After earning a labored win at the expense of their Southern rivals Napoli, the exultant Juventus fans were hoping to enjoy their status as league leaders for a bit longer than a mere 24 hours. Nevertheless, these aspirations were torched after 45 minutes of football at the Giuseppe Meazza, with Inter sending yet another letter of intent regarding their uncompromising Scudetto ambitions. Elsewhere, it was another chaotic affair in the Italian capital, while Atalanta and Milan stole with a thrilling affair in showdown. So let’s review the most interesting events of the Serie A weekend while identifying the Tops and Flops of Round 15.
Top (Player): Federico Gatti
Although we had other standout displays this weekend (including Ademola Lookman and Joshua Zirkzee who bagged braces), Federico Gatti is simply the man of the hour in Serie A.
For the second weekend in a row, Juventus owe their victory to the former bricklayer. Last week, he smashed home the 94th-minute winner against Monza. This time around, he rose above his marker to nod home the goal that proved to be the solitary difference in the most elemental Serie A contest of Round 15.
Aside from his new-found knack for scoring decisive goals, the Italian was also unyielding at the back, playing a vital role in keeping Napoli’s golden duo Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia relatively quiet.
Gatti’s meteoric rise from amateur obscurity to top-flight stardom has to be the ultimate feel-good story of the year in Calcio.
Flop (Player): Khvicha Kvaratskhelia
Speaking of the devil, Kvaratkhelia confirmed his out-of-sorts status by emerging as the ultimate culprit in Napoli’s agonizing defeat in Turin.
In the first haf, Osimhen teed up the Georgian who found himself one-on-one against Wojciech Szczesny while having enough time and space to inflict the damage.
Last season’s Kvara would have certainly buried this one. Yet, the imposter donning the Number 77 jersey sent it high and wide, at a time when the Walter Mazzarri’s side can ill-afford such costly mistakes.
Will the real Kvaratskhelia show up anytime soon?
Top (Manager): Raffaele Palladino
In earnest, this was far from being Monza’s best display during Raffaele Palladino’s reign. Yet, this team continues to evolve under the guidance of the former Juventus forward so much that they’re no longer considered an underdog, but a force to be reckoned with on the Italian scene.
In Round 15, the Biancorossi bested new Serie A boys Genoa thanks to a late strike from Dany Mota, one that depicted the type of free-flowing football that has been on display since Palladino’s promotion to the first team.
Flop (Manager): Maurizio Sarri
This season, Lazio have become experts in squandering easy points. Astonishingly, they did again in Round 15 after taking the lead in the first half against Serie A strugglers Verona.
Yet, Thomas Henry capitalized on some shaky defending to draw his side level. And even when the Gialloblu fell to 10-man following Ondrej Duda’s dismissal, the capital side still couldn’t snatch a winner.
Moreover, Maurizio Sarri showcased his tactical rigidity by refusing to change his tactical setup even when his side could afford to introduce an additional forward.
The Tuscan manager will have to turn the tide in his favor before the situation at Formello descends into chaos.
Top (Team): Inter
For the second week in a row, Inter left their rivals watching in horror with another show of force. After pummeling Napoli by three goals last weekend, the Serie A leaders dismantled Udinese with four unanswered strikes in Round 15.
The rampant Nerazzurri were simply unstoppable, with Hakan Calhanoglu pulling the strings in the middle of the park, Federico Dimarco flying on the wings, Henrikh Mkhitaryan displaying his magic, and Lautaro Martinez bagging goals for fun.
While it remains too early to envision how the Scudetto race will play out, it would take an enormous effort from Juventus to topple Simone Inzaghi’s high-flying team.
Flop (Team): Udinese
We can understand the great adversity that accompanies the trip to Milano, but we still expected a slightly more determined effort from Udinese.
Instead, Gabriele Cioffi’s men offered little to nothing in the final third, while mentally collapsing after conceding the opener from the spot.
Top (Goalkeeper): Wojciech Szczesny
As we explained above, this is Federico Gatti’s world and we’re just living in it. Yet, not even the rising star defender can do it all by himself.
So thankfully for the Old Lady, Wojciech Szczesny stepped to the plate and earned his clean sheet with a phenomenal reaction save on Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo.
The Pole certainly made Gatti proud.
Top to Flop: Romelu Lukaku
From hero to villain and back again. This pretty much summarizes Romelu Lukaku’s career.
But sometimes, the Belgian giant’s fortunes can dramatically alter in the duration of the match, as evidenced by his eventful evening against Fiorentina.
The Roma striker broke the deadlock in the first half by directing a spectacular ball from Paulo Dybala to goal.
But when José Mourinho desperately needed the services of every man on the pitch to preserve the result following Nicola Zalewski’s dismissal, Lukaku made the situation even more dire by committing one of the nastiest sliding tackles of the season on Christian Kouamé, thus leaving Roma with two-man down!
Kudos to the Giallorossi for somehow surviving this folly and escaping with a 1-1 draw.
Top (Super-Sub): Thomas Henry
Perhaps Luis Muriel delivered the more splendid goal after coming off the bench, but Thomas Henry has now pulled off vital equalizers for Verona in back-to-back fixtures, subsequently saving Marco Baroni’s job and raising the morale in the Gialloblu camp.
We shall see if the Frenchman will now earn a starting berth or maintain his super-sub status.
Top (Match): Atalanta vs Milan
While a section of Serie A fans was left disappointed by the timid action at the Allianz Stadium on Friday night, the Calcio gods certainly made up for it with a nerve-racking contest in Bergamo.
Atalanta were arguably the better side and could have opened the scoring if it wasn’t for Charles De Ketelaere taking his former teammates off the hook with a shocking miss.
Yet, Lookman had no mercy upon the visitors, bagging an exquisite brace. While the Rossoneri managed to pounce on weak defending to equalize twice, Luis Muriel came in as a late subsitute to settle the thriller with an outrageous backheel in the 95th minute, at a time when Milan went down to 10-man as their captain Davide Calabria had received his marching orders.
A Lombardian Derby to remember.
Flop (Match): Frosinone vs Torino
Italian football fans were anticipating a more capitvating contest in Sunday’s early kickoff, but Frosinone and Torino appeared content to share the spoils at the end of a dull stalemate.
The two sets of fans will be asking for improved displays in the coming weeks, expecially the ambitious Granata faithful.
Top (Assist): Antonio Candreva
Between Mkhitaryan’s delicious one-touch pass to Marcus Thuram and Dybala’s neat cross with the outside of the foot, we definitely have several sublime assists to choose from.
But in the end, Antonio Candreva’s fabulous two touches that put Simy through on goal get the nod, even though it changed little in the narrative, with Salernitana suffering a 1-2 defeat at home against the high-flying Bologna.
Top (Goal): Luis Muriel
Similar to the assist section, we had at least four Golazos that deserve mentions in Serie A Round 15. For instance, Lautaro Martinez almost tore off the net with a long-range rocket.
However, this ultimately went down to two backheel goals that are equally-georgous.
But despite the elegance of Mattia Zaccagni’s touch, Muriel’s goal was just both vile and glorious.
Top (Moment): Pavoletti Scores Last-Second Winner
Although they don’t play the most progrssive brand of football, Claudio Ranieri’s Cagliari is a gift from the Calcio heavens.
The Isolani have once again pulled off an incredible come-form-behind victory, scoring twice in added time to turn the result upside-down against 10-man Sassuolo.
At the end of the day, we could have chose this one as the best encounter of the weekend, Leonardo Pavoletti the Top super-sub, while his overhead kick is certainly worthy of the goal of the weekend.
However, we simply decided to added it all in one package while leaving some spots for the rest of the field.
What a game! What a league!
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