Perhaps it was due to the buildup and excitement of the new signings, but last week's 3-0 loss to Valentina Giacinti and AC Milan was one of the most disappointing results we've seen in quite some time. Newly re-stocked and ready to launch an assault on the top of the table, a home opener against Milan, last season's third place team, was the perfect chance for the Giallorosse to stake their claim as a legitimate title contender. Grabbing three points to start the new season, particularly against a side that kept them at arm's length last season, would have been a tremendous signal of intent from Betty Bavagnoli and the rest of the Roma ragazze.
Heading into the match, Roma's number one priority was putting AC Milan hit-woman Valentina Giacinti in clampdown. The two-time reigning capocanoniere can score in bunches and is more than capable of taking over a match and single handedly sending opponents to defeat. Despite her attacking largess, Roma were able to keep Giacinti under wraps for the first hour or so of the match.
Fiorentina v. Roma: September 22nd. 12:30 CET/6:30 EDT. Stadio Bozzi, Firenze.
Unfortunately, Milan caught Roma napping midway through the second half (sending a cross towards the back post) and then the wheels really came off. With Giacinti scoring one and setting up another down the stretch, Roma’s would be 1-0 lead (Giugliano narrowly missed a free kick) quickly became a 3-0 blowout.
The extent to which Roma can put that disappointment behind them could ultimately determine the outcome of this extremely young season. Roma are primed for big things, and were certainly dealt a tough blow facing Milan and Fiorentina in successive weeks to begin the season, but going 0-2 could quickly deflate their sails and cast doubt upon what was otherwise an optimistic run up to the season.
Fortunately for us, the women in Roma's locker room are a confident bunch. Speaking ahead of Sunday's fixture, resident Roman and overall wunderkind Giada Greggi was grounded yet confident of her side's chances this week, and also took time to reflect on that 3-0 defeat:
The game against Milan was pretty even, and very intense even if there weren’t many clear-cut chances. In the second half slowly tiredness started to creep in, but Milan were better able to keep playing their game and from that perspective they were better than us.
But, despite that, it was the first game of the season, these things can happen, so we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on it. The season has just begun.
On Sunday's match:
Fiorentina are one of the big sides in women’s football, they have a lot of players in the national team. From that you can already get an idea of how strong their side is – but we will go there to play our game, giving everything we have because we are not second best to anyone.
Pretty level headed response from a 19-year-old, right? It's interesting that she mentioned tiredness creeping in when you consider that Roma only played two full-on friendly matches this summer, against Roma CF and PSG; it seemed like an awfully light load considering their ambitions this season, so we'll side with Greggi and try not to put too much emphasis on the week one results, but they definitely seemed to wilt after the hour mark.
Week one is indeed in the rear view mirror, but week two offers no reprieve either. Standing in the Giallorosse's way are Fiorentina, last season's runners up. Led by the two-time defending Serie A Player of the Year Alia Guagni, the Viola finished one excruciating point behind Juventus for the 2019 title; a point we should all regret because we should all hate Juventus in all their forms.
Guagni and friends were able to dust off the disappointment of their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal in the Champions League by winning their derby match against Florentia in round one, looking primed to for another year-long heavyweight bout against Juventus, who also won their first fixture, though in far less convincing fashion: a 2-1 win over newly promoted Empoli.
The Viola didn't send quite as many players to the World Cup this summer as Juve, but with Guagni joined by the likes of Tatiana Bonetti, Ilaria Mauro and Scottish striker Lana Cleland, Fiorentina are one of the most prolific sides in the league.
Not one to underestimate the weight of the moment, Betty Bavagnoli perfectly captured the sense of urgency ahead of Sunday's match:
If we want to make that step forward in quality than we have to start demonstrating we are ready to do that now, and that is especially true from a mental perspective. The quality of the display is vitally important.
This will be a common theme for the Roma women this year. This is year two; there are no more firsts or inaugurals, and little victories won't count anymore. If Roma are real, they have to prove it.