AS Roma's rise to the top, from Champions League debut to Serie A Champions

Unnati Naidu
Journalist and Photographer
May 5, 2023
5 min
From an amazing Champions League debut season to being named Italy's champions, how did AS Roma ascend to compete with the best in Europe?

AS Roma has constantly invested in their women's squad since gaining their Serie A licence from Res Roma in 2018, allowing them to excel and make their mark in one of Europe's best club football tournaments, the UEFA Women's Champions League. 


Roma finished fourth in their debut season in Serie A and consistently progressed in the next two seasons until they finished 2nd in the 21/22 season, gaining UEFA Women's Champions League qualification for the first time. Season 21/22 was also the first season under coach Alessandro Spugna. Since Spugna's transfer from the Italian club Empoli, the club has made massive progress in their playing style and recruitment combined with the existing squad structure. The arrival of Valentina Giacinti in the summer made a noticeable difference in the current campaign. With 13 goals and four assists in her arsenal, Giacinti's quality, combined with the quality of the rest of the team, has allowed Roma to compete not only at the domestic level but also at a European level. 


UEFA Women's Champions League debut

Alessandro Spungna and his side were poised to take Europe by storm after a spectacular league campaign that saw them finish second in the standings and qualify for the UEFA Women's Champions League. Beginning in Glasgow, the debutants were eager to demonstrate that they had come to win, not merely to participate. The Giallorossi got off to a strong start with a 3-1 victory over Glasgow City. The team advanced to the second round of the Champions League after defeating Paris FC on penalties. With a 6-2 aggregate win over Sparta Praha, the Giallorossi qualified for the group stages in their debut season. 

Paris FC vs AS Roma UEFA Women s Champions League 21/08/2022. Benedetta Glionna (18) of AS Roma presses Théa Greboval (19) of Paris Women FC during the UEFA Women s Champions League Qualifying Group match between Paris FC and AS Roma at Petershill Park, Glasgow, Scotland on 21/08/2022. IMAGO

Roma's group stage campaign got off to a rough start, with narrow victories over Slavia Praha and St Polten. Placed in the same group as German powerhouse Wolfsburg, the prevailing consensus was that Roma would have a tough group, and their shaky start confirmed this. However, things changed when Roma won the Supercoppa Italiana on penalties against Juventus. The victory fueled the Giallorossi's determination to go to the UEFA Women's Champions League knockout rounds. Their determination was on display on the pitch in their next match against the German giants, as the Italians held Wolfsburg to a draw at home. The Italians moved closer to the knockout stages thanks to a stunning result. 

"We're satisfied. A draw against Wolfsburg is a good result. This team continues to impress. The coach told us to be 'crazy' and I think we were today. We have to continue to do well – our aim is to qualify, not win the group. It was a dream of mine to score against Wolfsburg. When the ball went in I couldn't believe it." - Valentina Giacinti 

Wolfsburg did not take well to the draw in the rematch at AOK Stadion in Germany, scoring four goals past Camelia Ceasar. However, Andressa Alves' and Sophie Haug's goals showcased this team's determination and desire to compete with the best in Europe. Their first Champions League defeat inspired their remarkable triumphs over St Polten and Slavia Praha, with 5-0 and 3-0 wins, respectively. Roma seals its first knockout stages in the UEFA Women's Champions League. But, they were yet to face their biggest challenge. 

"Playing against these teams makes you grow and improve. That's what we ask of this Champions League. We want to continue playing matches of this level and increase our experience and awareness." - Alessandro Spugna 

The Giallorossi were drawn in the quarter-finals against FC Barcelona, the title favourites. Spugna and his team faced a significant challenge in their drive for success. With the Catalan club declaring that the second leg will be held at Camp Nou, Roma declared that the home game would be held at their club stadium, the Stadio Olimpico. The Giallorossi held Barcelona to a 1-0 lead in the first leg of the quarter-finals in front of a record crowd of 39,454. A new Italian women's football record and a magnificent game of football demonstrated the squad's desire, establishing them as the future emerging team in Europe. 

"It was a magical night. We want to thank all the people who came to the Stadio Olimpico. We are proud, for us, it is a novelty and brings great emotions. We knew that Barcelona were really strong, but as the minutes went by we gathered more and more courage in trying to play our own game." - Camelia Ceasar

"The important thing is that we really did our best. I think the fans also enjoyed it. I'm very proud of the girls, they played an extraordinary game. We suffered a lot in the first half, but it's normal because Barcelona are a fantastic team. They understand the game, they know when to accelerate and when not to. They have technique and physique, and so it was very difficult". - Alessandro Spugna 

The second leg of the quarter-finals was scheduled to take place at Camp Nou, making it a homecoming for ex-Blaugrana stars Vicky Losada and Andressa Alves. Losada, the ex-captain of the Catalan club, was eager to play at Camp Nou after missing out on the opportunity due to covid. The second leg of the quarter-finals finished with Barcelona winning 5-1, therefore eliminating Roma from the competition.  Annamaria Serturini's lone goal demonstrated that this Roma squad should not be overlooked, as they looked dangerous on many occasions throughout the game. Their inaugural campaign in the UEFA Women's Champions League only serves to highlight the team's remarkable improvement and progress.

FC Barcelona, Barca AS Roma. UEFA Womens Champions League match, Quarter-Finals, 2nd leg. Keira Walsh of FC Barcelona and Benedetta Glionna of AS Roma during the UEFA Womens Champions League match, Quarter-Finals, 2nd leg between FC Barcelona and v AS Roma played at Spotify Camp Nou Stadium on March 29, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. IMAGO

"Barcelona are very good. They began the season as one of the favourites for this season. They are excellent all through their squad. Good and they can go a lot further in this tournament. That means that I'm not only very proud of how we've tested and pushed them across these two games but very proud of the road Roma have travelled to reach the quarter-finals for the first time." - Alessandro Spugna 

"We missed a few chances last week and we knew precisely how Barcelona would react. They are very strong, but we have big objectives left in our season. In fact, in a couple of days, we have a massive match against Milan. It's already time to push this from our minds and concentrate on league business. Even so, we can benefit hugely from this experience in due course. It was a little strange for me playing in Camp Nou for another team, and I'm a bit disappointed because I wanted to give my best. But I felt a little muscle twinge and I had to come off. However, our team can grow from this and I'm proud of how we've done in Europe this season." - Vicky Losada 

Domestic Dominance and Champions 

While Roma were eliminated from the Champions League, they are on track to become a regular feature. Winning their second Supercoppa Italiana and now winning the league by 8 points over second-placed Juventus even before the season concludes is a portent of what's to come for this side. With teams like AS Roma consistently investing in the development of the squad, the growth of women's football is only likely to improve by the day. Spugna is a proud coach of his team, and his statements reflect that. Roma is a passionate club that prefers a straightforward approach to the game. Spugna is not about to stop now that he has attained domestic dominance and will set his sights on European domination. AS Roma are not going to stop.

Elisa Bartoli of AS Roma holds the trophy as she celebrates with team mates at the end of the women italian supercup final between Juventus FC and AS Roma at Ennio Tardini stadium in Parma (Italy), November 5th, 2022. Photo Andrea Staccioli, IMAGO

Serie A is available to watch live and on-demand on ata football. 

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