Whenever the Derby d’Italia is on display, you can always expect this heated battle to dominate the headlines in the lead-up to the Serie A matchday. Add the Scudetto tag to the equation, and you get a headliner that dwarves the rest of the weekend fixtures. But as is often the case, these monumental fixtures tend to fall short of the grand expectations, and this was certainly the case in the showdown between Inter and Juventus that transpired into a tepid affair. Nevertheless, Calcio fanatics know better than to overlook the rest of the fixtures, with several yielding spectacular outcomes. So let’s recap the good, bad and ugly in the tops and flops from Serie A Round 23.
Top (Player): Charles De Ketelaere
For the second week in a row, Charles De Ketelaere is our Top Player. As we mentioned last time out, the Belgian is seemingly growing with every outing, and he proved it once more with a clinical showing against Lazio who had no answer for his neat movement and top-notch finishing.
The former Milan player instigated the opener for La Dea before scoring the second from the spot and then put the match to bed by completing a personal brace.
The 22-year-old was arguably the biggest flop of the previous Serie A campaign, but this term, we’re witnessing the mother of all rebounds.
Honorary Mention: Hakan Calhanoglu
Since we didn’t have a clear Flop this time around, we’ll take the opportunity to salute Hakan Calhanoglu for a masterclass display in the Derby d’Italia.
The Turkiye international ran the show in the middle of the park, winning his personal duel against Manuel Locatelli with ease. He managed to pick up his teammates with a string of sublime passes which could have prompted a larger result than the slim 1-0 win, but the Nerazzurri were at times wasteful in front of goal.
The 29-year-old has now reached the pinnacle of his playing career, and he might just be the finest deep-lying playmaker in football at the moment.
Top (Manager): Roberto D’Aversa
The battle between Lecce and Fiorentina at the Via del Mare was one of the most thrilling contests of the Serie A campaign.
But let’s pay tribute to Roberto D’Aversa who has been producing a solid job since taking over the Giallorossi in the summer, even if the results went south in recent months.
With his team down by two goals to one, the Lecce manager made courageous moves, introducing an extra striker in the shape of Roberto Piccoli and replacing Antonino Gallo with 19-year-old Patrick Dorgu at left-back.
In a stunning turn of events, Piccoli nodded home the equalizer in the 90th minute, and two minutes later, Dorgu scored the winner with a lovely top-corner finish, showing composure beyond his tender years.
Everything D’Aversa touched turned to gold on Friday night.
Flop (Manager): Massimiliano Allegri
As many of us had suspected, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri opted for an ultra-cautious approach as he tried to negotiate his way to victory in a crucial battle against his Scudetto rivals.
Admittedly, Inter arguably possess a stronger line-up, and they were playing at home after all.
However, inviting the Nerazzurri to attack you for the entirety of the match was always going to be a perilous gameplay.
Moreso, when Federico Gatti placed the ball in his own net, Allegri refused to take risks, at least not before it was too late. For instance, he opted to drop Kenan Yildiz to bring in Federico Chiesa rather than unleashing the exciting duo side-by-side.
All in all, Juventus and their manager hardly offered a serious declaration of intent when it comes to challenging for the Scudetto.
Top (Team): Roma
In the closing curtain of Round 23, Roma registered their third win in as many Serie A fixtures since Daniele De Rossi’s appointment, this time thrashing Cagliari in style. The hapless Sardinians had no answer as Paulo Dybala and Lorenzo Pellegrini ran wild at the Olimpico. The Monday night encounter ended in a 4-0 rooting.
Whether it’s the new manager’s temporary effect or has the legendary captain truly unlocked the best version of the squad at his disposal, only time will tell.
But in the meantime, the hungry Giallorossi faithful ought to enjoy the team’s vastly improved performances.
Flop (Team): Lazio
In order to balance things out in the Eternal City, a catastrophic result has befallen on Lazio. It’s just how the cruel Roman gods roll.
Maurizio Sarri’s men were completely outplayed by De Ketelaere and company in a direct clash between two Champions League contenders. Atalanta scored three goals before taking their foot off the pedal, allowing Ciro Immobile to pull one back from Ciro Immobile late in the match.
While it’s not exactly a deadly blow for their Top-four hopes, Lazio now find themselves in 9th place and five points adrift from the fourth spot. And with uninspiring displays like these, they hardly look like genuine UCL contender.
Top (Goalkeeper): Wojciech Szczesny
Monza’s Michele Di Gregorio is equally deserving of a mention, but Wojciech Szczesny pulled off two miraculous saves in a single half to deny Nicolò Barella and Marko Arnautovic.
Even though his heroics were to no avail with Juventus coming out empty-handed, at least the Pole spared his team what could have easily been an embarrassing result against their most hated rivals.
Flop (Goalkeeper): Wladimiro Falcone
Luckily for Wladimiro Falcone, Lecce completed a sensational late come-from-behind win to spare him the blushes.
That being said, the Italian goalkeeper committed a horrible gaffe, gifting Fiorentina’s Lucas Beltran the easiest of goals while opting for an ill-advised short pass.
He’d want to skip that part if he ever intends to watch the match highlights.
Top (Match): Lecce vs Fiorentina
This weekend, we witnessed three stunning Serie A comebacks, including a late uprising from Bologna in the Emilian Derby against Sassuolo and a nerve-racking 3-2 win for Milan at Frosinone’s expense.
Yet, neither of the aforementioned clashes came close to matching the drama endured at Via del Mare. They simply do it differently in Lecce.
While the home side were ahead by half-time, Fiorentina turned the result upside-down in the second period and appeared to be heading towards a much-anticipated away victory.
Nevertheless, there was yet another twist in the tale, with goals in the 90th and 92nd minutes sparking ecstatic celebrations in the stands.
A Potential contender for the Match of the Season Award.
Flop (Matches): Three Stalemates
We mentioned three barn burners above, but unfortunately, the Calcio universe must balance itself out by producing as many goalless draws.
On Saturday afternoon, Udinese failed to skip past Monza’s Di Gregorio, while Empoli and Genoa shared the spoils in a forgettable affair played concurrently.
Then on Sunday’s early kick-off, Salernitana managed to withhold Torino’s pressure to return home with an encouraging point.
Top (Super-Sub): Patrick Dorgu
The 19-year-old left-back came off the bench to complete Lecce’s historic comeback with a close-range rocket that landed in Pietro Terracciano’s top corner.
A night that the teenager will cherish for the rest of his days.
Top (Debut): Jerome Boateng
Serie A fans are all too familiar with this surname thanks to former Milan star Kevin-Prince Boateng.
While Jerome certainly won’t earn himself a Scudetto medal like his older brother as he has just signed for a club lying at the very bottom of the Serie A table, at least he enjoyed a positive debut, helping Salernitana collect an away point while holding his own against Duvan Zapata and Antonio Sanabria.
The arrival of the 2014 World Cup winner will certainly boost whatever remains from Salernitana’s hopes of avoiding the drop.
Flop (Luck): Federico Gatti
Unfortunately for Federico Gatti, he was the sole name on the Derby d’Italia scoresheet after directing the ball into his own net.
The cruelest part of the whole tale is that the Italian enjoyed an otherwise solid display at the back against Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram, but his outing will forever be remembered for that blemishing incident.
Top (Goal): Khvicha Kvaratskhelia
Comfortingly for Napoli, there are still flashes of last season’s Serie A MVP within the body of the imposter donning the Number 77 jersey with Kvaratskhelia’s name on the back, as evidenced by this sick curler/rocket witnessed against Verona.
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