Thanks to the vagaries of Serie A Femminile's international broadcasting rights, the days of Roma live streaming the matches via Twitter are long gone. With no way to watch the action in real-time, we've had no choice but to pivot to after-the-fact coverage, merging our reviews and previews into one catch-all piece each weekend. It's not ideal, but in the absence of live coverage, we don't have many other options.
So, you could imagine my surprise when I logged on this morning to scan for match updates only to find an actual live stream of the match. Italian broadcaster LA7 showcased today's Roma-Fiorentina fixture live from the sun-soaked Stadio Tre Fontane on the city's south side.
Roma manager Alessandro Spugna didn't pull any punches this afternoon in the Italian capital, rolling out his best lineup as Roma hosted eighth place Fiorentina in this crucial round nine fixture. With heavy hitters like Elisa Bartoli, Andressa Alves, Elena Linari, Manuela Giugliano and Annamaria Serturini starting, the stage was set for a dominant performance from the Giallorosse.
But Lucia Di Guglielmo, one of the younger and less-heralded (though definitely not less talented) members of the Giallorosse, made the first move of the match, testing Fiorentina keeper Katja Schroffenegger with a chipped attempt that sailed over the bar. Not the closest attempt we'd ever see, but a signal of intent from Roma: they meant business today.
Roma would continue to press the issue in the early moments of the match, with Andressa Alves winning an early corner before testing Schroffenegger herself in the 13th minute. While the Viola were holding firm through the first 20 minutes of the match, it was clear they were no match for Roma in the run of play.
Whether it was Giugliano driving through the heart of midfield, Serturini or Benedetta Glionna stretching the defense on the edges, or Valeria Pirone making a nuisance of herself in the final third, Roma encountered little resistance as they poked and prodded the Fiorentina defense in the first half.
Not to be outdone, Roma's defense was equally impressive, with Lucia Di Guglielmo, Allyson Swaby, Linari, and Bartoli each taking turns stymying the Viola attack, whose best look in the first half came in the 39th minute when Daniela Sabatino burst through the ranks on a counter-attack only to be foiled by Linari at the last minute.
Without the benefit of detailed statistics, we can only venture a guess, but it seemed like Roma held roughly 60% of the ball in the first half, while unleashing at least half a dozen shots on goal and winning multiple corner kicks. However, despite that ball dominance, the Giallorosse suffered for clear-cut chances and had to settle for a scoreless draw at half-time.
With both managers standing pat to begin the second half, the script remained unedited: Roma made Fiorentina look amateurish, exposing and exploiting seams through the middle of the defense—with Giugliano and Andressa firing ball after ball to Pirone in the box—outrunning them in wide areas and turning away any meager attack Fiorentina could muster.
But still no goals. Despite all that groundwork, Roma just couldn’t find a breakthrough, firing relatively tame efforts at Schroffenegger or attempting audacious over-head volleys in the box (we're looking at you, Claudia Ciccotti), but, as is so often the case, they were bailed out by the club's all-time leading scorer.
Annamaria Serturini: 52nd Minute (Roma 1, Fiorentina 0)
| VIDEO— FIGC Calcio Femminile (@FIGCfemminile) November 13, 2021
Oggi abbiamo avuto la riprova, non c'è Roma - Fiorentina senza un gol di @AnnaSerturini
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Granted, this wasn’t your classic dribble/cut/fire attempt from Serturini, but Roma's left-winger still rose to the occasion—and talk about a bang-bang play. After Schroffenegger plucked Glionna's out-swinging cross out of the air, redirecting it with the fingertips of her left hand, Serturini sent the ball whence it came: immediately one-timing the ball right back at Schroffenegger, delicately placing the ball in the upper right-hand corner a split second after the Viola keeper plucked it out of thin air.
After nearly an hour of running the show, Roma finally found their breakthrough, but with nearly 30 minutes left on the clock, they couldn't afford to relent. And for the ensuing 15 minutes, Fiorentina seemed up to the task, finally showing some shred of defensive cohesion, but that levy nearly broke again in the 68th minute.
With Roma enjoying their usual unfettered possession, Benedetta Glionna and Lucia Di Guglielmo pulled the defense slightly to the right, creating a pocket of space at the point of the 18-yard-box; an area in which Giugliano quickly planted herself, gently reminding her younger teammate where to play the ball. And with Glionna's pass rolling slowly towards the edge of the area, Giugliano ran onto it, effectively pulling off a running one-timer, forcing Schroffenegger to make what seemed like a rather straightforward, innocuous save.
While she was up to the task, Schroffenegger nearly made a meal out of it, parrying Giugliano's attempt over her shoulder and watching in horror as the ball slowly rolled towards the right post before it caromed harmlessly back into her gloves.
Fiorentina was spared for the moment, but with Roma Happened always lurking in the shadows, the Giallorosse continued to play with a palpable sense of urgency, rushing up the pitch at a moment's notice, searching (and finding) seams in the backline. While Giugliano fired another attempt at Schroffenegger in the 70th minute, the Viola keeper was up to the task, though she would soon receive another helping hand from Roma's greatest nemesis: the woodwork.
The match may have been drawing to a close, but with Fiorentina making a bit of noise down the stretch, Roma found a renewed sense of urgency in the waning moments of the match. In the 82nd minute, the Giallorosse orchestrated a lovely three-touch move between Serturini, Andressa, and Glionna, one that would have been the icing on the cake of a dominant 90 minute afternoon.
After racing down the left flank, Serturini started to cut in, seemingly searching for her own shot, only to pull up at the last moment, And rather than cutting through the defense, Serturini picked out Andressa at the edge of the 18. From there, Roma's Brazilian playmaker used her long limbs to control the ball and shield the defense before pinging the ball to Glionna, who, by that point, traded her usual place on the right for a comfortable little crevice of space on the left side of the pitch, about 20 yards out.
In a stunning replay of earlier events, Glionna ran onto the ball and fired a one-timed effort at Schroffenegger, only to see (and hear) the ball smack off the left upright. Roma would continue their assault on the Fiorentina goal in the dying moments, with second-half subs Giada Greggi and Paloma Lázaro teaming up in the 88th minute when Lázaro's turn and fire attempt from 19 yards forced another Schroffenegger save and another heavy rebound.
The match officials tacked on four minutes of stoppage time, which featured another clean look at the goal from Lázaro, but the referee's strange grasp of time—there were 30 phantom seconds added on at the end—nearly cost Roma the match. With all four stoppage minutes burned off the clock, Fiorentina came excruciatingly close to leveling the match when a long, floating cross into the box found Daniela Sabatino's head, but she wasn't able to steer it home, watching in agony as the ball gently looped over the crossbar.
It was a nervy ending, but Roma walked away winners for the third straight time. Spugna and the Giallorosse will look to make it four on the trot when they face Tavagnacco on the road next Saturday.