STADIO ENZO RICCI (Sassuolo) – Roma left Emilia-Romagna on Saturday evening knowing that they had taken a huge step towards qualification for next season’s Women’s Champions League, having beaten fellow contenders Sassuolo 3-0 in an impressively clinical Round 18 showing at the Enzo Ricci.
The win allowed them to pull clear of the Neroverde in the race to finish second, but it was just the latest positive result in an excellent run of form that has seen the complications they endured early in the 2021/22 become no more than a distant memory. They had come from behind to draw 1-1 at Juventus earlier in March before doing just that again in Round 17 at home to another Champions League-chasing side in AC Milan. Now, second place is in their hands with a favourable run of fixtures seeing them through until the end of the campaign.
March was always set up to be a decisive month in their season. Their three Serie A Femminile fixtures came against the rest of the top four, and only a Coppa Italia semi-final first leg separated them. In the Coppa, a dominant performance and a 1-0 win away at Empoli has allowed them to take a slight advantage into a home second leg at the end of April.
Before the curtain falls on the campaign, they take on already-relegated Hellas Verona, relegation-threatened Fiorentina, Sampdoria, and end the season against a Lazio side almost certain to have had their return to Serie B confirmed by the time they face off.
Roma are ready to compete in the Women’s Champions League
After winning last season’s Coppa Italia, Roma looked as though they might make a serious push for the title this season, but a complicated start to the 2021/22 campaign left them having to swiftly readjust their expectations. October saw them lose to both Juventus and Inter, drawing with Milan in between, and they had to focus their attention on keeping up with Sassuolo and the Rossoneri, as opposed to the Bianconere.
Since, they’ve grown into the season and now look to be – along with Juventus – the most complete side in Italy. While Juve’s depth is something that nobody else can boast, Roma have given them a run for their money and almost reopened a title race this month after the champions had slipped against both Fiorentina and Empoli.
Even with absences on Saturday, Alessandro Spugna’s side put in as professional a performance as they could have hoped for. They came out flying at the start before Sassuolo found their feet, but Paloma Lazaro’s goal on the stroke of half time gave them a deserved lead at the break. The Neroverde had some more of the ball in the second half, but Roma were ruthless when they went forward and Benedetta Glionna netted twice to seal the win.
Saturday’s win was just the latest evidence to suggest that Roma would be the best possible Italian representatives in Europe next season, and they’ve got a mix of experience and stability that neither Milan or Sassuolo yet boast. Maurizio Ganz’s position with the Rossonere is up for discussion given how far short of expectations they’ve fallen, not to mention Veronica Boquete and Valentina Giacinti’s respective moves to Fiorentina.
Juventus have shown so far this season that they are up to the standard required to compete in Europe, and Roma’s domestic performances over the last two years suggest that they’re not all that far behind Joe Montemurro’s side.
Absences too much for Sassuolo, but patience is needed with Piovani’s young side
Gianpiero Piovani was without a number of important players yet again on Saturday, and Sassuolo’s season has been derailed largely due to the absences they’ve had to manage. Martina Tomaselli has missed the majority of the season, and both Sofia Cantore and Benedetta Orsi have had to follow the 20-year-old in undergoing surgery in recent weeks. Even Haley Bugeja – recently chosen as the third-best young player in the world by Goal – had to watch on from the stands on Saturday.
Tomaselli (20), Bugeja (17), Cantore (22), and Orsi (22) are just a handful of examples of the youth in Piovani’s squad, and the frustration felt at the Enzo Ricci on Saturday was somewhat tempered by the fact that so many players were missing, as well as the feeling that the best times for this crop of players are still to come.
There was enough evidence in the first half of the season to suggest that Sassuolo are continuing to build an exciting project with Piovani in charge, and being afforded another year’s growth without needing to find a way to balance European and domestic football may not be the worst thing in the world for the Neroverde.