant in their first two group stage fixtures, preventing them from running away with the group at the midway is a pretty good development.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- Joe Montemurro doesn’t care who you are in Europe. He’s here to play ball.
- Teams in which Juventus Women have beaten or taken points off of in the group stage or knockout round since Montemurro took over as manager: Chelsea (group stage last season), Wolfsburg (group stage last season), Lyon (quarterfinals last season), Lyon again (group stage this season), Arsenal (group stage this season).
- Big man getting the job done, folks.
- HOLY SMOKES, MARTINA ROSUCCI.
- OK, let me explain that previous statement because there is absolutely no context to it. Martina Rosucci, a very talented midfielder, got the start alongside Cecilia Salvai in the center of Juve’s defense on Thursday night. Rosucci, who has played at center back a few times already this season mostly out of complete necessity, was an absolute force against Arsenal. Like, if you didn’t know any better, the Italian woman with the No. 8 on her back was a lifelong center back. It was that good of a performance.
- I don’t want Martina Rosucci to start at center back much more going forward, but this was one heck of a showing from somebody who is very much not a center back.
- The bad part of the night for Juve’s defense: the marking on Arsenal’s goal. You could see a wide-open header coming off the corner kick — and especially so when Julia Grosso was a little too late in reaching to the Arsenal player she was supposed to be marking.
- Plus, it didn’t help that Pauline Peyraud-Magnin was caught in no man’s land a little bit in terms of coming out to try and punch the cross away or stay on her line and try to make the save. It’s too bad because outside of that, PPM was damn good in goal (again) in a big game as she too faced her former team for the first time since coming to Juventus two summers ago.
- That 1-on-1 save by PPM in the closing moments means we’re talking about a draw rather than a loss that should have been a draw at the bare minimum. Don’t forget about that, too.
- The UEFA website only had PPM finishing with three saves and for whatever reason my head keeps telling me it felt like at least twice that amount. Oh well.
- I am going to be thinking about that Cristiana Girelli pass to Lineth Beerensteyn for many, many days. That was reminiscent of the pass from Arianna Caruso to Agnese Bonfantini for the goal that beat Lyon in the quarterfinals last season. Just an absolutely perfect assist.
- That run and finish from Beerensteyn was pretty good, too. Just an overall great goal.
- For all of the worry that might have been hanging around regarding Arsenal and their offensive firepower, the stats ended up being pretty damn even, especially in terms of possession and chances created.