Even with a three goal lead on aggregate, including six away goals...six!...when discussing the second leg of today's Coppa Italia quarterfinals between AS Roma and Roma CF, the professional thing to do was speak politically. "Yeah, it's a three goal lead, but you still have to respect your opponent” or "Anything can happen in football, you never know!" but let's be real, Betty Bavagnoli's side always had this match in the bag. Home, away, or on the moon, if you have a three goal lead, you should advance; no excuses.
Still, being the pragmatic professional she is, Bavagnoli took a measured approach to this afternoon, mixing and matching her lineup to strike the perfect balance of potency and experimentation.
| Here's how we line-up for today's cup quarter-final!— AS Roma Women (@ASRomaWomen) February 20, 2019
A first start for the club for Jenny Bitzer, as Valentina Casaroli, Federica Di Criscio, Martina Piemonte and Annamaria Serturini all come back into the side!
#ASRomaWomen #ASRoma pic.twitter.com/1Boo3pZkcG
In the buildup to the match, we mentioned that, as part of being cautious and thorough, Bavagnoli would have to roll with a few of her standbys, particularly in attack. And in starting Annamaria Serturini, Vanessa Bernauer, and newly minted club vice-captain Giada Greggi, that's exactly what she did.
At the back, however, things got a bit more interesting. With Valentina Casaroli filling in for Rosalia Pipitone in net, not to mention a club debut at right back for Jenny Bitzer, Bavagnoli went full-on experimentation mode. But with such a huge aggregate lead and the home field advantage, she certainly had the luxury.
While they didn't hang half a dozen on their neighbors this time around, Roma didn't waste a lot time before finding the back of the net.
Martina Piemonte: 5th Minute (Roma 1, Roma CF 0)
I find it hard to hide my bias when it comes to Martina Piemonte, but I absolutely love the way she plays the game. Even when she's not scoring, her size, strength, patience and skill on the ball enable Roma's attack to function as it does; without that counter point, they'd risk becoming too predictable.
And besides all that, she just has this look on her face, like she'd tear your heart out without even batting an eye—it's the best kind of unpredictability and ferocity. And now that the goals are finally coming, two in the past three matches, Bavagnoi's attack has a true number nine leading the line, one who facilitates and finishes. The rest of the league should be very scared.
Piemonte's deft touch would be on display in Roma's second goal as well. Capitalizing on a poor clearance from CF, Roma's full attacking verve was on display as Greggi, controlling the ball out wide and charging hard towards the net, shuffled it over to Piemonte who, with a flick of the toe, found Bernauer at the edge of the 18-yard-box. From there, Bernauer just buried this thing low and away—it was the perfect finish to a picture perfect two touch move from Greggi and Piemonte, and was the perfect example of how this team can upend a match at moment's notice.
Roma would carry that 2-0 lead practically to the end of the match, but added one more for good measure in the 81st minute when Luisa Pugnali got on the end of a Maria Zecca cross. Sadly, they weren't able to keep the cleansheet as Roma CF pulled one back in stoppage time, but Roma's three goals were enough to cap this quarterfinal off with a 9-4 aggregate win.
Given the disparity between the two sides, this is about what we expected. Sure, it would have been entertaining had Roma ran up the score, but they were well organized, fast and efficient in nearly all facets of the game, and may have discovered a new tactical wrinkle for the season's home stretch to boot.
With Claudia Ciccotti and Manuela Coluccini each out for the remainder of the season (probably), and with Flaminia Simonetti nursing a minor injury, Bavagnoli has resorted to fielding Federica Di Criscio, a defender, as a defensive midfielder, and it's worked wonders. With FDC cleaning things up at the back, Greggi and Bernauer have just a bit more leeway to push forward in attack and/or press opposing defenders, which in turn keeps play in the attacking third to a greater degree. It's not a paradigm shifting move—it's just sensible coaching—but it simply gives Bavagnoli yet another option in an already versatile side.
With Fiorentina holding a six goal lead in their quarter-final matchup with Verona (kick off is any minute now), Roma will, barring a miracle, square off against the Viola in the semi-finals on March 12th and April 16th. The two sides played to a scoreless draw back in December, so I'd expect an extremely close affair between two of the league's best sides.
But that will have to wait. With a two plus week gap for international play, you'll have to get your Giallorosse fix elsewhere, but with Elisa Bartoli, Rosalia Pipitone, Agnese Bonfantini and Annamaria Serturini playing with the national team in the Cyprus Cup, not to mention Greggi, Piemonte, Heden Corrado and Angelica Soffia playing at the youth levels, it shouldn't be that hard.
We'll have more on the semifinals when the time approaches, but needless to say, the ladies have a genuine shot at breaking the organizations trophy drought.