Yesterday’s win over Verona could have easily mirrored the 6-0 drubbing that Roma gave the Gialloblu last season. Not only was Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hederberg in the stands to watch Roma’s Andrine Hegerberg on the pitch, but Roma keeper Rachele Baldi could have pulled out the proverbial deckchair yesterday and had herself a read of the daily paper as Roma got off 28 shots on Verona’s goal.
In return, Verona managed only 3 shots in total and 1 on target, which Baldi saved by side-footing it before immediately playing the ball back out again. But it wasn’t all smiles for Roma after the game.
We’re now awaiting Giada Greggi’s scan results from Villa Stuart, after the midfielder reportedly suffered a trauma injury to her right knee. There was no sign of this during the game itself, which makes the news all the more worrying. Roma have had enough innocuous knee injuries turning into full-blown lay-offs to last for the next decade.
But back to yesterday’s result, and our weekly ritual of crowing the Sinners and Saints.
We re-watched the game to find anything we could criticise about a flawless performance from Roma’s prodigal centre-half. The most we could say is Pettenuzzo gave the ball away twice over 90 minutes, and took the first five minutes of the game to really get in gear, as her defensive partner Allyson Swaby covered nicely for Pettenuzzo getting caught pressing high (and too late) twice. But that’s really scraping the barrel to critique what was basically perfection from Pettenuzzo yesterday.
Just ask Verona’s Sardu and Marchiori, who figured they could double-team Pettenuzzo, as Tecla received a ball inside Verona’s half under pressure in the 7th minute. The ease with with Pettenuzzo slalom’d the ball around both Verona players, to suddenly give Roma the numerical advantage on the ball, was all the Verona needed to see in order to think twice about ever closing down Pettenuzzo again.
Then Pettenuzzo ramped it up a level, first putting Annamaria Serturini in behind Verona’s defence with a pin-point long-ball in the 21st minute that probably should have counted as a hockey-assist, if the women’s league had goal-line technology in play, after Serturini slid the ball across the box for Bonfantini to finish.
Unfortunately the referee missed Bonfantini’s shot maybe going over the line before Verona keeper Durante clutched at it, so we’ll never know. But Pettenuzzo wasn’t done there, intercepting a Verona ball in the 41st minute before immediately pinging it back to put Serturini clean through for Roma’s opening goal of the game.
With Pettenuzzo racking up 8 interceptions in the first half alone, what she and Swaby did to snuff out Verona’s teenage frontline was simply unfair. Verona never had a chance, and visibly lost any morale to the point Pettenuzzo could afford not to push so high up in the second half, and simply let the Roma midfield do the pressing instead.
There will be bigger tests awaiting Tecla; bigger than dominating an all-teenage Verona frontline, that’s for sure. Bigger teams have yet to test Tecla’s courage in the air or whether she’s improved her ability to run back to goal and win those defensive one-on-ones inside her own box.
But for now, Pettenuzzo left yesterday’s game with 9 interceptions, 1 assist and Verona in her back pocket. Surely more Italy call-ups are in her immediate future.
The Jamaican international was equally as impressive from the right side of Roma’s backline, making 5 interceptions and 4 tackles over 90 minutes, and proving crucial to Roma’s dominance yesterday.
We predicted Betty Bavagnoli might shift Swaby to a right-back role to accommodate new defender Osinache Ohale, and that’s exactly what happened when Roma’s new signing came off the bench at the hour mark.
Swaby took up the full-back role and linked up nicely with Lindsey Thomas down that right side, as well as being part of a beautiful team play where Swaby exchanged passes with Andressa in the Verona final third for what could have been one of the team goals of the season, if Andressa had finished it off.
THIS is Giugliano back to something like her best, with a near ten out of ten performance from Roma’s number ten. Giugliano was the most influential out of Roma’s A-Team midfield of Manu, Andressa and Hegerberg, but the story here was how well all three let each other have their say on the game at certain points.
Above all, it was Manu who was varying her passing, often short passing from side to side, dropping deep to help with building up the ball out the back, and then switching it up by playing her trademark through-balls and long passes to keep Verona on their toes. It’s still not quite her World Cup form of 2019, but this is something to build on for Giugliano’s Roma career.
Manu must have brought at least seven Roma teammates into the game’s chemistry with her playmaking in this match. A no-look backheel out wide to the left flank that flummoxed everyone, in the middle of the second half, was a good sign that Giugliano is getting her swagger back.
Serturini put the fear into Verona’s Solow during their individual battle down the left flank. The Roma forward enjoyed quality service from Pettenuzzo and Giugliano, using it to run behind Verona’s defence all day. If Serturini wasn’t cutting inside on her right foot to shoot on goal, she ran straight to the byline to slide the ball into the box with her left on a number of occasions.
Serturini did a good job of both stinging Durante’s hands and setting up goal chances for teammates. She also willingly tracked back to play emergency full-back, whenever left-back Angelica Soffia decided to cut into the pitch with the ball and risk getting caught up field.
She knows every final-third move there is in the book, and once again put the full works on display against Verona. There isn’t a week gone by yet where we haven’t named Lazaro in the Saints list, because she’s undroppable on this form.
Among the moves she pulled off yesterday were an outside-of-the-foot first-time flick to put Serturini behind the Verona backline, nutmegging an opponent at the byline in the second half, a 25-yard fizzing and dipping left-foot shot that forced Durante to tip it over the bar. And Lazaro didn’t stop at just doing the fancy stuff, either.
In the first half, the Spanish striker caught a Verona defender cold on the ball inside the Gialloblu half, before Lazaro shifted the ball onto her right foot to drag two Verona defenders with her. Without so much as looking up, she conned both defenders into thinking she was going right, before Lazaro made a pin-point no-look pass left to put Serturini free inside the box with only the keeper to beat.
Only Serturini will know how she didn’t finish that chance but, after the Italian forward opened the scoring, Lazaro wouldn’t waste time doubling Roma’s lead just moments later by getting on the end of Bonfantini’s cross to poke it in from near range.
Lazaro still gets upset with teammates if they don’t back her up when she chooses to start a high-press on the opposition defenders and/or keeper, which just goes to show Lazaro’s tireless desire to bring it to the opposing team.
Yesterday’s result was a much needed victory but the result, and Fiorentina’s loss at home to Sassuolo, doesn’t change the fact Roma are still in sixth place. Ada Hegerberg was asked for her assessment of this current Roma team after the game and, aside from re-iterating she’s a childhood Roma fan with Totti memorabilia back home, replied that this Roma team has time, and that Lyon would be looking over their shoulder once Roma reach the Champions League. So all is not lost in the Ballon D’Or striker’s eyes.
But the goalscoring department is exactly where the biggest questions lie for Roma at the moment. After creating at least 10 clear-cut goal chances yesterday, the post-match interviews saw Betty Bavagnoli raising a reasonably critical flag over the team’s need to find their clinical streak in front of goal.
The Giallorosse will be hoping to lace on their scoring boots for next weekend’s away trip to Inter Milan, who’ve had an even worse start to the season than Roma. In the meantime, we await the fallout from AC Milan and Juventus (both with 100% points records on the line) facing off against one another tomorrow. A draw would be great.