Roma Women got off to a winning start as Serie A resumed in 2021, beating Napoli 3-2 on Sunday.
It was essential to start the New Year on a high note in the league, as Roma had gone without a win in their last four Serie A games of 2020.
But after showing more promising signs in their first two matches of 2021 – in the Supercoppa Italiana extra-time defeat to Juventus and the high-scoring Coppa Italia win over Roma CF – the Giallorosse got back to winning ways in the league.
Responding to going behind, Roma went 2-1 up by half-time thanks to a goal from Annamaria Serturini and an Andressa Alves penalty.
In the second half, Napoli scored a penalty of their own which threatened to undo Roma’s hard work, but Elisa Bartoli came up with a winning goal to ensure her side gained all three points.
The result gave Roma a first win in Serie A since October 17th, and a first league win at home since two weeks before that. Importantly, they have now earned back-to-back wins across all competitions for the first time this season.
These were some of the most important factors in making sure that happened.
There was a 20-minute spell in the second half which saw one player demonstrate her importance at either end of the field – Elisa Bartoli.
Roma had been on top in terms of chances, but Napoli were refusing to give in. It prompted a tense second half, which ebbed and flowed either way.
In situations like that, big players come to the fore. It should come as no surprise by now that Bartoli thrives in such moments.
The captain scored the goal that restored Roma’s lead in the 64th minute, heading in a cross from the similarly influential Lindsey Thomas.
That goal turned out to be the winner, but Roma had to fight to keep hold of their three points before they could be sure. Hence, Bartoli turned her attention to her more natural territory in defence, putting her body on the line to keep Napoli out.
In the 79th minute, Bartoli made a big contribution at the other end which was just as important as her goal.
Roma were withstanding pressure as Napoli tried to force their way through in the box. The ball had gone above goalkeeper Rachele Baldi and it could have left the opposition’s attack with a simple route to goal.
Bartoli was determined to ensure that wasn’t the case. In the right place at the right time, she held her ground on the goal-line and cleared the ball away into safer territory.
Her intervention made sure Roma withstood Napoli’s last major period of pressure and kept in control of the game.
While it took some time to determine the outcome of a game of several goals, Roma’s first was the pick of the lot.
Serturini has made a habit of finding the back of the net from out wide on the left, and added another curled strike to her repertoire in the 22nd minute.
Andressa set her teammate up with a short pass, and with a pocket of space in front of her, Serturini needed no invitation to pick her spot.
After taking a couple of touches to get the ball in a prime position to strike, Serturini sent it looping into the far corner as she has become so accustomed to doing.
It gave Roma a foothold in the game, from which they were able to build up their momentum.
After scoring for the third league game in a row, Serturini has now reached 25 goals for the club – once again becoming the first to reach another landmark.
Between Roma’s last match and the clash with Napoli, the club brought in a high-profile signing in Elena Linari.
Arriving with vast experience at club and international level, the Italy defender should play a major part in making Roma more ambitious as time goes on.
However, coach Betty Bavagnoli made her wait for her debut, leaving the new signing on the bench in favour of Tecla Pettenuzzo and Allyson Swaby.
It may not have been that hard a decision at this stage – Linari has not played since October, so needs time to get her match fitness back – but it was the right one for now nevertheless.
When Linari is ready to contribute, though, Bavagnoli will have to think hard about how to manage her defensive options. Pettenuzzo and Swaby have both started every league game so far this season, and the extra competition for places should help raise their games even further.
Although their performances against Napoli were not faultless, they made some important contributions to reinforce their value to the team.
This was the first ever meeting between Roma and Napoli in women’s football, so was an opportunity for the Giallorosse to test themselves against another opponent.
By outscoring them, Roma made Napoli the 10th different team they have beaten at their first attempt.
In total, Roma have now faced 16 different sides in all competitions – and more often than not, they have won their first meeting with a new opponent.
That was the case again on Sunday, as Roma got a victory that put them in the top half at the half-way stage of the season.
After a mixed start to the campaign, it seems like Roma are well and truly getting back on track in 2021.