Last Sunday AC Milan Women suffered a heavy defeat against Juventus, beaten by four goals to nil away. Here is a breakdown of what went wrong, with many things to point out.
Milan sides with the usual 3-5-2. Star midfielder Veronica Boquete returned to XI after being absent in the last match against Bari. However, she was pulled shortly before the match due to fears of injury. Christy Grimshaw then took his place in the starting XI.
Juventus, on the other hand, lined up with a 4-3-3. Later in the match, they moved on to 4-4-2.
Both teams allowed the bianconere to dominate the midfield and to watch the game safely until the end.
The battles in midfield
Juve’s midfield trio was made up of Valentina Cernoia, Sofie Pedersen and Martina Rosucci. All three were a block of steel that helped the Bianconeri dominate in midfield, which led them to have overall dominance in the match.
The Milan midfield, on the other hand, seemed weak without the presence of Refiloe Jane. Without the defensive midfielder, Milan were outclassed in the center. There is no better example than this when Juve’s Barbara Bonansea cut through Milan’s midfield en route to scoring.
It was at those intervals when it seemed that Jane’s presence was most missed.
The high press
Juve, unlike the previous AC Milan opponent, Pink Bari, press high on the pitch. When they did, they fielded an asymmetrical 3-4-3 off the ball using a player-to-player oriented press as AC Milan tried to get the ball off their shoulders. Veronica Boquete acted as a deep playmaker who was the bridge between defense and attack.
Christy Grimshaw entered as an impromptu attacking midfielder while Yui Hasegawa played as both center-center right and left. Valentina Bergamaschi played as the most offensive winger who tried to launch attacks on the right. Unfortunately his actions were interrupted by the relentless pressing of Juve.
The pressing of Juve was quite effective, which did not allow Milan to take the necessary pace to launch an attack. Their pressing would also have led the Rossoneri to make several mistakes and suffer four goals in the process.
As can be seen from the table below, Juventus’ pressing was quite unstoppable during this match.
For every 14.7 passes made by Milan, Juve would press them. It also led Juve to launch three counterattacks and score two goals in the process. The bianconeri were even more relentless than Milan in attack, which ultimately led to them scoring four goals.
The goals conceded
The first goal conceded is the result of Valentina Giacinti’s inability to win her one-on-one duel. Juve then pounced on the opportunity and made a vertical pass to Rosucci, who then pushed Linda Tucceri Cimini away from Tuija Hyyrynen. Hyyrynen then sent a deep cross to Lina Hurtig, who then passed the ball to Bonansea unmarked. And so the first goal was a reality,
Milan chose to field a high line during this match, which left them quite vulnerable in defense. Juve exploited it successfully. In the preparation of the second goal, Juve successfully bypassed that high line with a quick counterattack, as they easily played a ball behind the defense. That next step found Hurtig’s feet, who converted the possibility.
The third goal, once again, is the result of the relentless pressing of Juve. Christy Grimshaw faced a real roadblock as she was swarmed by some Juventus players, and ended up handing the ball back to Laura Fusetti, a defender who isn’t always comfortable on the ball. After a bad first touch, Juve expropriated her and launched a counterattack that led Andrea Stašková to score the third goal.
The fourth goal conceded is a repetition of the previous ones. Once again, Juve expropriated a Milan player and launched a counter-offensive that ultimately led Arianna Caruso to score the final goal of the match. And with his goal, Caruso officially put Milan to the sword.
Milan’s defense looked pretty ordinary during this match. Before this match, Milan had the fifth best defense in Europe, having conceded only seven goals during the current season.
Now they have officially granted eleven. During this match, AC Milan defenders were often caught out of position, which led to Juve creating several chances. They also struggle to face Juve’s speed on the counterattack.
One of the main problems with playing three-man defense is that it exposes the flanks to quick counter attacks and if the central defenders are not fast enough, the opponents can easily move the ball up. This was evident during this match, as AC Milan had a hard time managing the threat posed by Juve in transition.
The defense of Juve, on the other hand, was quite effective in suppressing the Milan attack. They forced the Rossoneri to pull out of the area, because the Bianconeri have turned off every opportunity inside it.
The bianconere also had a good sense of positioning and timing, most evident from Linda Sembrant making a key interception here.
The dual combination of Juve’s speed on the counterattack combined with their courageous defense is what marked the fate of Milan during this match.
Although Milan have more ball in this match, once again they failed to make the most of it. They were also outshots with a ratio of 19 to 12.
Juve’s performance during this match was a classic case of “doing less with more” and if Milan want to become champions too, they will have to learn to do the same thing.
This was a tough defeat for Milan. If anything good comes of it, it would be the fact that this is a wake-up call for the team. The Rossonere are not yet on par with teams like Juve and will have to take quality steps to bridge the gap with them.
Their title hopes ran out during this match. However, it could be argued that the goal was to always qualify for the Champions League. And in this regard, their aspirations are similar to those of their male counterparts.
It doesn’t help that players like Verónica Boquete and Yui Hasegawa are played out of position. Boquete is a playmaker by nature and Hasegawa is a left winger who played a more central more in midfield.
By playing them out of position, both players are unable to play to their full potential, and the effects of this manifest themselves in AC Milan’s performance.
One wonders if there are any methods for Ganz’s madness and what he hopes to achieve with these tactics. The hope is that they will eventually resolve the issue over time and that Milan will be able to effectively use all the talent of their squad.
But more importantly, hopefully we can avoid more demoralizing losses like this one in the future.
Milan will face Inter in the Women’s Italian Cup. The match will take place on Sunday at 16:30 CET (4:30 PST / 7:30 EST).
If Milan want to move on to the final of the tournament, they will have to win this crucial match. More importantly, they will have to do it by playing much better than last Sunday.
The girls will try to use this game to make a statement, so try for them to throw everything they have in this match and the winners emerge.