STADIO TRE FONTANE (Rome): The Serie A Femminile title is within touching distance now for AS Roma Women. A sunny Saturday afternoon at the Tre Fontane saw them put what is likely to be the final nail in the coffin of Juventus’ title hopes, twice coming from behind to claim a late, dramatic, deserved and breathtaking 3-2 win over the now-outgoing champions. The reaction to the final whistle on both sides suggests that everybody knows. Now, it’s just a matter of when.
Now there’s every chance that Juventus play next having already been dethroned. The Bianconere are due to rest next weekend, with Roma welcoming Fiorentina knowing that a win will see them crowned champions for the first time in their short history. It’s been coming, they’ve been building towards this, and it’s so almost here. Failing to beat Fiorentina, a draw will take them closer; their defeat of Juventus means that they are now just two points from being mathematically crowned.
A lively start, but early nerves showed
Roma sought to be their aggressive best early on. Giada Greggi set the tempo in midfield with her relentless pressing, hungrier than anybody to regain possession whenever it changed into Bianconere hands. Greggi, Andressa Alves and both wingers – Benedetta Glionna and Emilie Haavi – looked to terrorise Juventus’ backline.
But with Lineth Beerensteyn on the pitch, Juventus always have that outlet and she gave Roma’s own defenders, Lucia Di Guglielmo in particular, a horrid first half. It was from her usual left-wing position that Juventus got the lead, though this time it was Barbara Bonansea who tricked her way into the six-yard box before firing past Camelia Ceasar, who played her part in the win. Some nerves were present, as Alessandro Spugna confessed to the press after the game, and his plan to invert his full-backs and put Di Guglielmo up against Beerensteyn wasn’t quite a complete success.
Teams aspiring to be champions, though, must react. Roma reacted. With men’s first-team coach Jose Mourinho – whose own side mastered a Europa League comeback in midweek to reach the semi-finals – watching on from the stands, barely a minute passed before Roma were back on terms through Andressa. Greggi’s tirelessness reaped rewards as and she pressed to win the ball in midfield, stepped forward and slipped Valentina Giacinti through. The no.9’s shot was parried and the Brazilian was on hand to bundle in, as Spugna explained she has been ordered to do this season – that was her 12th of the campaign.
Beerensteyn then won a penalty for the visitors before the half-hour mark and Roman-born Arianna Caruso stepped up. Silencing whistles from the Tre Fontane, she fired emphatically into the top corner and Ceasar could do little to deny her.
That Roma found themselves trailing at the break wasn’t much of a surprise. Of their previous 21 Serie A Femminile games, only one side had managed to get the better of the Giallorosse. To add to their 19 wins, they had two defeats – home and away against Juventus. Although Roma had beaten Joe Montemurro’s side on penalties in the Supercoppa Italiana in November, there was a sense that Juventus might just have Roma’s number, that they might yet make the title race interesting.
The race now appears run. Giacinti fired in a superb second for the hosts on the hour mark, driving towards the box with only one thought in her mind before rifling past Pauline Peyraud-Magnin to again see them draw level. With Juventus knowing that they really needed a win, Spugna’s side were under pressure. Juventus kept coming, kept knocking, but they couldn’t beat Ceasar a third time.
Just as one Roman had struck in the first half, Sophie Roman Haug appeared late on with a soaring header to seal three points for the Giallorosse. A lethal counterattack was started when Carina Wenninger stepped out of defence to intercept, charged forward and set a train-like Haavi off down the right. Getting to the box, the Norwegian put a cross onto her compatriot’s head with Haug showing great athleticism and flexibility to not just meet it, but beat Peyraud-Magnin.
There wasn’t much football left to be played then, even despite seven added minutes at the end. The nerves were long overcome by then and Manuela Giugliano and co. expertly saw things out to prompt celebratory scenes at the final whistle.
Post-match talk was boarding on celebratory from Spugna. He knows the job isn’t done yet, but full focus is on securing Roma’s first-ever scudetto when they host Fiorentina on April 29. Incidentally, Roma have already beaten the Viola 5-1, 7-1 and 2-1 the season.