Our columnist takes a look at a landmark win for Betty Bavagnoli's side...
Roma Women earned one of their best ever results by beating Juventus 2-1 in the first leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final on Saturday.
There is still plenty of work to do if Roma are to reach a first ever cup final, but they have the advantage at the half-way stage of the tie.
It’s an advantage they deserve as well, thanks to a spirited performance that encapsulated the growth this squad has shown in recent months.
Previous encounters with Juventus have always been tricky, but Roma started and finished this game strongly to ensure a more positive outcome. They now have an important advantage to protect in the second leg.
With over a month still to go until that fixture, both sides will have plenty to reflect on in the meantime. Here are some of the most important things Roma can take away from that first-leg win.
Roma went into this game with a lot at stake, knowing that the Coppa Italia has become something of a priority this season.
To stand any chance of winning the competition, though, they would first have to overcome a Juventus side who have been dominating Italian football over the last couple of seasons. Hence, the pressure was on.
When approaching a game of this magnitude, any team would feel the tension. The best way to relieve that is by making an early impact in the game.
That’s exactly what Annamaria Serturini did by giving Roma the lead within 90 seconds.
After a charging run by Lindsey Thomas down the right, Paloma Lazaro held the ball up inside the six-yard box, before recycling possession to Andressa Alves.
The Brazilian teed up Serturini, who demonstrated the same cool head she has always shown when finishing by sending the ball into the far corner of the net with her right foot.
Her accurate finish was Roma’s quickest ever goal in the Coppa Italia and immediately gave the side a foothold in the game. Serturini continued to be pivotal as they looked to build upon it.
Soon after, she went close with a right-footed volley, while she continued to create danger for the rest of the match.
As in many games recently, utilising the width was essential to Roma’s strategy, with left winger Serturini forming a fundamental part of that plan.
It was Serturini again who sparked the winning goal in the 88th minute, when her shot was parried by Juventus goalkeeper Laura Giuliani into the path of Thomas.
In a role reversal of the opening goal, the winner came from a move that started on the left and was finished on the right.
Thomas, who had caused problems for opposing left-back Lisa Boattin all game, somehow found the energy to once again get to the ball first. Sneaking in at the far-post, she prodded the ball home with a first-time finish.
After withstanding a lot of pressure in the second half, Roma showed the resilience that will serve them well in games of this stature in future.
Never losing sight of their target, they grew back into the game at exactly the right time – and their late surge paid off.
Perhaps one of the explanations for why Juventus began to grow into the game in the second half, before Roma’s late revival, was the withdrawal of Andressa Alves shortly after the interval.
Still in some discomfort after a challenge in the first half, Roma’s stand-in captain for the day had pushed as far as she could, but had to go off.
Taking her off while she wasn’t at full physical freedom was not in itself a tough decision for Betty Bavagnoli to make, but it did leave the coach with a big question to consider – how to replace her.
Andressa is such an important player to Roma and performs a unique role, so there was no easy answer. Bavagnoli could have opted for a more attacking player, but instead opted to send on midfielder Claudia Ciccotti.
The switch saw Ciccotti bring discipline to the middle of the park, while she was also comfortable in possession. Her introduction freed up Manuela Giugliano to have more of an impact going forward as well.
While the balance of the team would always change in the absence of Andressa, Roma found a solution that gave them a solid structure for the rest of the match.
The message at the full-time whistle was clear and simple: Roma had beaten Juventus for the first time in their history.
In five previous attempts, the Giallorosse had never even been in a winning position against them. However, with each of those matches, Roma took a step closer to getting the kind of result they wanted.
In the final game of 2020, Roma lost 4-1 to Juventus – a scoreline that didn’t fully reflect the pattern of the game. The opponents deserved to win, but many of their goals came from relatively basic errors on Roma’s part.
Roma pushed for a positive result in that game, but the history books will only tell the story of a loss by three goals.
The next time the two sides met, in the Supercoppa Italiana in January, Roma cut out the mistakes they had made the month before and took their opponents to extra time after drawing 1-1 in 90 minutes. Sadly, they eventually slipped to defeat in those additional 30 minutes.
But that gave them a platform of confidence heading into their Coppa Italia meeting on Saturday. Finally, what they had been building towards materialised.
In claiming the first-leg advantage, Roma became the first Italian team to beat Juventus in either the league or cup since March 2019 – emphasising just how impressive the result was.
In fact, there have only been two domestic games this season that Juventus have not won after 90 minutes. The first was against Roma in the Supercoppa Italiana, and the second was against Roma in the Coppa Italia.
Bavagnoli’s side are now showing they can mix it with rivals of the highest quality, a habit they must keep up if they are to succeed further in this competition.
But the job is only half done. Roma will need an equally strong performance when the two sides reconvene for the second leg in late April, with a place in the final all still to play for.
The determination and commitment they showed in the first leg should give Roma confidence, though.