Parma can hold their heads high despite late Juventus heartache, Panico’s project will be one worth watching

It has been a tough first season in Serie A Femminile for Parma, but they were excellent in their narrow defeat to Juventus and Domenico Panico's recent appointment looks like it will bring a bit of a spark to the Tardini.

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Parma Women’s decision to part ways with Fabio Ulderici after their most positive result for a number of weeks in October caught some by surprise. Their goalless draw away at Sampdoria saw them ride their luck en route to a point, but the previous defeats to both Como and Pomigliano meant that the writing was on the wall for the coach before even heading to Liguria. 

Domenico Panico’s subsequent appointment at the Stadio Ennio Tardini caused even more eyebrows to raise, even despite his experience of battling against the drop in Serie A Femminile with Pomigliano previously and his knowledge of some of the players again at his disposal in Emilia-Romagna. 

Ulderici’s biggest crime appeared to be his unwillingness to adapt to the players he had at his disposal at Parma. He was committed – probably a little bit too much – to his style of play and his desire to see his side play in an attractive and progressive way. That proved costly on a few too many occasions as the Gialloblu conceded five to AS Roma, four to Inter, four to AC Milan, four to Como and three to Pomigliano. Their only clean sheet came in that draw against Samp.

Parma Women’s Niamh Farrelly in action. (Photo: Parma Calcio)

So to then sack Ulderici and bring in a man even more committed to attacking, possession-based football wasn’t something that many could have seen coming. Panico is obsessed with seeing his sides play with a swagger and with moving the ball progressively from back to front. It’s valid to ask if Parma have a squad capable of doing that now.

The Crociate’s squad definitely isn’t cut out for that at this exact moment. A number of players remain on the treatment tables, and Panico has arrived with others just nursing their way back to full fitness. So there couldn’t have been a worse first opponent for him to face in the job than Juventus.

In far-from-ideal circumstances, Parma impressed 

With players having to play out of position at the back and others in the XI that the coach might have otherwise preferred to leave out, Parma were excellent against the champions. They played when they could, but it was their defensive work that impressed the most for 90 minutes at the Tardini against the Bianconere.

Parma Women goalkeeper Alessia Capelletti. (Photo: Parma Calcio)

Parma played well, but Alessia Capelletti was undoubtedly the Player of the Match as she brilliantly made save after save to keep Joe Montemurro’s Juventus out – somehow thwarting Cristiana Girelli, Arianna Caruso, Sofie Junge Pedersen and just about anybody else that tried their luck. With Gianluigi Buffon watching on from the stands at the Tardini, Capelletti delivered a performance the legendary ‘keeper would have been proud of. The hosts led thanks to Melania Martinovic’s first-half header on the end of a perfect cross from Niamh Farrelly that just had to be finished. 

When Juventus knock on the door for 90 minutes though, it’s rare that they don’t find a breakthrough, and Lisa Boattin finally breached Capelletti with a stunning long-range strike in the 92nd minute. Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir scored a second in the 96th and the champions managed to escape with all three points. 

With players to come back, Parma can be optimistic

Parma can hold their heads high and the Tardini let them know it. The over-800-strong crowd applauded warmly at the end of the game, making it clear that they appreciated the players’ efforts, which Martinovic said in her press duties after that the players, in turn, appreciated.

Parma Women’s Melania Martinovic celebrates a goal. (Photo: Parma Calcio)

At times under Ulderici, Parma looked a little lost for ideas. Plan A didn’t often work, and with each passing week their comeback win over Sassuolo made even less sense. When they needed clarity, the coach wasn’t able to provide it.

Now with Panico they’ve made an interesting appointment. There were already signs against Juventus of sharp movement of the ball to play out from the back, and with Marija Banusic again available she’s the perfect link player between midfield and attack when Parma are in possession.

Their list of absentees is long, and a handful of those are long-term injuries, but with players starting to come back in the coming weeks, Panico’s Parma will be targeting a move up the table.

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