With four wins on the trot, a span in which they outscored their opponents 9-2, the Roma women were surging, slowly but surely staking their claim as one of the league's finest sides. While Roma would have been hard pressed to actually take the crown this season, there could have been no greater signal of intent than defeating first place Juventus on the road. Roma ultimately lost the match thanks to a 64th minute strike from Barbara Bonansea, but considering how swiftly Juve dispatched them last time around, last weekend's 1-0 loss was nevertheless a sign of progress, to the extent a loss can qualify as such.
Juventus dominating the league is about as far as the symmetry extends between the male and female versions of Serie A, but as far as Roma are concerned the calcio congruity doesn't stop there.
After getting walloped by Juve 4-0 back in October, Roma finally got on the right foot when they defeated Florentia, one of two Firenze sides currently competing in Serie A. While Betty Bavagnoli's side has racked up some pretty impressive victories this season, their 2-1 victory over Florentia in late October may prove to be the most important one of all.
October 27, 2018: Florentia 1, Roma 2
I don't think we can really overstate how crucial this victory was to everything that has followed for Roma. With their existence consisting solely of two one-goal defeats and the aforementioned blowout at the hands of Juventus, Roma's maiden season was on the precipice of disaster after only three weeks. There is simply no telling how this squad would have reacted if their inaugural season started with four straight losses.
We now know this team as an incredibly resilient and talented side, but an 0-4 start could have torpedoed the team's confidence and sent their first season in Serie A spiraling. But, thanks to goals from Claudia Ciccotti and Agnese "Please God Buy Her Permanently” Bonfantini, Roma gutted out their first ever victory.
Roma vs. Florentia: February 9th. 14:30 CET/8:30 EST. Stadio Tre Fontane, Roma.
This slim 2-1 victory launched Roma into a Juve-like streak in which they've taken points in 11 of 13 matches, losing only two matches in that span—narrow one-goal defeats to Juventus and AC Milan, the league's first and third place sides, respectively.
So, with the club looking to kick start another winning streak, could Florentia once again play the foil for Bonfantini and company?
We've lauded Bavagnoli for her masterful squad rotation this season, leaning on her stalwarts while sprinkling in the likes of Luisa Pugnali and Flaminia Simonetti in attack and Allyson Swaby and Camilla Labate in defense (among others). It's an approach that has not only kept her players fresh, but has sharpened the tools at her disposal; Roma can dip five or six deep into the bench and barely miss a beat.
However, where Bavagnoli once rotated out of preference, with several players injured or in doubt for Saturday's match, she has no such luxury:
I’m pleased with how training has been going but it’s not a particularly great moment for us right now in terms of injuries. In the Juventus game we lost Di Criscio and Coluccini, having already lost Claudia Ciccotti [a few days before that], and now Maria Zecca has a knock and Carter is still recovering from her knee injury.
Clearly that will mean we have to make changes, but that will also allow us to understand how we are still developing. For a few games now we have started to feel the fans behind us more and more – tomorrow I hope to see a lot of fans at Tre Fontane again.
Losing Manuela Coluccini was the ultimate insult to injury for Roma, as she was the first player pegged by Bavagnoli to replace Ciccotti, who suffered an MCL injury late last week. Absent those two Romans (remember, there are eight locals on this side), Bavagnoli will have to dive deep into the reservoir to find a midfield running mate for Giada Greggi and Vanessa Bernauer.
The most obvious candidate would be Simonetti, who has featured both as a midfielder and a forward this season, but don't count out Kristrún Antonsdottir. The 25-year-old Icelandic midfielder has been on the fringes this season, garnering only 63 minutes of action thus far, but with Simonetti filling sort of a nebulous, late-game substitution role, Bavagnoli may prefer to have that versatility in her back pocket should this match go sour, opening the door for Antonsdottir to get some run.
Roma currently sit 11 points out of the league's second and final Champions League spot, and with only seven matches to play they'll pretty much have to run the table to even have a slim chance, but Florentia served as a springboard for their earlier success, and if recent history is true to form perhaps they will launch the Giallorosse into that final European spot.
But even if they don't, going from a potential 0-4 start to the season to finishing fourth is nothing short of remarkable.
So, despite the fact that the ladies will now have that ghastly Hyundai logo emblazoned on their shirts, try and enjoy this match—this team is an absolute joy to watch.