ACF Women’s has existed for a little more than two years. In their inaugural season, they took third in Serie A. Last year, they absolutely trucked the league en route to a first place finish. And last week, they won their first-ever Champions League match 2-1 against Fortuna Hjørring.
In the their opening group stage game, the Viola ladies took the pitch at the Artemio Franchi, which was clearly ready for a return to Champions League football. In Fortuna Hjørring, they faced a worthy opponent who made the cup final in 2003 and has finished top 2 in the Danish league since 2004.
The visitors came out firing on all cylinders, forcing a few sharp saves from Swedish number one Stéphanie Öhrström, but it was the hosts who got off the mark first. In the 39th minute, a corner squirted back out to winger Valery Virgilucci, who had a full head of steam when she smashed the ball from fully 35 yards out, scorching the top corner and leaving Fortuna goalkeeper Maria Lindblad Christensen dazed. The Franchi responded, as you might expect, with raptures.
15 minutes after the break, Elena Linari floated a free kick into the box from the right wing, and striker Ilaria Mauro did what she does best: lost her marker and finished with aplomb, this time with a looping header that rooted Christensen to the spot and gave Fiorentina a 2-0 lead.
Not long after, Patrizia Caccamo nearly added another on the break, slicing inside from the left wing and letting fly. Her deflected shot almost fooled Christensen, but the Dane managed to track it and barely punch it clear. Fortuna pulled one back through Signe Bruun, who managed a turn in the area followed by an absolute cracker of a shot to beat the impressive Öhrström, but Fiorentina never looked like conceding another and indeed nearly added another through Virgilucci, who beat her marker down the right and stung the upright with a shot that had Christensen beaten.
But when the final whistle blew, the tension was gone, replaced by sheer celebration. Not only was Fiorentina back in the Champions League for the first time since 2010, but the newest addition to the club had definitively proved that the Viola clearly belong in the highest echelon of continental competition. It’s good to be back, and it’s even better to know that this team is a real threat to do some damage in the knockout rounds.