Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 16: Inter Reopen Scudetto Race

Following a depressingly long hiatus which lasted for 52 days, the Calcio gods decided to make it up for their leal worshipers with 10-hours of non-stop action. Even the broadcasters struggled while desperately trying to catch the kickoff of the following contest, especially with the newly-installed extended number of minutes of added time (thanks FIFA!). So was it a healthy recipe for us viewers who were starving for action? Unlikely. But was it entertaining? Hell yes! So let’s identify some of the best and worst performers from the first matchday of the 2023 in our Tops and Flops from Serie A Round 16.

Top (Player): Milan Skriniar

As you can expect, Inter will naturally occupy a large chunk of the Top sections following their comprehensive victory over Napoli in the big tilt of the round 16. While Edin Dzeko was the one who grabbed the headlines with the sole goal of the evening, credit must go to Milan Skriniar for keeping the indomitable Khvicha Kvaratskhelia at bay.

Now surely the Georgian was still able to pull off some flashes of magic on some occasions, but they were too few and far between to make any difference. So in essence, the Nerazzurri defender managed to keep his opponent chained, allowing his teammates to focus on the other end of the pitch.

Flop (Player): Olivier Giroud

Following an impressive World Cup campaign, Milan fans were hoping that Olivier Giroud restarts from were had left off, but it just wasn’t met to be against the phenomenal Ochoa (we’ll get to this one later).

In his defense, the experienced striker arguably needed additional days of training to regain his optimal condition, but his inability to score against Salernitana prevented the Rossoneri from killing off the match, allowing their hosts to aspire a late comeback.

Top (Manager): José Mourinho (Salvatore Foti)

Due to his “Special” relationship with match officials, José Mourinho is a regular guest on the suspended list. This was the case against Bologna, with his assistant Salvatore Foti serving in his stead.

But with all due respect to the Italian, it was the famed Portuguese who set up an awkward yet successful recipe in the starting formation, one that featured the striking partnership of Paulo Dybala and Nicolò Zaniolo while 19-year-old Benjamin Tahirovic got the nod ahead of vastly more experiences midfielders, including Nemanja Matic.

Eventually, his decisions paid off, and the Giallorossi managed to hold on to their early lead and add three vital points to their tally.

Flop (Manager): Maurizio Sarri

On the other side of the capital, Maurizio Sarri lost and his men lost the plot against Lecce. All seemed well in the world when Ciro Immobile found the back of net early on his return to action.

Nonetheless, Lecce turned the result upside-down in front of their ecstatic supporters, while the Lazio manager wasn’t able to rectify the situation, with his substitutions falling flat.

Top (Team): Inter

As we mentioned above, Skriniar enjoyed a stellar performance at the back. But it just wasn’t him. Francesco Acerbi did well to contain Victor Osimhen, while Henrick Mkhitaryan, Federico Dimarco and Dzeko combined to score a splendid winner.

Moreover, Nicolò Barella who also deserves some recognition for another thrilling outing in the middle of the park.

Flop (Team): Atalanta

Despite saving grace with two late goals which saw them escape with a point from Spezia, Gian Piero Gasperini’s men looked under-par for the vast majority of the match.

Atalanta were simply subdued by their hosts who scored twice in the first half and were extremely close for a third after the break while the visitors were simply bemused.

Top (Goalkeeper): Guillermo Ochoa

On round 16, Guillermo Ochoa made his Serie A debut, and if it wasn’t clear already, the Mexican immediately explained all the hype that accompanied his arrival to Italy with a stunning performance against the defending champions.

Despite conceding twice in the early stages, Milan would have ran riot in Salerno it wasn’t for the experienced custodian and his astonishing saves.

Top (Signing): Guillermo Ochoa

Check the above paragraph.

Top (Goal): Manolo Gabbiadini

Arkadiusz Milik produced a fabulous late freekick which sealed the win for Juventus in Cremona, while Aleksei Miranchuk scored a genuine scorcher for Torino, however, we do have an inner weakness for bicycle kicks.

Therefore, Manolo Gabbiadini gets the nod with an acrobatic effort which would hopefully kickstart Sampdoria’s restoration.

Top (Result): Inter 1-0 Napoli

No, the Cult of Calcio isn’t a part of a conspiracy that aims to maintain northern dominance over Italian football, if such things does exist. It’s just that Serie A was the home of the most compelling title race in Europe last season, and we’re hoping for another thrilling showing this term.

Therefore, Napoli’s first defeat of the season should be a pleasant outcome for the neutrals, as it opens the door for what could be an absolutely enthralling Scudetto battle, which includes Inter, Milan and Juventus.

As for the Partenopei, they have been waiting for 33 years, so surely they can sustain another couple of months, as none of us want to see the title wrapped up in March.

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