STADIO TRE FONTANE (Rome): AS Roma are still alive in the Women’s Champions League despite suffering late heartbreak at home to Bayern Munich on Matchday 5, drawing 2-2. The Giallorosse conceded as late as the 97th minute after having looked to have snatched three priceless points through Manuela Giugliano‘s 93rd-minute effort.
In what was a good showing from Roma given this troubled recent period for them, the win would have come as a huge confidence-booster for the Women’s Serie A table-toppers, but the manner in which they again slipped up – conceding in the 87th and 97th minutes – might do more damage than Giugliano‘s 93rd-minute goal looked to have done good.
The Giallorosse may still advance to the knockout rounds of this season’s Women’s Champions League, but their Matchday 6 trip to Amsterdam to face Ajax leaves them with a lot of work to do to stand a chance at appearing in the last 16, and without having their fate entirely in their own hands.
AS Roma’s bright start rewarded with deserved Giacinti opener
The Italian champions started brightly and took the game to Bayern from the off, with the first chance falling inside 90 seconds as a Valentina Giacinti header forced a save out of Maria-Luisa Grohs.
Roma kept coming too, and Evelyne Viens was a real threat on the left after taking a few more minutes to settle into the game than her teammates. She found her feet with a seriously quick turn of pace on the left, driving half the length of the pitch before firing an ultimately tame effort wide from range.
On the other side and under the nose of suspended coach Alessandro Spugna in the press box, Emilie Haavi was quieter due to Roma‘s apparent preference of going down the left with Viens and Lucia Di Guglielmo, but the Norwegian herself had a chance as she charged her way into the box and fired just wide from a narrow angle.
While Roma weren’t exactly looking water-tight at the back, Bayern never really managed to get at their back four. The only time they got beyond the backline saw Lea Schuller flagged offside as she turned a shot over, but Camelia Ceasar did have to make a stunning reaction save to keep the Germans out.
The opener, deservedly, came through Giacinti. With Bayern looking to play out from the back, England international Georgia Stanway looked to play a blind pass to her left-back but under-hit it, allowing Manuela Giugliano to pounce on the edge of the box and tee up Giacinti for an unconventional finish past Grohs.
Bayern seek a response in the second half
The second half saw Bayern Munich up their efforts, both in and out of possession. Moving the ball with more purpose, Schuller just about missed out when a cross was whipped in from the left.
With Roma in possession, Bayern were more physical, which wasn’t to the liking of the Tre Fontane.
Giacinti, booked in the first half for dissent after feeling a series of decisions had gone against her, looked to become a target for the visitors and a strong challenge saw her take a blow to the chest, leaving her in serious pain. Playing on after being seen to, Giacinti went to ground on her own accord a few minutes later and had to be replaced by Giada Greggi, despite insisting that she could play on. Upon leaving the field the forward was stretchered away, evidently feeling a great deal of pain in either her chest or ribs.
That change brought a shift in shape for the Women’s Serie A leaders as well, and their midfield three of Greggi, Giugliano and Saki Kumagai looked a lot more fluid and familiar with one another’s movements. With Bayern continuing to push for an equaliser, Roma tried to be as compact as possible at the back and made the Germans wait a while before a half-chance for Schuller saw her volley straight at Ceasar.
A leveller did arrive in the 87th minute though. Pernille Harder was afforded too much time and space on the right and was able to pick out a cross, with Schuller beating Moeka Minami to the ball to head into the bottom corner.
Roma looked to react. Straight from kick-off, the Giallorosse pressed again and Greggi went within a fingertip of restoring their lead. When the ball fell to Elisa Bartoli on the right she drove it back into the area, where Greggi arrived and turned it towards the top corner to force a fine save from Grohs.
Two more goals in chaotic stoppage time
When seven minutes of stoppage time were shown, Roma reacted like the side that had made them look so untouchable last season and for most of the current campaign up until the winter break.
Through Viens and Greggi they gained ground on the right before the former looked to have wasted the chance with her attempted cross, but Roma‘s high press rewarded them with regaining possession. Benedetta Glionna and Elisa Bartoli then combined on the right and the captain just about made it to the byline to put in a perfect cross that evaded Viens but was turned home by Giugliano, looking to seal three massive points for the hosts.
Roma, though, have been vulnerable since the turn of the year, and so it fatally showed again. Two minutes after the ball hit the back of Bayern‘s net, Roma were left defending a set piece from their right, and once again Schuller rose highest to head in another equaliser and to leave the Giallorosse crushed.
And so it ended with Roma still bottom of Women’s Champions League Group C ahead of the final and decisive Matchday 6. The Serie A champions can still advance with a win away at group leaders Ajax, though their fate won’t be entirely in their own hands.