Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 22: Milik Impedes Juventus, Thriller at San Siro

Following Inter’s triumphant return from Riyadh along with their three conquered Super Cup foes, Serie A action resumed as normal this week with a full schedule. Speaking of the Nerazzurri, It was another glorious weekend for Simone Inzaghi’s men who regained the top spot with a razor-tight victory in Florence, taking advantage of Juve’s unexpected slip against Empoli. The two arch-rivals collide in a Scudetto showdown next Sunday, but for now, let’s recap the action from Serie A Round 22 while identifying the best performers of the weekend, as well as the least inspiring.

Top (Player): Charles De Ketelaere

Admittedly, this Serie A weekend didn’t witness a supreme individual display that we can mark as the undisputed best performance of Round 22. Mateo Retegui has a case thanks to a goal and an assist that turned the tide in Genoa’s favor against Lecce, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored a brace, albeit it wasn’t enough to clinch the three points for Milan.

However, we chose Charles De Ketelaere, who’s gradually erasing last season’s disappointing memories and showcasing the immense talent that Paolo Maldini and Ricky Massara vigorously chased throughout the summer of 2022.

The Belgian is seemingly improving with every fresh outing at Atalanta. On Saturday, he led the Orobici to victory by providing two assists for Aleksei Miranchuk and Gianluca Scamacca in the 2-0 win over Udinese, making a case for himself as one of the most influential second strikers in the league this season.

Flop (Player): Arkadiusz Milik

While a section of Juventus fans are cursing Max Allegri’s name for picking Arkadiusz Milik ahead of Kenan Yildiz, it’s difficult to blame the tactician for the Pole’s madness.

The former Napoli striker lost possession with a heavy touch and was thus overzealous in his attempt to make amends by retrieving it as swiftly as possible, which culminated with him causing much larger damage, to say the least.

Milik lunged into Alberto Cerri with his studs showing, prompting his dismissal at the 18th minute following a VAR review. The 29-year-old impeded the Bianconeri who were looking to pick up three routine points at the expense of the struggling Empoli.

The two points that Allegri’s men dropped in the 1-1 draw could prove extremely costly in the Scudetto “Cops and Robbers” chase.

Top (Manager): Alberto Gilardino

Despite their impressive home record, Genoa headed to the interval trailing by one goal in their encounter against Lecce at the Luigi Ferrari. Nevertheless, the Grifone turned the result upside-down in the second period to earn a 2-1 home.

However, Alberto Gilardino was far from an idle spectator on the sidelines.

The 2006 World Cup winner pulled off a tactical tweak that certainly paid dividends, introducing Ekuban alongside Retegui while employing Albert Gudmundsson as an attacking midfielder behind the attacking duo who both managed to put their names on the scoresheet.

Gilardino surely deserves more credit for his proficient work in the Port City, even if it’s not always sweet to the eyes.

Flop (Manager): Alessio Dionisi

For what feels like the umpteenth time, Sassuolo hardly had any answers in the absence of their talisman Domenico Berardi, as they succumbed to defeat at the hands of their hosts Monza courtesy of Andrea Colpani’s solitary strike.

Despite trailing for the majority of the match, the Neroverdi were scarcely able to forge a memorable chance, as Alessio Dionisi once again failed to find a winning recipe that doesn’t include his main star.

Astonishingly, only a single point separates Sassuolo from the bottom three spots at the moment, as their campaign continues to slip towards the abyss.

Top (Team): Atalanta

Not so long ago, many of us were ready to announce the end of Atalanta’s golden age, believing that the Bargemese are inevitably redescending into mid-table obscurity.

Yet, Gian Piero Gasperini still has a few tricks up his sleeve, and the Goddess is once again defying the odds by leading the Top 4 race at the expense of supposedly better-equipped sides like Roma and defending champions Napoli (who weren’t even supposed to be in this particular race).

Flop (Teams): Lazio & Napoli

While we usually pick one for this unceremonious spot, Lazio and Napoli were almost equally miserable in what unfolded into a regrettable affair for everyone who tuned in,

Neither side was genuinely seeking a positive result, so the duo were seemingly happy to share the spoils at the expense of the despairing crows at the Stadio Olimpico and the millions watching at home.

Top (Goalkeeper): Stefano Turati

For the second week running, Stefano Turati is our best goalkeeper of the round. The Frosinone shot-stopper denied Ondrej Duda from the spot – which was a surprisingly common trend in Round 22 – before conceding from the second penalty kick awarded to Verona.

Nevertheless, the Inter youth product kept his composure and did well to keep his team in the match with a string of fine saves, helping the Canarini secure a valuable away point in a direct relegation showdown.

Flop (Goalkeeper): Vanja Milinkovic-Savic

On his day, Vanja Milinkovic-Savic is an absolute beast between the sticks. However, the Serbian isn’t exactly renowned for his consistency, but instead ends up delivering shaky displays every now and then.

This proved to be the case on Friday night when the Granata custodian seemed uncertain on many occasions, and eventually misjudged Nicola Viola’s curler, allowing it to sneak into the net unattended.

Luckily for the big man, that blunder wasn’t enough to cost Torino who prevailed in Sardinia by two goals to one over their hosts Cagliari.

Serie A Heroes: “Roar of Thunder” Gigi Riva, the Pride of Cagliari

Top (Match): Milan vs Bologna

While Milan fans returned home disappointed, the neutrals certainly enjoyed the thrilling action at San Siro on Saturday night.

From Bologna taking the lead to Milan wasting two spot-kicks through Olivier Giroud and Theo Hernandez, this clash witnessed several tweaks and turns, culminating with a last-gasp equalizer for the hosts following a VAR review that awarded them a penalty.

Loftus-Cheek was the ultimate star of the show with his first brace for the club, but eventually, his two goals were only worth a single point.

Flop (Match): Lazio vs Napoli

Instead of wasting more time dwelling on this forgettable affair, we’ll refer you to the paragraph above. If you haven’t watched this snoozefest, then count yourself lucky.

Flop (Debut): Filippo Terracciano

Sadly for Filippo Terracciano, his dream Milan debut almost immediately transcended into a nightmare. Only a few minutes following his introduction, the young defender gave away a penalty kick by pulling the shirt of Victor Kristiansen, which cost the Rossoneri two valuable points.

Better days are ahead for the 20-year-old, but this blemishing incident will be tough to shake off anytime soon

Top (Super-Sub): Tommaso Baldanzi

For the majority of the match, a lifeless Empoli were struggling to put 10-man Juventus in trouble and even fell behind on the scoresheet when Dusan Vlahovic poached the opener.

Luckily for Davide Nicola, he has a winning card on the dugout in the shape of Tommaso Baldanzi. The young attacking midfielder stirred the pot in the final third almost instantly, and dragged the Tuscans back with a clever finish, placing his shot past a sea of Bianconeri defenders before creeping into the bottom corner of the stranded Wojciech Szczesny.

The Italian might also have a claim for a last-second winner but was left furious when the official blasted the final whistle just before he aimed his shot towards the empty net.

Flop (Not-So-Super-Sub): Nicolas Gonzalez

Contrary to Baldanzi, here’s a substitute who failed to derail the momentum of a Scudetto contender. Beloved Nico Gonzalez made his return to injury in the second half against Inter much to the delight of the purple army in the stands.

But instead of claiming the equalizer from the spot, the Argentine ill-advisedly opted for the much-maligned “Jorginho technique: against Yann Sommer (who had proved how immune he is to this particular ploy in the two famous World Cup qualifiers between Italy and Switzerland).

In a weekend packed with missed penalty kicks, this one has to be the ultimate worst delivery, and certainly the most impactful considering its significance to the title race.

Flop: Penalty Takers

In Round 22, five players failed to convert their chances from the spot (Milan’s Giroud and Hernandez, Fiorentina’s Gonzalez, Lecce’s Krstovic and Verona’s Duda).

If it wasn’t for Hakan Calhanoglu and his seemingly impeccable technique, the season’s penalty average would have plummeted even further.

Flop: Italian Sports Justice

Last week, we lamented the anti-racism protocol for failing to implement meaningful measures to tackle this plague.

In Round 22, the absurd scene of the weekend ensued at the Stadio Olimpico (yes during THAT forgettable match).

After aiming racist abuse towards Roma striker Romelu Lukaku during the Derby della Capitale, sports justice sentenced Lazio’s Curva Nord to a one-match ban.

But while the Curva was indeed shut, the Ultras who usually man this section of the stands simply decided to move to the middle section along with their renowned banners and cheer their team (and abuse the opposition) as normal.

Justice served!

Top (Goal): Caleb Ekuban

Ekuban came off the bench to produce this fabulous acrobatic winner for Genoa against Lecce.

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