And now, let’s take a scalpel to this dead body and take a look at what went wrong.
Milan lined up in their usual 3-5-2. The line-up was enhanced by the return of star player Verónica Boquete to the starting XI. Fellow midfielder Refiloe Jane was also supposed to make her return to the pitch. However, she was pulled at the last minute due to injury concerns. As a result, Ganz had to shuffle things around a bit and adjust the line-up to adapt to this.
Juve lined-up in a 4-3-3 but switched to a 4-4-2 later in the match. The formation allowed them to dominate the middle while exploiting the width of the pitch as they sprung their counterattacks. As a result, they emerged the 4-0 victors of this match.
Maurizio Ganz started this game with Mária Korenčiová in goal. Her goal was shielded by the triumvirate of Laura Fusetti, Laura Agard, and Georgia Spinelli.
Valentina Bergamaschi and Linda Tucceri Cimini flanked them on the wings, and Christy Grimshaw, Yui Hasegawa, and Verónica Boquete were deployed in central midfield. Both Hasegawa and Boquete had to play more defensive roles, due to the absence of the previously mentioned Refiloe Jane.
Valentina Giacinti and Natasha Dowie were deployed as the team’s main two forwards. The Rossonere did not have the best start in this match, as the backline’s build-up was slow, and the team’s overall rhythm and tempo was poor. As a result, Juve’s defense, which was highly concentrated and balanced, allowed them to win many defensive duels with Giacinti and Dowie, who were unable to successfully impact the game.
Whenever Giacinti got the ball, Juve’s defenders would double up on her and force her off it.
The chemistry between the two forwards was almost non-existent, and it led to inaccurate passing between the two of them. Since Dowie and Giacinti were constantly marked by Juve’s defense, it stifled Milan’s overall movement, as there was no clear off-the-ball movement from the other players.
Juventus were able to successfully disrupt the Rossonere’s line of passing. They were also able to overwhelm them in the midfield. Without the presence of someone like Jane in the midfield, the Bianconere were able to outmuscle Milan in the middle.
This slaloming run by Bonansea is the best example of this. She ran through the middle unchallenged, as no one from Milan attempted to stop her.
Furthermore, the Juve players were aware of how high Milan’s defensive block was when the team was in possession. Their strategy was to wait for the Rossonere to get high up the pitch before attempting swift counter-attacks whenever possible. Milan were not able to deal with the speed of Juve in transition and suffered as a result of this.
How Milan Lost
The first goal for Juventus came early on in the match. It was a result of the Milan defenders leaving Barbara Bonansea alone and unmarked inside the box, which then allowed Lina Hurtig to lob a ball towards Bonansea. Bonansea then converted the header.
Hurtig’s outstanding physical abilities allowed her to execute this move flawlessly and allowed her to assist her teammate with ease.
Milan attempted to respond to this but they were too slow in their build-up play against resolute defending from Juve. As was mentioned before, this is because Juve were able to successfully disrupt Milan’s line of passing. As a result, Boquete and Hasegawa were unable to find simple passing choices.
Throughout this match, Milan were unable able to create the chances they needed to score. Their solitary goal came from a set-piece, but that goal was ruled out due to handball from Natasha Dowie. They would then try to create other chances through open play. An example of this is when Valentina Bergamaschi would try to create openings with her runs on the wings.
In the 25th minute, Bergamaschi had the opportunity to pass to Dowie, who was running towards the box, and this could have resulted in a goal, as shown in the image below.
However, Bergamaschi was unable to move the ball into a scoring position, and the goal-scoring opportunity was lost for the team.
Juventus would not have any similar problems. Their second goal of the match was a reversal of the first one, as it was Bonansea who assisted Hurtig, and the Swedish forward slotted it home.
Milan’s defense somewhat aided this goal due to playing an incredibly high line. This led to the Rossonere being caught out in the open, as there was no one there to retreat back and stop Hurtig. The combination of Hurtig’s athletic prowess and Milan’s Laura Fusetti stopping to try and earn an offside foul is what led to Hurtig scoring.
Before halftime, Milan had a few notable attempts to equalize, primarily from Giacinti. Unfortunately, they weren’t clinical in front of the target and were unable to score. Things didn’t change much in the second half, as Juventus stayed compact, waited for Milan to create chances (or try to), and launched counter-attacks after relentless pressing Milan into mistakes.
Credit must also be given to Juve’s goalkeeper, Laura Giuliani, who successfully snuffed out any attempts to score by Milan.
Milan were unable to create any real attacking threats from corners, free kicks, and through having horizontal possession. The fact that they left a large amount of room at the back thanks to their high line didn’t help either. The high line is what led to Juventus’ third goal, which Juve had the numerical dominance over Milan on the counter-attack in which allowed Andrea Staková to shoot freely and score.
The final blow of the match came from Arianna Caruso, whose goal came from a mistake that the Rossonere had made at the edge of their penalty box. And with her goal, Caruso officially put Milan to the sword and Juve would emerge the undisputed victors of the match.
Keeping in line with the theme of the previous games, Milan had more possession of the ball than Juve did. However, Juve had more shots on goal and attacked their target more.
Juve also pressed more aggressively than Milan did, as for every 14.7 passes Milan made, the Bianconere would press them. Their aggressive pressing is what led to Milan making several mistakes. They also allowed Juve to launch the counter-attacks that would result in three of the four goals scored.
Milan also had two shots on target while Juve had six. Juve are a classic case of doing less with more. It’s something that Milan could learn and benefit from.
This was a tough match to swallow. Milan’s title hopes came to a loss with this loss as well. One could argue that the Top Two was the goal all along, but the fact that Milan came so agonizingly close to the title and let it slip away from them, in the end, has got to hurt.
One has to wonder why the team deployed a three at the back defense and a high defensive line against a team as tactically disciplined as Juventus. Juve’s speed on the counter-attack is what ultimately sealed Milan’s fate. One also has to wonder why two of Milan’s best players are constantly being played out of position. Veronica Boquete is a trequartista by nature and Yui Hasegawa is a left-winger. By playing them in more central and defensive roles, we don’t get to see everything they’re capable of. Their talent is not allowed to shine through in these respective positions. That also hurts the overall squad and affects their style of play, as the team is not playing to their full potential.
The team has looked disjointed at times, as there is often a wide gulf between the midfield and the defense and they end up having to bridge the gap with long balls over the top of the opponent’s defense. Given the amount of talent that the Rossonere has at their disposal, they shouldn’t have to do this.
If Milan does qualify for the Champions League next season, then they’ll have to face the daunting prospect of even more terrifying monsters in Europe, and ones who have the capacity to tear this team apart.
The only thing we can hope for now is that Ganz finally finds a formula that works and that gets the best out of his players. More importantly, one hopes that the team will approach matches like this with the right mentality and understand the importance of the game they’re playing. And that more importantly, one hopes that we don’t face anymore 4-0 shellackings in the future.
This was a game to forget for the Rossonere. However, the silver lining in this cloud is that it may also be the match that serves to highlight the negative aspects of this team’s approach to games, especially at the defensive level.
Focusing on what went wrong in this game and understanding what went wrong will lead to the team fixing their weaknesses and not losing games like this in the future. And once they do so, it can only get better from here.
Milan will take on their crosstown rivals Inter Milan in the Coppa Italia Femminile this Sunday. And unlike last time, you’ll actually be able to watch this match.
The match will take place at 1:30 PM CET (4:30 am PST / 7:30 am EST). Milan will be looking to bounce back and make a statement during that match, and poor Inter will be on the receiving end of their wrath.
Let’s hope they can get back to their winning ways and erase the terrible stain of this loss from their minds.