Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 31: Lukaku and Leao in MVP Mode

On the back of a triumphant midweek in Europe for Italian clubs, the action resumed with an exciting Serie A weekend packed with fascinating contests. In the biggest tilt of the matchday, Napoli snatched a late win at the Allianz Stadium that put them ever-closer to their imminent Scudetto triumph, while Milan and Inter returned to winning ways as they begin their preparations for a special edition of the Derby della Madonnina.

So let’s recap the most interesting events from Serie A Round 31 by identifying the Tops and Flops from what was a thrilling Calcio weekend.

Top (Player): Romelu Lukaku

This season, Romelu Lukaku has been a recurring guest in this weekly column, but this time, “Big Rom” appears in the Top section for a change.

The Belgian has been enduring a miserable campaign, but for the first time this season, he looked every bit of the terrifying striker who bombarded Serie A defenses during his first spell at Inter.

The 29-year-old ran at the petrified Empoli defenders who had no answer for his impressive pace and unparalleled physical strength, leading the charge with a stunning personal brace before delivering the assist for his old trusted ally Lautaro Martinez who made it 3-0.

Top (Player): Rafael Leao

In Round 31, Lukaku wasn’t the only Serie A MVP Award winner to put on a spectacular display. So instead of one Top player, we’ll have a couple.

While it wasn’t an easy encounter for Milan against the resilient Lecce, having Rafael Leao among the ranks can be the answer for some of the most daunting conundrums.

The Portuguese nodded home the first goal, but his second demonstrated some of his most outrageous skills in a single piece of art.

Flop (Player): Juan Cuadrado

Juan Cuadrado is one of the most experienced players in Serie A, yet, he still makes blunders that no veteran ought to commit. The Juventus wingback fell to the ground in the final minutes of his side’s crunch battle against Napoli while demanding a non-existent penalty.

While he remained down, the Partenopei launched a swift attack which culminated in Giacomo Raspadori’s winner. The Italian striker was completely unmarked thanks to the Colombian’s notable absence.

What a costly howler

Top (Manager): Ivan Juric

While we’re no betting experts, Torino must have entered the weekend as one of the biggest underdogs on the card as they traveled to the Italian capital to take on the high-flying Lazio.

Nevertheless, the Granata returned north with all three points in the bag following a shocking 1-0 win at the Olimpico Stadium. Torino outclassed their hosts in what was a tactical masterpiece from Ivan Juric who set up his team brilliantly.

Flop (Manager): Alessio Dionisi

For their part, Sassuolo succumbed to a humbling defeat in Salerno, conceding three goals while failing to display any sort of genuine resistance.

Alessio Dionisi remains one of the most promising young managers in Serie A, but his team’s hollow display in Round 31 depicts his side’s inconsistent campaign, especially coming after last weekend’s memorable win over Juventus.

Top (Team): Monza

This weekend, Inter, Udinese and Salernitana all prevailed with three goals to nil. Therefore, some would say that overlooking them in favor of a side that won 3-2 is unfair.

However, Monza get the nod for their admirable ability to overcome a dreadful start and complete a memorable comeback against Fiorentina from 0-2 to 3-2.

The Biancorossi continue to defy the odds and they remain one of the most entertaining sides to watch, even if they don’t have much to play besides pride at this stage of the season.

Flop (Team): Cremonese

Following back-to-back wins, Cremonese were hoping to make it three on the trot and keep the flame burning. However, the Tigers never showed up at the Dacia Arena, as Udinese brought them back to Planet Earth.

In fact, the 3-0 scoreline would have looked even harsher if it wasn’t for Marco Carnesecchi and his string of impressive saves which spared his side an embarrassing result, but the young goalkeeper’s heroics won’t be enough to prevent an almost inevitable return to Serie B.

Top (Youngster): Ivan Ilic

While it hasn’t been Ivan Ilic’s best campaign in Italian football, the midfielder finally grabbed himself a memorable moment, scoring a long-range shot that gifted Torino an upset victory over Lazio away from home.

Under the guidance of Juric, we still expect additional scintillating displays from the young Serbian.

Top (Goalkeeper): Samir Handanovic

While the scoreline might trick you into believing that Inter comfortably won their away fixture in Empoli, it was the home side that had the more dangerous chances in the first half.

So kudos to Samir Handanovic who had to pull off some fabulous saves to earn his clean sheet in Round 31, which might prove to be one of his last outings in his legendary Serie A run.

Flop (Goalkeeper): Rui Patricio

On the contrary, Rui Patricio had a nightmarish evening in Bergamo. Just when Roma pulled one back in the final 10 minutes to make it 2-1, the Portuguese goalkeeper made a complete mess while trying to pick up a loose ball, gifting an easy goal to Teun Koopmeiners who restored La Dea’s two-goal cushion, which proved to be the mortal blow to the Romans’ morale.

Top (Match): Juventus vs Napoli

While other encounters had more goals, the chaotic ending was enough to warrant the recognition for this particular encounter.

From the late drama and controversial decisions to the back-and-forth action and the stunning injury-time winner, this was Calcio at its finest.

Top (Goal): Mario Pasalic

Serie A Round 31 treated us to a flurry of fine strikes, including Lazar Samardzic’s splendid shot with the outside of the boot and Leao’s magnificent solo effort.

But our personal pick is Mario Pasalic’s opening goal for Atalanta against Roma. Duvan Zapata stormed his way towards the byline before brilliantly cutting it back towards the Croatian who smashed the volley home with his weaker foot.

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