When you’re playing a very, very good team like Juventus Women lined up against Wednesday night, the chances that you take are going to be just that much more crucial to potential coming away with points. And if you miss those chances, no matter how many there may end up being, you’re gonna feel like there could have been more.
And what do you know?
After prime chances from Cristiana Girelli and Arianna Caruso in the fourth minute couldn’t be converted, things weren’t exactly what one would call “fruitful” in front of goal against the Group C leaders. It didn’t take long for those two missed chances to come back to bite the Juve women, too.
A fantastic 17th-minute strike from Arsenal star Vivianne Miedema proved to be the difference on a frigid night at the Emirates Stadium, as Juventus Women suffered their first Women’s Champions League loss of the season in the 1-0 defeat. With the loss and Lyon’s win over Group C bottom dwellers Zurich, Juve dropped down into third place and now face the task of trying to secure a spot in the knockout rounds by overtaking the reigning UWCL champions in the process.
That matchup between Juve and Lyon on Dec. 21 just got that much more important.
Drama on the final day of the group stage? Gee, sounds a lot like a path that we’ve walked down before .... about 12 months ago.
As much as the chances in the fourth minute might stick in the craw of Girelli, Caruso and Juve manager Joe Montemurro, they might also look back on their second-half performance as a missed opportunity. Montemurro set things up rather well coming out of halftime and Juventus was a much better team than they were in the opening 45 minutes as Arsenal took the lead, but there was one problem: in the final third, the Bianconere couldn’t put much together at all.
Juventus had chances — they were only outshot by Arsenal 14-11 — but they just couldn’t capitalize in the final third. Whether it was the passing letting them down or the crossing not finding its intended target or having to settle for a long-distance shot, the execution in the final third in the second half was very much still an issue.
It was just one pass away, one cross away or simply two teammates not thinking the same thing.
The chances were there for a tying goal. Juventus just wasn’t able to convert. It maybe wasn’t as gut-wrenching as the Bianconere’s first chance of the night all of a couple of minutes in, but Juve definitely put themselves in line to at least try to find the game-tying goal in the second half.
Because of it, the first UWCL loss of the season means that Juve now need some help to keep their European campaign alive beyond December. That’s not exactly what you want to hear with two group stage games to go, but the good thing is that there’s still a path to get to the quarterfinals.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- How tightly bunched is this group? If Juve beat Arsenal, they would have gone top of the group. Instead, with the 1-0 loss, they’re now down in third place behind Arsenal and Lyon.
- Two group stage games left and Juve need a little bit of help to get back into second place. I guess it’s a good thing that Arsenal and Lyon are playing one another next week then, huh?
- So the plan now is to beat Zurich next week and then hang on for dear life against Lyon on Dec. 21, right? That sounds like a plan to me, Joe.
- Cristiana Girelli hasn’t scored for club or country since her brace against AC Milan on Oct. 22. That’s now a run of six weeks. I’m not saying I’m incredibly worried, but maybe I’m starting to get a little worried. Five of her seven goals have come in two league games. She hasn’t scored since the first game of the first UWCL qualifying round. Juve need a little more out of their No. 10.
- Vivianne Miedema is so good. Arsenal, you’re quite lucky to have that talent.
- You know who’s also good? Julia Grosso. She might have been Juve’s best player in the second half on Wednesday night. Juve did a lot of good things after the break, and Grosso was involved in a lot of those moments.
- Knowing what Juve has on their schedule the next couple of weeks, I would like it if Barbara Bonansea — who was subbed off at halftime with an apparent injury — not miss any of the upcoming games because she’s very important to this team.
- One of the biggest things to change in the second half was that Lisa Boattin — the MVP of Serie A last season — was able to do more Lisa Boattin things
- Also, the sliding block that Boattin had to deny Arsenal’s Stina Blackstenius of a shot on goal is going to be one of the most memorable things of this game. She covered so much ground to deny Blackstenius and the Arsenal counterattack and keep the score 1-0. Obviously we know how this game ended up going, but having it suddenly become 2-0 right before the half would have been a pretty big punch to the gut.
- This one had a wide swing of good and not-so-good for Pauline Peyraud-Magnin in Juve’s goal. You could probably say she was partially at fault for Arsenal’s goal by how she was unable to get a hand on the cross that ended up finding Miedema at the back post. Overall, PPM’s handling of crosses and corner kicks until the last 15 or so minutes was a bit of an adventure. She’s a great shot stopper, but sometimes these issues on balls sent into the box from the wings shine bright. Just glad they didn’t cost Juve more than one goal on this day.
- And yet, after all of the nervy moments in the first half caused by Arsenal, PPM had to make all of two saves. (All of the times she raced off her line to claim a through ball doesn’t count as saves, so that’s why the number is low. She did very well on those.)
- Cecilia Salvai continues to be one of Juve’s best players just a couple of months after coming back from her second major knee injury in the last four years. It’s pretty important that she’s been able to play such a heavy amount of minutes with Sara Gama out injured for basically the entire season to date.
- The UEFA website says Juventus blocked five shots and if I had to guess I might have said that number was three times higher. Juve’s defense was busy at times and they did a lot to prevent Arsenal from putting a lot of shots on target, thus the reason PPM only had a couple of saves.
- In conclusion: What, you thought being in a group with two of the most talented clubs in the world — one of which won the whole damn thing last season — was going to be easy? Ha, we shoulda known better after how the group stage was last season. But Juve still has a chance to make the knockout round. It’s a tough task, but there’s still a chance.