By the end of the season, perhaps we’ll look all the way back to this weekend when pinpointing the time when the two-horse Scudetto race was unraveled. While Juventus and Inter picked up routine (albeit hard-fought) wins at home, we may have seen the title challenges of Napoli and Milan reach their premature ends right in front of our eyes. So let’s revisit the most compelling events of an interesting weekend that witnessed a Derby in the capital and a wonder goal at San Siro in our Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 12.
Top (Player): Nicola Sansone
Following his second-half introduction, Nicola Sansone only needed seven minutes to spark a stunning Lecce comeback against Milan at the Via del Mare.
The hosts were trailing by two goals with Stefano Pioli’s side coasting towards victory. Nevertheless, the 32-year-old latched into the ball to score his team’s first, before providing the assist for Lameck Banda who pulled off the equalizer.
Admittedly, there was a lack of marquee displays in Round 12, so the veteran’s memorable cameo was enough to cement him as the best performer in Serie A this weekend.
Flop (Player): Gvidas Gineitis
Similar to Sansone, Gvidas Gineitis left his mark on the match after coming off the bench. But unfortunately for the young Torino midfielder, this wasn’t the type of impact he was hoping for.
The 19-year-old’s blunder allowed Andrea Colpani to score Monza’s equalizer and raise his tally to an immensely impressive six goals.
The Lithuanian will certainly learn from his mistake, but Ivan Juric could be reluctant to trust him anytime soon.
Top (Coach): Aurelio Andreazzoli
There’s something about Napoli that evokes the best version of Aurelio Andreazzoli. The veteran tactician has done a solid job since making his return to Empoli, with the club’s results and performances both taking a turn for the better.
But few had envisioned the struggling Tuscans prevailing against the reigning Italian champions at the Maradona Stadium.
Yet the 70-year-old somehow managed to lead the Azzurri towards his stunning victory, registering his fifth win in six fixtures against the Partenopei.
This has to be one of the most absurd records in Calcio.
Flop (Coach): Rudi Garcia
Speaking of peculiar records, Napoli are already 10 points behind the league leaders with their title defense crumbling before it even begins.
Perhaps it’s not all Rudi Garcia’s fault as we argued a few weeks ago, but the Frenchman certainly isn’t doing himself any favors with his awkward team selection and tactical tinkering.
With the international break around the corner, most managers unleashed their best line-ups. Nevertheless, Garcia opted to shift to a new tactical setup (4-2-3-1) while starting with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Piotr Zielinski and Natan on the bench.
Sadly for the former Roma man, his ploy spectacularly backfired.
Napoli failed to break the deadlock despite several glorious chances before conceding a deadly goal in added time.
We may have seen the last of Garcia in the Southern metropolis.
Top (Team): Inter
On paper, the Scudetto favorites beating a newly promoted club at home by two unanswered goals might be the most tedious story of the week.
But those who have been paying attention to Frosinone’s radiant Serie A campaign would certainly know that Inter have just managed to overcome a tricky test in Round 12.
This is the sort of result that affirms the club’s status as the ultimate team to beat in Serie A this season.
Flop (Team): Milan
Perhaps Napoli were equally deserving of this unceremonious mention since they were defeated at home, but squandering a two-goal lead yet again must surely burn even worse.
Following their grand midweek win over Paris Saint-Germain, grabbing the three points at the Via del Mare would have revitalized Milan’s bizarre campaign.
But at some point during the second half, Stefano Pioli’s men pressed the self-destruct button, allowing Lecce to mount a memorable comeback and even score a winner if it wasn’t for a highly controversial VAR interference.
In conclusion, mental issues continue to plague Milan’s campaign.
Top (Goalkeeper): Etrit Berisha
While Viktor Kovalenko delivered the Knockout punch, Empoli wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for a string of heroic saves from their goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
The Albanian was a man-possessed, denying almost certain goals from Matteo Politano Zambo Anguissa and Kvaratskhelia.
Top (Match): Lecce vs Milan
For what feels like the umpteenth time this season, Italian football has reminded us that matches are never over before the final whistle, even when a giant club holds a two-goal cushion over a smaller side.
Lecce completed a remarkable comeback to earn a point. Yet, they still felt hard done at the end of the encounter as Roberto Piccoli’s wonderful strike was ruled out for what was a non-existent foul in many people’s eyes.
Flop (Match): Lazio vs Roma
While Premier League fans were on the edge of their seats watching an eight-goal thriller between Chelsea and Man City, loyal Serie A fanatics were enduring a dull stalemate. Sadly, the Derby della Capitale was contested by two clubs who felt relieved after avoiding a defeat that neither could afford.
Curiously, the pre-match war of words between Maurizio Sarri and José Mourinho turned out to be the most exciting chapter of the whole Derby weekend in the Eternal City.
At the final whistle, the two veteran managers were all smiles while hugging it out, as if to acknowledge that the whole press conference quibble was a mere charade to hype up what was always destined to be a forgettable affair.
Top to Flop: Olivier Giroud
Olivier Giroud’s outing in Lecce began by showcasing his killer instinct and directing the ball towards goal by simply meeting Theo Hernandez’s cross with his body. It’s all about the timing and the angle.
Nevertheless, the Frenchman would have never thought that an afternoon that started on a high note would end in a vastly disappointing fashion.
The veteran striker lost his nerve in the final minutes, earning himself a second yellow card for dissent.
Lecce capitalized on their numerical advantage to score a goal that was later disallowed, much to the relief of the 37-year-old whose guilt would have been even greater had Piccoli’s winner stood.
Top (Goal): Federico Dimarco
As legendary rock band Depeche Mode states in their iconic hit Enjoy the Silence: “Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm.”
So we’re just going to drop the video below and let you take it all in.
🚨 Goal of the Year candidate
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) November 13, 2023
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