Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 24: Lukaku Fails to Sting Inter

With two major showdowns in Rome and Milano and a goal galore across the Italian peninsula, the Serie A weekend left us with plenty to chew on before switching our attention to the European midweek action.

While Inter consolidated their status as the ultimate Scudetto favorites with an exciting win at the Olimpico, the race for fourth place remains both thrilling and mystifying. So let’s look back on the most interesting events of Serie A Round 24 while picking up the Tops and Flops.

Top (Player): Lorenzo Pellegrini

We rarely ever pick a player whose team was comprehensively beaten for this spot. However, there weren’t too many eye-catching individual displays in this round, while Lorenzo Pellegrini deserves the nod despite finding himself on the wrong side of a 2-4 defeat at home.

The Roma captain was the driving force behind his team’s comeback in the first half with two lovely assists. He picked up Gianluca Mancini’s head with a sublime cross and teed up Stephan El-Shaarawy with a clever pass.

The Italian midfielder ought to have a hattrick of assists as his spectacular long ball sliced through the Inter defenses like a knife through butter, but his effort was squandered by the next man on the list.

Flop (Player): Romelu Lukaku

You’d think that Romelu Lukaku would be determined to make a statement against Inter after being targeted by insults for months following last summer’s transfer saga.

But for the second time this season, the Belgian simply faded against his former employers, failing to pull the trigger despite being given several chances to cause havoc.

The Nerazzurri fans were enraged by the striker’s demeanor in the summer. But following two miserable displays, they have little reason to lament his departure, especially with his replacement Marcus Thuram in spectacular form.

Top (Manager):Thiago Motta

Thiago Motta has become a regular in this section and deservingly so. The Italo-Brazilian has now cemented Bologna as a bona fide contender for European spots, as they currently sit fifth in the standings, ahead of Napoli and Lazio and Roma.

Moreover, the Emilians aren’t only collecting points, they’re doing it in an empathic fashion as evidenced by their latest showing against the sorry Lecce who had to make the long trip south after conceding four goals at the Renato Dall’Ara.

Take a bow, sir!

Flop (Manager): Eusebio Di Francesco

Following an enchanting start of the season, Frosinone are slowly but surely slipping towards the relegation dogfight. So after receiving praise for his work in the early going – and for good reason – Eusebio Di Francesco’s job is now coming under great scrutiny.

The way he tackled the away fixture against Fiorentina suggests that the former Roma boss doesn’t always read the room properly, as he opted for a progressive approach while employing a band of talented players in a 4-3-3 formation, but was made to pay for his ‘braveness’ by conceding five goals.

Instead of trying to rectify the situation within the second half, he kept throwing in attacking players to salvage the result, while his team kept drowning deeper and deeper in Purple Sea.

With more displays like this one, Di Francesco could find himself sacked yet again before the end of the season.

Top (Team): Fiorentina

Perhaps Frosinone made life a little easier for Fiorentina, but the Tuscans deserve major props for a timely masterclass that put an end to their early 2024 misery.

Vincenzo Italiano’s men were all on song. Jonathan Ikoné was in splendid form, while Andrea Belotti opened his account for the club and Nico Gonzalez made amends with the fans with a superb volley.

The Viola will need more of the same to keep themselves in the mix of a chaotic fight for European spots.

Flop (Team): Salernitana

Well, this might be it for Salernitana. If they can’t beat Empoli at home, how can we still believe in a great escape?

The Granata suffered a 1-3 defeat at the hands of their former boss Davide Nicola (the author of their incredible escape a couple of years ago), which spelled the end of Filippo Inzaghi’s reign in Salerno.

The Southerners currently lie at the bottom of the Serie A table with only 13 points after Round 24. They have only won two matches this term, which is also the number of managers they sacked.

Top (Goalkeeper): Maduka Okaye

Slowly but surely, Maduka Okaye has usurped Marco Silvestri, and following an impressive clean sheet at the Allianz Stadium, he has now further consolidated his status as Udinese’s Number One.

Admittedly, Juventus had a torrid evening and struggled to create dangerous chances. But even when they did, the 24-year-old was always there to thwart their attempts, thus helping the Zebrette slay yet another top Serie A club.

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Flop (Goalkeeper): Wladimiro Falcone

For the second week running, Wladimiro Falcone gets the unceremonious recognition. But unlike last week when Lecce managed to prevail in a sensational battle against Fiorentina despite the goalkeeper’s howler, his poor showing came costly this time around.

The Italian custodian couldn’t properly clear the ball on Bologna’s opener, presenting Sam Beukema with a golden chance to score the opener for Bologna. He was then beaten on his near post by Riccardo Orsolini, allowing the ball to slip between his legs.

From then on, the damage was irreparable, with Lecce conceding another two goals, although they weren’t his fault.

Top (Match): Roma vs Inter

Despite being hampered by the heavy Roman rains that inevitably slowed down the rhythm, Roma and Inter still put on a show for the Stadio Olimpico crowds and all Serie A fans watching around the globe. This was a six-goal thriller that included two comebacks.

While the twists and turns were somewhat unexpected, Inter coming up on top shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Flop (Match): Monza vs Verona

Our thoughts are with the editing team that had to compile a highlight reel montage from a stalemate that hardly featured any dangerous chances on both ends of the pitch.

At the end of the day, both sides seemed content with a point, especially Verona who remain afloat for now.

Top (Debut): El Bilal Touré

After missing the entire first half of the season with injury, Atalanta’s record-breaking signing has finally made his Serie A debut in Round 24, coming in as a substitute in the team’s away fixture against Genoa.

While the tie was already settled at that point, the Mali international still insisted on marking the occasion with a clinical header that made it 4-1 in favor of La Dea.

Keep an eye on this one.

Top (Comeback): M’Baye Niang

For us Serie A fans, watching M’Baye Niang take the pitch felt like a return from the vault. The 29-year-old was once upon a time a promising Milan youngster, but he hasn’t plied his trade in Italy since 2018.

Yet, this was a comeback to remember from the Senegalese who made his debut for Empoli from the bench and managed to restore their lead over Salernitana with a penalty before providing the assist for Matteo Cancellieri, hence putting the match to bed.

It will be interesting to see how the older and more mature version of Niang will fare in Italian football.

Top (Achievement): Ciro Immobile

With a clinical strike against Cagliari, Ciro Immobile broke his way into a truly elite club. The Lazio captain now has 200 Serie A goals to his name.

This is yet another feat that adds to the growing list of achievements of arguably the most consistent Serie A striker over the past decade, even if his heyday now appears to be in the rearview mirror.

Top (Assist): Rafael Leao

While he couldn’t break his 15-match goal drought, Rafael Leao still managed to lead Milan towards a valuable win over Napoli with a breathtaking assist to Theo Hernandez, one that effortlessly unlocked the Partenopei defenses.

Is there a better left-flank duo in world football at the moment?

Top (Goal): Charles De Ketelaere

Round 24 spoiled us with a host of wonderful strikes, and three of them ensued in the exciting contest at the Luigi Ferraris. Yet, it’s Charles De Ketelaere who gets the nod for his jaw-dropping finish.

The Milan flop is gradually becoming a genuine candidate for the Serie A MVP award.

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