Coming into Wednesday night’s decisive Women’s Champions League group stage finale, we knew what Juventus Women had to do and that their opponent was much improved from the last time the two teams played two months ago.
That win the Bianconere needed to stay alive in Europe never arrived.
The scoreless draw that ended up playing out at the Groupama Stadium was never going to do it when it came to Juve advancing to the Women’s Champions League knockout rounds. Instead, Juve — who needed to beat defending champion Lyon — won’t make the UWCL quarterfinals for the second straight season and continue to raise the bar as the women’s project continues to get more and more momentum and support with each passing year.
Instead, Juventus has finished third in one of the more competitive groups there was in the 16-team group stage.
In those six group stage games, Juve lost just once.
But, when you look back on it, those three draws proved to be the difference between seeing the European dream continue into the new year and seeing it end a few days before Christmas. Juventus had the chance to get wins over Arsenal and especially Lyon when they faced the top two teams in the group back in Turin earlier this season but could only come away with draws both times.
Those were good — albeit also somewhat disappointing — results at the time. But, in hindsight, it’s a big reason as to why Juve didn’t advance despite losing just one of their six group stage games.
The thing that hurt Juve the most on Wednesday is the very obvious fact that they couldn’t get a goal — or even a lead for that matter — in a game that they had to win. For much of the game the Bianconere played well ... except for what was done in the final third. That is where they struggled — a missed pass here, miscommunication there, a low-percentage shot not resulting in very much at all. Juventus finished with four of their 11 shots going on target, but none of them truly challenged Lyon keeper Christiane Endler in the same kind of way that Paulie Peyraud-Magnin was at the other end of the field.
In the end, Juve just couldn’t generate enough in attack to truly trouble the Lyon defense for a consistent amount of time. Those things happen — especially against one of the best teams in Europe.
It’s just unfortunate that it had to come on a night where so much was on the line.
This team fought until the end because that’s just what they do. But the goal — and lead — they needed never arrived.
This game might be looked at as the reason why Juve won’t be playing in the Women’s Champions League come the first couple of months of 2023, but it all kinda adds up. There is no single reason why Juventus were eliminated from UWCL competition for the 2022-23 campaign, and that might be the toughest fact of them all to sit with.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- There are a lot of things that Joe Montemurro has gotten right in his season and a half at Juventus, but I just don’t know if this was one of those nights. On a night when Juve clearly needed goals and seemed to fade a little bit as the second half went on, Montemurro waited until the 83rd minute to make his first change. He didn’t make his second change until stoppage time.
- Basically, Juve needed some kind of jolt of energy a lot earlier than Montemurro made his subs. They were the right kind of changes, just came a little too late for my liking.
- The final shot count read 12-11 in favor of Lyon with Juventus actually having more attacks, 28-27, according to the UEFA website.
- I have no idea how these teams finished even on shots because there was a point midway through the second half in which it felt like Lyon had about 25 shots on the game.
- Paulie Peyraud-Magnin was named the game’s top player and it’s hard to disagree with that. Some of the saves she made were simply superb and the direct reason why Juve even had a chance to win in the dying minutes. Very fitting for her to deliver after being included in the first part of The Guardian’s Top 100 list.
- It’s hard to score on Lyon most games. it’s even harder to score on Lyon when they’re managing the game perfectly and seeing things out the way they did. You want to see an experienced team doing exactly what they have to do in Europe, go ahead and rewatch what Lyon did because they were damn good at it on Wednesday night.
- You don’t realize how deep a team like Lyon is until the match announcer points out a few players who are out injured and they’re still bringing household names off the bench.
- Just because I’m curious, I looked: Juve finishing with nine points would have put them in third place in the other three groups. So, unless something weird would have taken place and they were transported into a different group, that point total wouldn’t have changed things all that much in terms of advancing.
- The Martina Rosucci at center back experiment has gone very well and that continued against Lyon. I want more of this because the center back position is very much a group that doesn’t have much depth this season, especially with Martina Lenzini basically becoming Juve’s No. 1 choice at right back.
- Even though she didn’t get a goal, Lineth Beerensteyn is becoming quite the fun player to watch in a Juventus jersey. She’s quickly developed into quite the important piece to this Juve puzzle.
- Julia Grosso is a star and there’s nothing you can say to make me think otherwise. There is no big stage that seems to faze her even though she’s just a little short of a year into her European club career. (I’m guessing playing in the Olympics has helped!)
- I’m not angry about this because I knew it was always going to be tough in this group. I feel like there was more progress made and not a step backwards. It’s just disappointing to see a group who deserved to go through simply fall victim to the numbers game. A good manager like Montemurro will learn from this, and I definitely expect Juve to come back better as a result of it. There’s still a Scudetto to win after all, right?