Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 26: Daniel Maldini Stuns Inter

After enduring several snooze-fests last weekend, the Calcio goods repaid its leal subjects with a fabulous round of fixtures. Even the stalemate between Bologna and Lazio wasn’t terrible by any means. But more importantly, the action featured a major upset on Friday night and two fascinating goal-fests on Sunday. So let’s recap the most interesting events of the Italian football weekend by recognizing the Tops and Flops from Serie A Round 26.

Top (Player): Armand Laurienté

For the sake of variety, we tried to find a different Top player from last week’s edition, but in the end, fairness prevailed. So for the second weekend in a row, Armand Laurienté is the rightful pick.

The French winger gave Sassuolo a head start at the Olimpico, bagging a first-half brace against the bewildered Romans. Kudos to the 10-man Giallorossi who refused to raise the white flag, but the fabulous Laurienté still had a sublime assist in store, playing provider for Andrea Pinamonti who scored the Neroverdi’s fourth of the day.

A day to remember for the young man in the Eternal City.

Flop (Player): Marash Kumbulla

Following Mario Rui’s kick to the groin a fortnight ago and Moise Kean’s chopping leg kick on Gianluca Mancini last week, Marash Kumbulla makes it three in a row. Perhaps it’s time to rename this section “Nasty Kick of the Week”.

But in this case, the demeanor of the Roma defender was arguably worse than his predecessors as he broke an unwritten general rule that says: “Don’t kick a man when he’s down”.

Yet, this is exactly the treatment that the Albanian offered to Sassuolo captain Domenico Berardi, resulting in an immediate dismissal and subsequently culminated in his side’s defeat after playing with a man down for an entire half.

For someone who has been at odds with José Mourinho for the best part of his stint in the capital, this incident could truly spell the end of his time at the club.

Top (Manager): Leonardo Semplici

For one reason or another, Leonardo Semplici hardly receives the plaudits that he deserves. The manager’s achievements at Spal went somewhat under the radar, and the same pattern could be replicated this campaign.

Since taking charge at Spezia, the club has regained its balance. Furthermore, the Ligurians pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the whole Serie A campaign by securing a well-deserved victory over Inter in Round 26 following a hard-fought contest, and their newly-appointed manager deserves a large part of the credit.

Flop (Manager): Gian Piero Gasperini

Sadly for Gian Piero Gasperini, he just can’t catch a break nowadays. On Saturday, Atalanta succumbed to their third defeat in their last four outings, as they failed to offer proper competition for Napoli.

While losing to the Serie A leaders away from home isn’t a disastrous result in itself, the Oribici seem to be a shadow of their former selves, with their vibrant, energetic displays almost becoming a distant memory.

For his part, the manager perhaps fumbled his tactics by thrusting two centre forwards (Zapata and Hjulmand) against Napoli’s unbreakable duo of Kim Min-jae and Amir Rrahmani in what turned out to be an easy mission for the defenders who nullified the threat of La Dea’s striking pair rather comfortably.

Top (Team): Napoli

We mentioned Kim and Rrahmani above, but every Napoli player deserves some credit for a timely rebound victory that put Luciano Spalletti’s side on the cusp of glory.

While every member of the chasing pack dropped points in Round 26, the Partenopei took full advantage, opening an 18-point gap on top of the Serie A standings as their first Scudetto title in 33 years has become a matter of time.

Flop (Team): Inter

Well, for a team that aspires to go far in the Champions League this season, a defeat at the hands of the humble Spezia certainly hardly represents a positive indication.

Lautaro Martinez had a tough day in the office, wasting several chances, most notably a penalty kick. While Romelu Lukaku at least took his chance from the spot, he remains a mere shadow of his former self, one that symbolizes an entire club that is underachieving this season… at least in Serie A.

Top (Super-Sub): Daniel Maldini

Daniele Maldini doesn’t always score, but when he does, it’s either against his parent club Milan, or their arch-rivals Inter – an impressive hit-list, to say the least.

Whether the 21-year-old will ever make it to the grand stage remains to be seen, but coming off the bench to break the deadlock for Spezia against the Nerazzurri is a memory that he’ll certainly cherish for the rest of his days.

Top (Goalkeeper): Bartlomiej Dragowski

Yes, Inter we far from impressive on Friday, while Maldini and M’Bala Nzola made the damage upfront, but achieving this incredible feat would have been impossible for Spezia without the heroics of the big Pole between the posts.

Bart Dragowski pulled off several remarkable saves, including one from the spot when facing Lautaro.

Top (Match): Roma vs Sassuolo

While the Serie A action all around the Italian peninsula was splendid this weekend, the contest between Roma and Sassuolo was certainly the pick of Round 26. Only the fun encounter between Juventus and Sampdoria came close to rival it.

This one featured seven goals, three attempted comebacks and a jaw-dropping goal from Paulo Dybala. And surely no slugfest would ever be complete without a red card for a good-old kick in the back.

Calcio at its finest!

Top (Goal): Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

In what was a straight duel between Dybala’s sublime curler and this one, we just had to pick the outrageous solo run from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia who toyed with Atalanta’s defenders before smashing the ball home.

This guy is simply a cheat code.

Top (Youngsters): Juventus

On Sunday night, Juventus started their encounter against Sampdoria with three young midfielders in the first lineup (Fagioli, Miretti and Barrenechea), and two of them provided assists for Adrien Rabiot. Furthermore, a fourth youngster (Matias Soulé) came off the bench to score his maiden Serie A goal.

So kudos to Massimiliano Allegri the Bianconeri for beginning to give genuine chances to their young contingent, even if goes against their traditional Italian mentality.

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