AGSM Verona and BIIK-Kazygurt crossed swords with each other for the second time in a week, with a place in the last 16 of the UEFA Women's Champions League at stake. The home task had the task of turning around a two-goal deficit after their 3-1 loss in Kazakhstan. Verona's coach, Renato Longega greeted the return of the valuable Manuela Giugliano, but his offensive approach was not enough to prevent an early exit from Europe.
BIIK in front in the first 45 minutes
The first opportunity of the match dropped at the feet of the Italians, when Federica Di Criscio tried her luck from a long distance. The team from the Bentegodi continued to inch up their way into the pitch but they struggled to penetrate their opponents' back-line, who looked resilient and focused on every offensive step that Verona made.
In the 29th minute, Kazygurt knocked on Verona's door, but their effort was well parried by Verona's goalkeeper while Giugliano replied with a strong strike from outside the box, yet her shot went inches wide.
Despite the evident territory dominance, it was the Kazakhs who drew first blood when Gulnara Gabelia scored directly from a corner, emulating her goal from the first leg just before the break.
Verona's spirit did not prevail
After the change of ends, the game took a similar approach like the first half, with the hosts opting for every kind of offensive maneuver without managing to put the ball into the back of the net. As time went by, coach Longaga started to introduce new faces on the pitch, but it had to be captain Melania Gabbiadini to cancel out BIIK's lead and reignite Verona's hopes.
Gabbiadini herself was the player who won the penalty, when she was pulled down from the Kazakh defenders, with the Slovak referee immediately pointing to the spot. Gabbiadini converted from the penalty spot and made the score 1-1.
Immediately after, Di Criscio almost doubled the score, but her delightful strike hit the post. Verona's fatigue was evident in the final minutes, but their belief was not dismantled, and could forge ahead on a couple of occasions, if only both Gabbiadini and Giugliano had not wasted their goal-scoring opportunities.
The match ended at 1-1, with the Kazakh side clinching a prestigious last 16 spot in this competition. On the other side, Verona bow out from the competition with dignity, but also with some regrets.