When the Derby d’Italia is on display, this fixture inevitably dwarves all the rest in terms of anticipation and prestige, and that’s before we even mention how it pitted the two main Scudetto contenders against one another. Nevertheless, this weekend’s action served as a fresh reminder of why Calcio fans must keep their eyes on all fixtures rather than limiting their interest to the flagship contests, as it was the less glamorous matches that delivered the goodies as is often the case. So let’s review the events of another fun weekend in Italian football while enlisting the Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 13.
Top (Player): Paulo Dybala
Perhaps it wasn’t exactly a vintage Paulo Dybala performance, but the lack of top-notch individual displays in Serie A Round 13 sees the Argentine getting the nod in this one.
While Udinese defenders did well to limit La Joya’s danger, he still proved to be instrumental in Roma’s 3-1 win, first by delivering a sublime assist from a freekick for Gianluca Mancini’s winner and then restoring his side’s lead with a clever run followed by a clinical finish.
A bit less spectacular than usual, but as influential as ever.
Flop (Player): Luka Jovic
With Olivier Giroud serving a suspension, this was Luka Jovic’s golden chance to make a case for himself at Milan. However, the Serbian failed to capitalize on the opportunity with the goal at this mercy, ensuring that Fiorentina did not regret sending him packing in the summer.
Luckily for the Rossoneri, Theo Hernandez’s spot-kick proved sufficient, which saved him further blushes, but it was still a wasted opportunity on the striker’s behalf.
Top (Coach): Walter Mazzarri
More than ten years following his last match in the Napoli dugout, Walter Mazzarri was hellbent on marking his return with a win, despite facing a tough task in Bergamo.
This wasn’t Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli quite yet, but the team certainly displayed signs of improvement, particularly on the morale level.
The Partenopei took the lead in the first half but seemed to have lost their drive after the break, with the momentum shifting in Atalanta’s favor, especially following the equalizer.
Nevertheless, Mazzarri made the right changes at the right time, and three of his substitutes (Cajuste, Osimhen and Elmas) combined to score the winner.
So kudos to the returning manager for adding charisma, character and some tactical awareness which at times felt missing during his predecessor’s short term.
Flop (Coach): Gian Piero Gasperini
While Mazzarri had the courage to pull some aces out of his sleeve, Gian Piero Gasperini was too hesitant in the opposite dugout.
La Dea were the better side in the second half, with the team crying for a centre-forward who can finalize the chances. Yet, the Atalanta gaffer only introduced Luis Muriel and Gianluca Scamacca in the 83rd minute after finding himself trailing in the scoreline again.
Moreover, instead of adding bodies up front, the introduction of the striking duo came at the expense of fellow attackers Charles De Ketelaere and Ademola Lookman, meaning that Gasperini refused to take risks even when he ought to be desperate for a goal.
Top (Team): Salernitana
Since the arrival of Filippo Inzaghi, the positive signs have been there for Salernitana, but they finally managed to earn their maiden Serie A win of the season in Round 13, and what a win that was!
Lazio took the lead thanks to a somewhat fortunate spot kick from Ciro Immobile, but the home side found the strength to pull off a stunning comeback led by Grigoris Kostanos and the ageless Antonio Candreva who wrong-footed Ivan Provedel with a long-range scorcher.
The Granata remain stuck at the bottom of the table, but they are no strangers to remarkable relegation escapes.
Flop (Team): Lazio
After giving credit where credit is due (aka Salernitana), one can only wonder how and why Lazio have been reduced to a mid-table side with a knack for self-destruct after finishing as runners-up last season (many would start with the departure of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic).
Maurizio Sarri appears to be losing the plot in the capital, as squandering the lead against the side that resides last in the table is simply inexcusable.
Top (Goalkeeper): Mike Maignan
In the absence of Giroud and Leao, Theo delivered the winner from the spot, but it was Mike Maignan who emerged as the ultimate hero with a couple of world-class saves, including one deep into added time.
The Frenchman’s superb display in Round 13 once again consolidates his status as the consensus best goalkeeper in Serie A.
Flop (Goalkeeper): Ivan Provedel
Aside from Maignan’s heroics, this wasn’t exactly the best weekend for Serie A goalkeepers. Genoa’s Josep Martinez should have done better on Matias Soulé’s shot, while Marco Carnesecchi gifted Napoli the winner with a poor play.
Nevertheless, Ivan Provedel receives the unceremonious mention for failing to deny Candreva’s long-range effort. While the veteran winger certainly added a curling effect to it, the Lazio custodian was still expected to deny a shot that landed in the middle of his goal.
Top (Match): Empoli vs Sassuolo
With seven goals shared between the sides, back-and-forth action, and some fabulous shots from Domenico Berardi, the battle between Empoli and Sassuolo was simply a crowd-pleaser for the Serie A hipsters who made sure to mark this one on their Round 13 schedule.
When the dust finally settled, it was the Neroverdi who prevailed by four goals to three.
Flop (Match): Juventus vs Inter
While regular Italian football fanatics were hardly surprised by how this one unfolded, a casual fan might have expected a bit more from a meeting that pitted the two league leaders against one another, not to mention their eternal rivalry.
But after a decent first half that saw both sides scoring, Massimiliano Allegri and Simone Inzaghi were all too pleased with the lukewarm action in the second period that maintained the status quo on top of the league standings.
This Cold War is yet to reach its climax.
Top (Goal): Ruslan Malinovskyi
For the second round in a row, poor Stefano Turati is on the receiving end of the Goal of the Week. But while some felt he was to blame for Federico Dimarco’s show-stopper from 56 meters, there was nothing he could do this time around.
Now the likes of Berardi, Soulé and Candreva all deserve a mention, but Genoa’s Ruslan Malinovskyi routed the competition in Round 13 with an absolutely insane strike that sailed into the top corner, reminding Serie A fans of some of the superb goals he delivered during his time at Atalanta.
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