The Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 31: Mancini the Hero and Villain in Roman Derby

While we certainly had our fair share of exhilarating Calcio weekends this season, the one we’ve just witnessed is certainly up there among the elite. The action this week proved Max Allegri right; football was indeed created by the devil. Curiously, the man behind the quote locked the door in the second half to preserve a precious, long-awaited victory, making sure his side avoided a hectic finale. Yet, five other fixtures yielded dramatic come-from-behind victories, something you surely don’t witness every day. So let’s review the most thrilling action from Serie A Round 31 in a special edition mainly dominated by Tops, but also features a few Flops here and there.

Top (Player): Gianluca Mancini

To be fair, we had a lack of majestic individual displays this weekend. But since the Derby della Capitale was the major headliner, then Gianluca Mancini should get the nod for deciding the big showdown in favor of Roma.

The Italy international met Paulo Dybala’s corner kick with a superb header. How he managed to generate so much power behind it, only he knows. Moreover, the 27-year-old also did a solid job in his day job as a defender, keeping Lazio manager Ciro Immobile and Taty Castellanos quiet throughout the match.

However, staying away from controversy isn’t his strong point, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Flop (Player): Raoul Bellanova

Truth be told, Raoul Bellanova is enjoying a brilliant maiden campaign at Torino. His exploits on the right flank warranted a call-up from Luciano Spalletti, and he certainly managed to impress while on international duty.

However, the young wingback endured a tough outing against Torino, even though he delivered the assist for Duvan Zapata’s second goal. In the dying minutes of the match, the Italian allowed himself to be easily dispossessed by Liberato Cacace who offered the match-winner for M’Baye Niang on a silver plate.

Nevertheless, Bellanova will certainly bounce back and return even better.

Top (Manager): Claudio Ranieri

Don’t look now but Cagliari have suddenly jumped to 13th place with a second win in a row after turning the table on Atalanta. While they haven’t completely evaded danger, with the relegation zone only four points behind, the Isolani certainly boast the right spirit for salvation, as well as the right manager.

So kudos to Claudio Ranieri who has often been on cue in his tactical choices this season, even outwitting fellow veteran tactician Gian Piero Gasperini on Sunday. The Roman coach brought in Ziti Luvumbo and Nicolas Viola in the second, and the duo combined to score the late winner that shocked La Dea.

Top (Manager): Daniele De Rossi

From one proud Roman to another. As mentioned in the introduction, this edition is widely dominated by Tops. So with no Serie A manager truly scuffing his lineups this weekend (even Allegri won a match for a change!), we figured we’d instead celebrate Daniele De Rossi’s excellent display on the dugout in his Derby bow as a coach after experiencing countless fierce battles on the pitch.

In his pre-match press conference, the 2006 World Cup winner explained how he learned to keep his cool in the Derby as the years went by, and he remained true to his words by cutting a calm and composed figure even when tempers were flying.

At the final whistle, a relieved DDR unleashed all the emotions he kept within, madly celebrating what was surely the biggest win of his young managerial career.

Top (Team): Milan

Milan are hitting their stride in the final stretch of the season. This is what the 3-0 rooting of Lecce came to confirm on Saturday, even if the visitors played an entire half with a man down following Nikola Krstovic’s dismissal.

With Rafael Leao back in form, the Rossoneri are simply something else. Christian Pulisic also found joy while playing as an attacking midfielder, so it remains to be seen if Stefano Pioli will be tempted to replicate this experiment against a bigger club.

Flop (Team): Lazio

Perhaps it wasn’t the worst performance of the weekend, but Lazio fans are seldom forgiving when it comes to the Derby della Capitale. During Maurizio Sarri’s reign, they almost always had the upper hand over their arch-rivals, something that earned the Tuscan tactician the esteem of the fanbase.

Unfortunately for Igor Tudor, his debut in the fixture ended with a loss, while his men hardly managed to threaten Roma’s goal. In fact, it was the Giallorossi who came close to doubling their lead on several occasions, while Lazio’s response was almost non-existent.

Top (Goalkeeper): Stefano Turati

Those who have been keeping tabs on Bologna this season would certainly tell you how complicated it is to tame Thiago Motta’s band. So kudos to Frosinone who produced a courageous display against the Emilians, neglecting the two clubs’ contrasting league status.

Nevertheless, the Canarini still needed some heroic saves from Stefano Turati to maintain the stalemate, including a stunning one in the very last minute against Dan Ndoye.

Top (Match): Empoli vs Torino

We had several gloriously chaotic encounters this weekend, but with two goals in added time, this one takes the prize home.

Unfortunately for Zapata, his personal brace didn’t yield a single point for Torino, even when he equalized the scoring in the 91st minute. That’s because Niang returned to haunt his former side by poaching a winner in the 94th minute to lift Empoli above the relegation for the first time in a while.

Top (Gamesmanship): Paulo Dybala

It wouldn’t be a Roman Derby without a bit of shenanigans. Lazio midfielder Mateo Guendouzi was one of the most vocal players on the pitch. But his demeanor sparked a creative reply from Paulo Dybala who took off his shin pads (which depicts him with the World Cup trophy) and flashed it in the face of his French opponent as a kind reminder of the outcome of their meeting in the Qatar 2022 final.

A bit of a low blow, one might say, but it certainly doesn’t lack creativity.

Flop (Gamesmanship): Gianluca Mancini

While Dybala was ingenious in his taunting, Gianluca Mancini stepped over the red line, as he often does. The author of the Derby winner celebrated the enchanting victory by running with a Lazio flag that shows a gigantic rat in the center.

Obviously, this is the sort of “playful” antics that most fanbases adopt, but just because the Roma ultras can sport this provocative flag as part of their gig, players must avoid these distasteful gestures at all costs.

Top (Super-Subs): Davide Frattesi, Nicolas Viola & M’Baye Niang

How can you pick between three players who came off the bench to score crucial winners for their respective clubs late in the match? Well, you don’t.

So we just had to pick all three, including Davide Frattesi who has become an expert at pouncing on rebounds in added time. The Italy international’s poacher goal maintained the 14-point gap between Inter and Milan, which could potentially lead to a Scudetto celebration in the Derby della Madonnina in two weeks time.

Top (Goal): Matteo Politano

To be fair, Matteo Politano should probably be the ultimate super-sub of the Serie A weekend. But the Napoli winger can do without that recognition since he has produced a genuine contender for the goal of the season.

It’s almost impossible to capture the pure brilliance of the volley in mere words, so we’ll let the video below do the talking.

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