Going into this edition of the Serie A Femminile championship, I have to admit, that I was very worried at the beginning of the season. After several departures during the summer (including a few, high profile ones, and even the loss of their former coach too), I simply had no idea of how this new incarnation of AC Milan would fare. I initially thought that, since the team had lost the core of its roster that narrowly finished in third place last season, that the team would suffer a complete and total collapse. After all, it was something that I had the misfortune of witnessing several times with the men’s team. And surely, the women, who bear the same colors and team name and who also abide at the Via Aldo Rossi, would also go through the same thing.
I’ve never been more happier to be proven wrong in my whole entire life.
Now, a critic might point out that it is quite early into the season (after all, this is only the second week of the championship), but so far, this Milan is a lot like Mary J. Blige after a break-up: They’re doin’ Just Fine. And a 4 - 1 thrashing of a provincial Orobica side, is proof of this.
AC Milan went into this game with their spirits buoyed, thanks to a previous 3 - 0 shellacking of a new look Roma (and I’m not just talking about those snazzy new kits either). Going into that crucial first match of the season, the thinking was that on paper, Roma were the stronger side, thanks to the fact that they still retained their coach Betty Bavagnoli (who is currently Serie A’s Coach of The Year) and on the strength of their shiny, new signings, most notably, Andressa, Andrine Hegerberg, and Manuela Giugliano, who left the fashion capital of Milan for the nation’s capital of Rome, and traded in her red and black, for red that had been tinted with gold.
Milan were able to get over their Case of The Ex rather quickly (evident by Valentina Bergamaschi clattering into Manuela and running her over while making a run towards goal, a perfect metaphor if there ever was one). Their victory at the Stadio Tre Fontane left not only their Roman hosts shell shocked, but they surprised the rest of us as well. After all, even the most idealistic of the Milan Women’s supporters weren’t expecting them to get off to a strong start so quickly. But mostly, the team’s victory over their more favored opponents left us all with a feeling that we haven’t experienced in a long time: a sense of optimism.
And it was this optimism that they carried with them into their first, home game of the season on Saturday. With the optimism of their previous win, and with the Stadio Brianteo (their new home for the season) nearly in full voice (thanks to the fact that Milan allowed free entry into the game), the Rossonere were primed to add to the previous week’s point tally, and to thrill and entertain their fans in the process.
Fortunately, for everyone who watched the game, they did just that. The game’s deadlock was broken though rather quickly at the ninth minute by of all people, Valentina Bergamaschi. The fact that she scored the first goal was rather surprising, given how incredibly frustrating Bergamaschi was for Italy during their European qualifiers, where she often fluffed her lines in front of goal and just couldn’t score, no matter how many seemingly easy chances she had been gifted. Well, both fans of Italy and more topically, fans of Milan should rejoice, as Valentina’s scoring maledizione has been temporarily lifted.
(Though true to form, she did revert back to her old self when she missed a chance to score a few minutes later. I think I counted at least three or four missed opportunities from her.)
For a while, it seemed like Bergamaschi transferred her scoring curse over to her fellow Valentina, Giacinti. Valentina (The Flower) went through long periods of the game where she was frustrated and couldn’t find a breakthrough, no matter how many opportunities she had carved out for herself. Thankfully, Giacinti morphed into her final form at around the 74th minute, and finally found the back of the net. Capitana is just gonna Capitana, and she Capitanad at the right moment.
It must be noted that Orobica did trouble Milan at times, most notably when Merli managed to find the back of the net at the 65th minute, thanks to an error by Korenčiová (the fact of which, made me go mad). Her goal was thankfully, cancelled out shortly over one minute later by Deborah Salvatori Rinaldi (the fact of which, made me happy).
And finally, it would be a disservice to bring this recap to a close and to not mention Stine Hovland’s late goal at the 93rd minute. Her goal (along with Nora Heroum’s in the previous game), made me glad that these tall, athletic Scandinavians, have decided to take up residence in Italy, and that more importantly, that they play in Serie A, and for my team.
I also don’t wanna end this without giving a shout-out to Refiloe Jane, who was excellent in in her second game for the red and blacks. She was a little engine in the midfield, as she ran all over the pitch and won back several balls in the middle of the park. She also put on a little clinic, showing off her finely tuned skills though some fancy juggling, and impressing us with her pinpoint and accurate distribution as well. When Refiloe was substituted out at the 84th minute of the game, she received a warm and vigorous ovation from the home crowd in Monza. And it was completely merited, as they recognized her great performance and showed their appreciation for it in accordance.
A lot of credit for the Rossonere’s successful start to the season, must be given to coach Maurizio Ganz. He has done his utmost to prepare these girls for this latest season, whether it was by having them play in a series of friendlies in order to asses their abilities and to get them match fit, or by willing to be tactically flexible, switching between having the women play in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-1-4-1, and to deploy whatever formation will bring the best out of his players. But most importantly, he deserves praise for getting these women to perform to the best of their ability, and to believe in themselves.
The next game for our wonderful ladies will be on October 13th. It will take place after the international break, where both Valentinas are sure to be called up for Italy as they take on both Malta and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and look to secure their place in the 2021 Euros. The next game after that, will be against Serie A debutantes and our crosstown rivals, Inter.
There is still talk of whether or not the game will be played at the hallowed and sacrosanct grounds of the San Siro (and if Maurizio Ganz’s words are anything to go by, it just might happen there). Milan will go into that game in a unique position, as they are currently on top of the Serie A table.
The Rossonere will go into that historic derby with a sense of confidence, knowing they’ve outscored their crosstown cugine by a margin of 7 - 3, and have only conceded one goal along the way. But most of all, they’ll go into that game with something the Milanisti haven’t experienced for quite some time: a sense of optimism.
It’s way too early to call Milan scudetto contenders, but the fact that they are currently above last year’s champions, Juventus, is quite remarkable, and worth noting. Let’s just hope that we can continue this good form into May, and then we can all dream of seeing something that we haven’t seen in a good, long while: AC Milan in the Champions League. (And maybe AC Milan with a domestic trophy too?)
The women are currently getting it right where the men are getting it all wrong. And that’s what makes this story even more intriguing, and definitely worth staying tuned to.