Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 19: Napoli Hit Rock Bottom, Inter and Juventus Escape Unscathed

In what felt like a blink of an eye, the Serie A campaign has now reached the halfway line, but not before yielding yet another spectacular weekend filled with chaos, drama, and some inevitable controversy. Inter and Juventus maintained the status quo on top by collecting wins, but Verona and Salernitana certainly made them sweat for it. However, the most striking event of the weekend was Napoli’s appalling fall at the hands of Torino. As you would expect, the Partenopei and the Granata will dominate the entrees when we enlist the Tops and Flops from Serie A Round 19.

Top (Player): Alessandro Buongiorno

In fairness, it’s hard to pick up any marquee individual display from the Italian weekend. Still, Alessandro Buogiorno edged as close as possible to what could be deemed a perfect outing for a central defender.

The Italy international was solid as a rock at the back for Torino who annihilated Napoli in the absence of Victor Osimhen. He managed to keep the likes of Giacomo Raspadori and Giovanni Simeone quiet all evening before crowning his display by nodding home the third goal.

Slowly but surely, the 25-year-old is establishing himself as one of the most reliable defenders in Serie A.

Flop (Player): Pasquale Mazzocchi

Unfortunately for Pasquale Mazzocchi, his dream debut for his beloved Napoli turned into a nightmare in less than four minutes.

Walter Mazzarri introduced the new signing in the second half as a replacement for Piotr Zielinski while the team was trailing by a single goal.

But instead of tending to the Partenopei’s wounds, he condemned them to defeat by earning his marching orders for extremely high studs that caught Valentino Lazaro’s knee.

The former Salernitana man will be eager to rectify his mistake and prove his worth for Napoli, but you only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Top (Manager): Stefano Pioli

For the sake of variety, we’ll cast Torino coach Ivan Juric aside and focus on Stefano Pioli who guided Milan towards a 3-0 win over Empoli at the Carlo Castellani Stadium.

The Rossoneri manager seems to pull a rabbit out of the hat every time the axe approaches his neck. Amidst the current injury crisis, the 58-year-old resorted to the Primavera to bolster his ranks with a host of promising youngsters who are proving to be an added value to the squad, the likes of Chaka Traorè, Jan-Carlo Simic, and Alex Jimenez.

So kudos to Pioli for managing to weather the storm and keep the ship afloat despite facing major obstacles.

Flop (Manager): Walter Mazzarri

One would feel for Walter Mazzarri who could only watch haplessly from the stands while his team was getting dissected by his former club Torino.

That being said, the experienced tactician hasn’t offered anything since taking over from Rudi Garcia in November. On the contrary, one might argue that Napoli have regressed while swiftly descending towards the abyss.

Following, Mazzocchi’s dismissal, the defending champions never stood a chance, but they were already being dominated prior to the incident, posing further questions over Mazzarri’s uninspiring second reign in the Southern metropolis.

Top (Team): Torino

After demolishing the reigning champions by three goals to nil – regardless of the circumstances – it’s really difficult to overlook Torino.

The Granata haven’t been the most exciting side this season, but they currently sit in a comfortable spot right in the middle of the Serie A table, while Juric is beginning to adopt a more gutsy approach by unleashing two strikers in the shape of Duvan Zapata and Antonio Sanarbia, supported by Nikola Vlasic.

As the Neapolitans would testify, this attacking unit can inflict damage on any given Sunday.

Flop (Team): Napoli

While many among us expected Napoli to struggle in their attempts to replicate last season’s historic feat, few had envisioned this rapid and spectacular fall from grace.

Six months following their exhilarating triumph, only a few traces remain of the team that splashed the competition out of the water last season, like the Scudetto badge and the players’ names at the back of the jerseys, even if the likes of Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Piotr Zielinski have now become unrecognizable.

With Victor Osimhen and Zambo-Anguissa away in Africa, it’s difficult to see the situation dramatically improving in the coming weeks. But at least Napoli can comfort themselves knowing that it could hardly get any worse,

Top (Goalkeeper): Andrea Consigli

In earnest, Andrea Consigli could have cost Sassuolo a late equalizer against Fiorentina with an ill-advised sortie.

But on a weekend when we didn’t witness standout displays from custodians, his top-notch save on Giacomo Bonaventura’s penalty was enough to get him the nod, especially since it secured a timely win for the struggling Emilians.

Flop (Goalkeeper): Lorenzo Montipo

Likewise, no Serie A goalkeeper had an absolute stinker in Round 19.

Yet, Lorenzo Montipo should have done better to parry away Nicolò Barella’s low drive. Instead, he tried to hold on to it, so he ended up unintentionally setting up the easiest of winners for Davide Frattesi in what was a chaotic affair between Inter and Verona.

Top (Duo): Dany Mota & Valentin Carboni

On Saturday afternoon, Dany Mota and Valentin Carboni led Monza towards a 3-2 victory at the expense of Frosinone away from home.

The Portuguese striker and Argentine teenager formed a deadly attacking partnership. The latter provided the assist for the former on the opener, and then it was vice versa on the second goal.

Either man could have been selected as the Top player of the Serie A weekend, but it was only right that we combine them in one section.

Top (Match): Inter vs Verona

If this encounter is anything to go by, then it promises to be a gloriously chaotic year in Calcio, When Lautaro Martinez scored the opener in the first half, many of us expected it to be a routine Déjà vu win for the Serie A leaders at the expense of their struggling visitors.

But boy we were wrong!

Thomas Henry consolidated himself as the ultimate poacher by directing the ball goalwards with his body for the equalizer.

Simone Inzahgi’s men launched a major onslaught late on, and it ended up with Frattesi celebrating an injury-time winner in his undies (just add an extra spice to the occasion).

But wait, there was more to it. Barella and Alexis Sanchez wasted a comical chance to add another goal while the goalkeeper was on the other end of the pitch. Yet, it didn’t matter, as VAR called the referee for a review and he then awarded a spot kick for Verona, but Henry took Inter off the hook by hitting the post.

Oh, and let’s not even dwell on the fact that referee Michael Fabbri and VAR Luigi Nasca will be demoted for their blunders, including missing Alessandro Bastoni’s elbow on Ondrej Duda in the buildup to Frattesi’s winner.

All in all, just another normal day at the Meazza.

Top to Flop: Giuglio Maggiore

When Giuglio Maggiore ended a wonderful Salernitana team play by scoring the opening goal against Juventus, the enchanted midfielder would have imagined that this would be his special night.

But little did he know at the time that his side would eventually leave the pitch empty-handed, and even worse, he would be the main culprit behind the defeat.

The 25-year-old committed a late challenge on Adrien Rabiot to earn himself a second yellow card, and this is how his first-half heroics were all undone.

Maggiore’s dismissal was the spark that the Bianconeri needed to turn the result upside-down and return home with three valuable points in the bag.

Top (Debut): Dean Huijsen

Speaking of Juventus, here’s a young man who might enjoy a long and successful career in Turin, granted that the club puts the type of trust that José Mourinho is showing in him at the moment.

The Roma boss gave the 18-year-old his club debut just one day after completing a loan move to the Italian capital, and the Dutchman certainly proved his worth with a solid and composed second-half display.

Flop (Debut):Pasquale Mazzocchi

Enough said above.

Top (Assist): Christian Pulisic

Kudos to Christian Pulisic who ran from one end of the pitch to the other before unselfishly laying the ball in Traorè’s path who did well to score the third for Milan and subsequently open his Serie A account.

Top (Goal): Abdou Harroui

Amidst the lack of Golazos this weekend, Abdou Harroui’s run and powerful strike that beat Alessandro Sorrentino at his near post is arguably the pick of the bunch, even if it wasn’t enough to prevent a home defeat for Frosinone.

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