With a nearly three-week international break, it would have been perfectly acceptable had Roma come out a bit laggy today at the Tre Fontane. While most of the players were busy on international duty, one simply never knows how international breaks will mess with club chemistry, but never fear, Roma outclassed newly promoted Empoli in every conceivable fashion today, including fashion. The women debuted their glorious front-sponsorless blue kits today, which stood in stark contrast to Empoli's ad-festooned shirts, setting the tone for an incredibly one-sided affair.
With Vanessa Bernauer scoring in only the second minute, this match was effectively over before the players broke a sweat, but that doesn't mean the Giallorosse took their foot off the gas. Bernauer's goal was followed by a trio of strikes from Lindsey Thomas, Agnese Bonfantini and Annamaria Serturini, who got on the end of a beautiful defense-splitting pass from Manuela Giugliano in the 82nd minute to put the icing on the cake.
By any definition of the word, this match was a rout, but let's take a look at four quick things we learned about Roma today.
#1: The Gulf in Class Was Enormous
Serie A Femminile is still in the nascent stages of being a top European league, and one of it's biggest problems is the relative lack of parity. It's a four-team race at the top between Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan and Roma, with the remaining eight teams existing in varying states of mediocrity. Certainly losing two top flight teams to to financial issues (Chievo and Atalanta Mozzanica) didn't help, but until these lesser teams catch up financially and footbally (its a word, don't look it up) we can expect plenty more lopsided scorelines.
That's not a knock on what Roma accomplished today, though. With how quick, composed and succinct they were in all facets today, you wouldn’t have guessed Roma were coming off a near three-week absence. Roma have a tougher stretch coming up with matches against Sassuolo, Florentia and Juventus on the docket, so knocking out the cobwebs in such grand fashion today was just what the doctor ordered.
#2: Agnese Bonfantini is the Bee's Knees
Every now and then a Roma player wins my unabashed affection based on their style of play, their grit, their skill or even their flair for the dramatic. In years past, players like Luca Toni, John Arne Riise, Mattia Destro, or Kevin Strootman have ascended to that mantle, but as 2019 draws to a close and we approach the roaring twenties, Agnese Bonfantini stands a cut above the rest.
She's the type of player you just can't take your eyes off when she's on the ball, and today her full complement of skills were on display. Even without the benefit of a glut of touches, Bonfantini made her mark, dancing around defenders, serving up pinpoint crosses and even cutting in to create her own chances. Her first half assist to Lindsey Thomas was very nearly a goal until the Frenchwoman chipped in a last minute redirection, while her second half goal was pure class—a left footed attempt from the edge of the area pinged right off the far post.
She's strong, swift, creative and lethal in front of goal, and she has every chance to be the face of Italian football over the next decade.
#3: Camelia Ceasar is Your New Keeper
For being such a young player (21-years-old), Ceasar has already had a bit of an odd career. She was a teenage mainstay for Brescia, earning more than 50 starts for the former dynasty between 2013 and 2018, but when AC Milan bought Brescia's license, Ceasar was left on the outside looking in, nabbing only four league starts last season.
Without a place in Milan, she hitched onto Roma's wagon, presumably to deputize Rosalia Pipitone. However, with two-straight starts in which she's flashed superior athleticism and reflexes to Pipitone, it's fair to wonder if she's made the job hers. It's sort of like a quarterback change in American football—she just seems to have altered the team chemistry for the better and that alone might make it hard to remove her.
#4: The Young Talent on This Team is Absurd
Points two and three sort of coalesce into this one, but the amount of young talent on this team is ridiculous. We spoke about it at length during our inaugural Women's U23 countdown, but Roma's roster is bursting at the seams with some of the top U23 talent on the peninsula. Between Giugliano, Bonfantini, Greggi and Serturini, Roma feature arguably the four top U23 talents in Italy, each of whom have been called up to the Azzurre, with Giugliano starring in this past summer's World Cup.
When we broaden the scope to players under 30, we can add Elisa Bartoli (28), Andrine Hegerberg (26), Andressa (26), Lindsey Thomas (24) and Amalie Thestrup (24) to that list. Andressa, a player who was shortlisted on this year's FIFPRO Best XI, has barely even seen the field this season—that's how much talent this team possesses.
Full marks to Roma's approach here—if they can retain and cultivate this young talent, we may be on the verge of a dynasty of our own.
The women jump back into it next week when they travel to Verona.
Who was your Woman of the Match today?
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