January 2023 was a month in which Roma Women solidified their status as genuine Scudetto challengers, demolishing opponent after opponent to generate momentum they would never lose from that point on as they approached the finishing line.
January 2024 was different. It was a month in which Roma wobbled and looked like they were at risk of derailing their title defence.
It started with defeat in the Supercoppa Italiana to Juventus, and also included a surprise first-leg Coppa Italia loss to Napoli, their first dropped points in the league, and – despite a valiant effort – Champions League elimination. Furthermore, in the background, the controversial end to Annamaria Serturini’s spell with the club threatened to become a distraction.
Roma were losing ground, questions were being asked – at a louder volume than ever before – of Alessandro Spugna, and the team looked like they were losing their character.
The prospect of Juventus being their first opponents in February could have been daunting, knowing that the reduction of their lead at the top of the table would have added another layer of doubt after recent circumstances.
Fortunately, Roma responded in the manner they have usually expressed over the past couple of years – by getting back to their best on the pitch.
When Roma faced Juventus in their first league meeting this season, they stormed into a three-goal lead (and ultimately won by a two-goal margin). In Sunday’s return fixture, the same happened again.
A Manuela Giugliano penalty put Roma in front, before a strong Camelia Ceasar save prevented an almost immediate equaliser.
Midway through the second half, within the space of six minutes, Roma increased their lead to three thanks to Evelyne Viens’ 10th goal for the club – after a clever assist by Benedetta Glionna, who had also won the penalty earlier – and an absolute thunderbolt by defender-turned-goal-machine Elena Linari from outside the box.
There was an inevitable goal-of-the-ex by Lindsey Thomas in stoppage time, but the whistle blew shortly after, confirming Roma had done the double over Juventus for the first time ever and opened up an eight-point lead at the top of the table (still with three games of the main bulk of the season and eight games of the Scudetto Pool, which Roma will definitely be in along with Juventus, Fiorentina and two others, to play).
All of a sudden, after a spiral of events that probably felt worse than they were, Roma can resume their feeling of stability and progress as they aim to defend their title.
Next up is their chance to overturn their cup deficit against Napoli, before a league game against the same side and the remaining fixtures in this portion of the season against Sassuolo and Fiorentina by mid-February.
It is time to look forward again for Roma, and hopefully now with as much conviction as Linari’s strike.