Goals from terrier-type striker Erin Cuthbert and a creeping Pernille Harder earned Chelsea their first three points in the Champions League group stage after a close 2-1 loss to Juventus in Turin.
Harder scored his 27th goal in 30 UWCL games to give last season’s finalists a valuable victory after Barbara Bonansea brought the hosts back to the level of their fourth European campaign.
Chelsea’s 3-3 draw against Wolfsburg in their opener, a game the team dominated, left the team’s hopes of advancing to the Round of 16 much more on the line than they were. would have liked. Living up to their group of death nicknames, Group A are currently leading Wolfsburg, following their 5-0 loss to the Swiss Servette FCCF, Chelsea second, tied with the Germans with four points, Juventus third with three dots and Servette down and useless. Yes, only two out of six games have been played, but last season’s finalists have little room for error in their remaining matches which also puts pressure on the domestic campaign.
It took half an hour before the Blues took the lead at the noisy Juventus stadium in Turin, where 17,000 tickets had been distributed out of the 20,000 available before kick-off. Cuthbert did a blistering, fierce run before cutting inside and pulling low in the bottom corner.
Twice, Juventus striker Lina Hurtig found herself in a head-to-head race with Jess Carter. In both cases, the defender did well to disrupt the flow of the Swedish striker. But the threat was a warning sign and the crowd was buoyed by the performance of the underdogs.
Eight minutes after Cuthbert’s opener, Juventus punished the lavishness that had given Wolfsburg three goals in the previous round. A sharp left cross at the far post was greeted by Bonansea and the Italian did well to restrain Guro Reiten and snuck past her marker to crush the ball at home. It was too easy – once again all three Chelsea full-backs were missing.
Juventus currently sit at the top of Serie A with six out of six wins and although Chelsea have only faced the Italian champions once, in a pre-season friendly in 2018, the team has come a long way since then and the canoe manager was much more familiar.
After announcing he would be leaving Arsenal at the end of last season, Joe Montemurro joined Juventus this summer. In 12 meetings between Emma Hayes and Montemurro while he was in north London, the Blues have won nine times and Arsenal once.
“I am an Arsenal fan, so for me it is important that Chelsea are always behind,” he joked before his reunion with Hayes.
In the second half, Montemurro was denied the chance to gain the advantage over his former foe when striker Cristiana Girelli fell into the box after an elbow to the back of Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson, but without VAR until the round of 16 set up calls from the Italian side were ruled out.
Instead, Hayes’ team restored their lead after an hour. Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby bonded and attempted to sneak into the box, but were ousted by black and white shirts and the stray bullet fell nicely for the ever-alert Harder, who drove off.
Almost instantly, Juventus went looking for an answer, but Hurtig’s effort made the side net ripple. Chelsea nearly extended their lead, but a pierced shot from Kerr was acrobatically knocked over the post by ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin before being cleared.
Eight substitutions in 23 minutes killed the momentum of both teams. In a rambling end to the game, Chelsea held on to take all three points, which kept them well in the mix.