If Juventus Women wanted to have any chance of keeping its surprise Women’s Champions League run alive and be one of the final four teams standing, you knew that things would have to be sound at the back at the very least. With Lyon having pretty much all of its firepower available — including a certain Ada Hegerberg — that was always going to be a tall task.
Turns out, it was exactly that ... and one Juve had trouble in keeping up with.
Lyon was at its very best Thursday night, not just turning the Women’s Champions League quarterfinal tie against Juventus Women in its favor, but doing so in dominant fashion. Two first-half goals gave the French giants the aggregate lead and then United States international Cat Macario put the final nail in the coffin with a fantastic individual effort to put Lyon up 3-0 and 4-2 on aggregate. That’s where the scoreline stayed until Andrea Staskova’s late header gave Juve both a lifeline to try and tie things up on aggregate and a much-needed jolt of energy in the dying minutes.
It proved to be too little a little too late. Final score on aggregate: Lyon 4, Juventus Women 3.
Unfortunately, this is the end of the road. It nearly resulted in another surprise along the way. (I mean, can you imagine if Staskova or somebody else had scored in stoppage time to tie things up on aggregate? The tone of this might be different.)
But one thing we all can agree on is that Juventus Women, outmatched on paper and playing one of the best teams in the world that was looking rather good on the field, held their own over the two-legged tie. Sure, there was no red card to help out this time or a couple of goals to completely flip things in Juve’s favor like last week in Turin. Yet, somehow, even with Lyon going ahead 3-0 and there being plenty of defending to go — especially to begin the second half before Macario scored — there was hope.
And as this team has shown in previous European outings this season, a little bit of hope is all they need.
Of course, it didn’t come to fruition this time because Lyon was just the better side on the night. There’s no denying that. I feel like first-year manager Joe Montemurro would say that Lyon was the better side and that his squad could have done better. That may sound simplistic or not hard-hitting analysis of what just happened, but that’s just the easiest way of saying it.
But this team, even with being dominated for long stretches of time Thursday night, had a glimmer of hope until the final whistle sounded in the 93rd minute. That says something about this group and the way they truly fight until the end.
It’s a loss, it’s the end of the road in Europe for a few months, but it hopefully is the start of something really, really good in the Women’s Champions League.
Juventus’ front office brought in Montemurro to help build this team’s standing in Europe. And after the first UWCL run with Joe at the helm, that looks like the right call — and then some.
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
- I personally liked the first leg of this tie better. Guessing I’m not alone in that thought process.
- Unfortunately, this is the second game in eight days where Lina Hurtig missed a big early chance. This time around, though, it looms a little larger knowing how the rest of the game played out.
- Here’s something scary: The average age of Lyon’s starting lineup was just under 26 years old. TWENTY-SIX, FOLKS. That just shows you how good they are while also being a relatively young and talented squad at the same time.
- For what it’s worth, Juve’s average age in the starting XI was just under 30 years old.
- You want a positive to come out of this? Juve scored three goals over 180 minutes against a Lyon side that essentially looks at the Women’s Champions League trophy as theirs. (Hard to argue with them over the last decade, right?) That’s growth right there. Even more than a season ago, too.
- You know why Montemurro went with Martina Lenzini as a right back. She’s maybe not a completely natural right back, but she’s been so good this season and knowing that Juventus would have to defend a ton with Lyon needing goals, it made sense. But man, that second Lyon goal was a tough one to watch.
- Same goes for the marking on Lyon’s first goal.
- Outside of her marking on that first Lyon goal, Linda Sembrant was just a rock at the back in this game, finishing with eight clearances. Nobody else in a Juve jersey had more than four. And remember, Sembrant only has a few appearances under her belt since coming back from major knee surgery.
- Pauline Peyraud-Magnin had some interesting moments in this game, but she also had some huge saves to keep Lyon from building its lead even bigger.
- Staskova’s goal was the second of Juventus’ two shots on goal against Lyon.
- And silly me thinking Juve wouldn’t score a goal with the likes of Cristiana Girelli and Barbara Bonansea already subbed off. Joe knows more than I do! (Not that it should be any kind of surprise, of course. He’s there and I’m, well, not.)
- Lyon finished with 62 percent of the possession and, honestly, it felt like that number was rather small based on how some of this one went.
- Six Lyon players had more touches than Lisa Boattin, who had the most touches of any Juve player. That says a lot.
- Martina Rosucci, like Boattin, had a team-high five interceptions Thursday night.
- Hegerberg has 57 goals in 57 Women’s Champions League games. That’s good.
- Lyon will face Paris Saint-Germain in the semifinals. I’m guessing that will be rather intense.
- Juve has only a handful of Serie A Femminile games left and they’ve got a five-point lead over second-place Roma. They’re up 6-1 on aggregate on AC Milan heading into the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinals. They’ve also won the Supercoppa Femminile already this season. The chances of sweeping the domestic trophies look rather good right now. So as much as this Women’s Champions League ouster sucks, there’s still at least one more trophy on the way for this group.
- As proud of this team as I am, I’m still sad. This was a fun run to the quarterfinals.
- Remember, Juventus Women is in its fifth season. FIFTH. A few years ago, this kind of run in the Women’s Champions League wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities. Now? Well, next season there will be expectations to try and repeat what just took place. The bar has been raised, that’s for sure, and the emotions shown afterward tells you all you need to know about how much Montemurro’s side believed it could get the job done Thursday night.