Roma's 6-1 victory over the San Marino Academy in last week's first leg of the Coppa Italia Quarterfinals was noteworthy for the standout performance of Andressa Alves, Roma's Brazilian play-maker. The Giallorosse made quick work of San Marino thanks to Andressa's sublime play-making skills and precision from the penalty spot. With three assists and a penalty conversion to her credit, Andressa was the undisputed player of the match against San Marino.
Roma followed that performance up with an even more convincing 6-0 victory over Hellas Verona yesterday, one marked by perhaps the best individual display we've seen in Roma's 18 months of existence.
While Elisa Bartoli got the part started in the 18th minute, it wouldn't be long before her younger compatriot stole the show. In 90 minutes yesterday, Agnese Bonfantini turned in the most prolific goal-scoring performance we've seen from any Roma player to date.
Using her unstoppable blend of speed, acceleration, power, and touch, Bonfantini not only tallied the clubs 100th-ever goal, but notched the first hat-trick in club history, pushing her season total (and new career high) to six strikes.
It wasn't a coming out party because we've been high on Bonfantini since day one, but this was unequivocally the best performance we've seen from a Roma player and it could be a sign of tremendous things to come for the 20-year-old Bonfantini.
So, since this was such a momentous occasion, why not celebrate Bonfatini's achievement by breaking down her three spectacular strikes?
Goal #1: 20th Minute Rebound & Flick
Football is a game of power, skill, and grace, but sometimes the most amazing moments in the game are precipitated by errors; many a spectacular goal found its root in deflections off the post, strange bounces off the turf, and even the occasionally misplaced foot, shin or rump. Despite those twists of fate, the end result—the goal—still requires an incredible amount of timing, power and touch; and Agnese Bonfantini's first goal against Verona was no exception.
With Kaja Erzen's cross narrowly missing Amalie Thestrup at the near post, fate intervened in the form of Michela Ledri's poor left-footed clearance. Thanks to this miss-hit, Bonfantini found herself in the right place at the right time. Still, despite that subtle quirk of physics, Bonfantini's task wasn't an easy one. With an incredibly tight angle at the near post, an unsettled ball and a defender closing down from behind her, Bonfantini had to meet the ball at the precise height and hit it with the outside of her right boot, all while imparting sufficient force and the perfect angular trajectory to beat the keeper at the near post.
The seeds may have been planted by a couple of errors, but Bonfantini's finishing was world class.
Goal #2: 30th Minute Break-Away
If Bonfantini's first goal was about timing and execution, her second was all about speed: blazing, unrelenting, bad-ass speed. After Andressa forced a turnover/errant pass from the Verona midfield, Bonfantini sprang into the empty space to pounce on the ball, but you'll notice how she lets up every so slightly, presumably in an effort to get a better first touch. From there, it was all about pure, unadulterated speed. Agnese let ‘er rip, roaring past three hapless defenders before beating the keeper with a perfectly placed low and away shot.
Bonfantini's skill and technique are improving by the minute, but on this goal she showed world class speed, acceleration, and a killer finishing touch. There aren't many players in this league who could have stopped that, nor many who could have done that to begin with.
Goal #3: 47th Minute Give & Go
After receiving the ball on the right side of the midfield, Bonfantini immediately took advantage of the empty space in the middle of the park, driving right towards the edge of the 18 yard box. With Andrine Hegerberg to her right and Andressa to her left, Bonfantini played a quick give and go with the Brazilian at the edge of the 18-yard-box; it was a quick and succinct set of moves between the two and Bonfantini did a great job skipping past the final defender before tucking it away.
Bonfantini had multiple options on this play—a shot from distance, Hegerberg overlapping to her right and even a tight through ball to Thestrup—but she showed the patience and presence of mind to set up the best and most efficient play; the give and go with Andressa.
In a 6-0 romp over Verona, Agnese Bonfantini was the unquestioned star of the show, notching the first hat-trick in club history. More important than that, Bonfantini flashed nearly her entire arsenal of skills on these three goals, and she very nearly had a fourth later in the second half. From the quick-thinking and touch required and her first rebound, to the blazing speed and power of her second effort, to the timing and chemistry of her third goal, Bonfantini's full skill-set was on display yesterday.
At all of 20-years-old, Agnese Bonfantini still has ample room for growth, but she's already flashing a combination of size, speed, touch and power that should make her a rare commodity in the modern game. We somewhat optimistically touted her as the Italian Alex Morgan last year, in part because she has a similar stature and gait on the pitch, but you look at the way she attacks the ball, the way she bursts through space, and the types of shots she's able to pull off and it's hard not make those comparisons.
She has a ways to go before she's Alex Morgan's equal, but if Agnese Bonfantini can continue on this trajectory, she could be the first true Italian superstar.