Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 26: Astonishing Dybala, Unstoppable Inter

While Inter continue to march towards an inevitable Scudetto triumph, their supposed challengers are still faltering, putting a premature end to a title race that peaked way too early. At least Juventus won this time, but the fashion in which they beat Frosinone hardly depicts a genuine title contender. For their part, Milan couldn’t put three points in the bag despite having the upper hand over Atalanta. Nevertheless, this weekend surely delivered when it came to individual brilliance and sensational goals. So let’s recap the most captivating action of Serie A Round 26 in our latest edition of the Tops and Flops series.

Top (Player): Paulo Dybala

While his capabilities were never been in doubt, Paulo Dybala reminded the world what a baller he is when his recurring physical problems give him a break.

La Joya held Roma on this shoulders in what was a tough home fixture against Ivan Juric’s Torino. The Argentine scored the opener from the spot, before restoring his side’s lead with a sensational long-range strike, and then sealing the win with a clinical finish to round off a memorable hattrick.

At the age of 30 and with never-ending injuries halting his momentum, we just don’t for how long will the World Cup winner continue to produce magical displays like these.

So let’s cherish his presence while we still can.

Top (Striker): Dusan Vlahovic

Well, we needed an alibi to give this man a well-deserved shoutout after dragging Juventus over the finish line against Frosinone with a personal brace and last-minute assist to Daniele Rugani who donned the hero’s cape.

With nine goals from seven outings, Vlahovic is now the best scorer in Europe’s Top Five Leagues since the turn of the year.

The Bianconeri might be currently in crisis mode, but just imagine what it would have been like had the Serbian been out of sorts like some of his other teammates.

Top (Manager): Thiago Motta

Perhaps it’s past time we rename this category after Thiago Motta.

Bologna have been nothing short of sensational this term, especially in recent weeks, and the bulk of the credit must go in the direction of the former Italy and Inter midfielder.

While a 2-0 win at home over Verona might seem to be a routine result, this was a major trap for an inexperienced side like Bologna.

Yet, the 41-year-old dealt with the test expertly, making sure his men remained fully focused on their European quest and attacked their opponents vigorously from the get-go.

Suddenly, the Emilians are sitting fourth in the standings, leading the race for the coveted Champions League spot while leaving Atalanta, Roma, Fiorentina, Lazio and Napoli trailing behind.

Flop (Manager): Alessio Dionisi

Yes, kicking a man while he’s down (or sacked) isn’t the most ethical act, but at the same time, this is our last chance to mention just how woeful Alessio Dionisi’s Sassuolo had been every time Domenico Berardi’s name wasn’t on the match sheet.

Simply put, the 43-year-old has spectacularly failed to create a winning recipe that doesn’t include his talismanic winger.

To make matters even worse for the manager, his former employers Empoli delivered the final nail in the shape of a last-minute winner that sealed a 3-2 win for the Tuscans at the Mapei Stadium.

Nevertheless, Dionisi remains a young tactician who already had his exploits in Serie A, so this certainly won’t be the last we see of him.

Top (Team): Inter

At this point, suffering a defeat at the hands of Inter is hardly a reason to despair for any team in the league, even if it comes in the form of an agonizing scoreline.

To their credit, Lecce gave their all and arguably should have grabbed one or two had their finishing not let them down.

Yet, the runaway Serie A leaders are an unstoppable force at the moment, even when they’re missing half of their starting lineup, as evidenced by the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Davide Frattesi and Kristjan Asllani who made the most out of their opportunities.

Lecce have been a tough nut to crack at the Via del Mare this season, but Simone Inzaghi’s demolition tour isn’t excluding anyone at the moment.

Flop (Team): Napoli

Just how did Napoli manage to throw away a valuable win at Cagliari, only they can tell.

The Partenopei kept knocking on their hosts’ door for 65 minutes before finding the breakthrough thanks to a combination between Giacomo Raspadori and Victor Osimhen.

Francesco Calzona’s men then had several chances to put the match to bed, but were wasteful upfront, which certainly foreshadowed what was about to unravel in the very last minute of injury time.

A long ball from Cagliari defender Alberto Dossena was never supposed to trouble Napoli’s backline. Yet, Zito Luvumbo somehow managed to claim it despite his size disadvantage and riffle the equalizer home much to the delight of the Sardinian crowd.

The end of the season couldn’t come soon enough for the falling Italian champions.

Top (Goalkeeper): Guillermo Ochoa

While we didn’t have too many scintillating displays between the sticks this weekend, Guillermo Ochoa gets the nod despite conceding twice in the final 20 minutes against Monza.

But to his credit, the Mexican pulled off five saves, including some superb ones to keep Salernitana in the match for as long as possible, albeit he was merely delaying the inevitable.

Flop (Goalkeeper): Ivan Provedel

Again, no Serie A goalkeeper had an absolute stinker, but one would have expected a bit more from Italy international Ivan Provedel when dealing with Lucas Beltran’s shot.

Instead of parrying it away wide, the Lazio custodian placed it in the path of Giacomo Bonaventura who smashed home what was an invaluable winner both for himself and Fiorentina.

Top (Match): Juventus vs Frosinone

Well, this was a bit surreal. Who would have imagined a few years ago that the almighty Juventus would have to dig THIS deep to earn a win at the expense of the Serie B champions?

Nevertheless, this is 2024, and the Old Lady will certainly take the three points regardless of the fashion, especially following a four-match winless run.

Following a back-forth first half that saw both teams taking the lead at one point, Rugani, of all people, snatched a last-second winner from an acute angle to kick off wild celebrations at the Allianz Stadium.

What a time to be alive!

Flop (Match): Milan vs Atalanta

Now this wasn’t a terrible match by any means, but we certainly expected more action from this Lombardian meeting considering the two clubs’ attacking prowess, as well as their recent meetings. For instance, the reverse fixture ended 3-2 in favor of La Dea thanks to Luis Muriel’s astonishing last-gasp winner.

Sadly, this one couldn’t replicate the magic of the previous encounter, with Atalanta seemingly happy to settle for a point earned through a late-first-half penalty, while Stefano Pioli was reluctant to take too many risks in his search for victory.

Well, at least we had Rafael Leao’s scorcher…

Top (Super-Sub): Daniel Maldini

For the second weekend in a row, Daniel Maldini has made the required impact after coming off the bench. Last week, he produced the assist that restored Monza’s lead over Milan. This time, he went to goal himself, ending Salernitana’s valiant resistance with a lovely strike.

The third-generation player could be pushing for a starting spot now that Raffaele Palladino is opting for a more attacking 4-2-3-1 formation.

Top (Redemption): Andrea Pinamonti

Despite ending up on the losing side, kudos to Andrea Pinamonti for having the courage to step up and take the penalty kick after his now infamous double-miss from the spot against Atalanta last weekend.

The Sassuolo striker could have easily hidden, especially in such a crucial fixture, but was instead determined to find personal redemption, even if it wasn’t enough to salvage Dionisi.

Flop (Redemption): Nico Gonzalez

On the contrary, Nico Gonzalez squandered yet another spot kick, following his weak effort against Inter a few weeks ago.

The Argentine was devastated when his shot hit the post, but luckily for him, Fiorentina still managed to find the winner over Lazio, thus sparing him the blushes (at least partially).

Top (Assist): Kristjan Asllani

With Hakan Calhanoglu set to miss the next few fixtures through injury, Inter can at least count on a quality replacement in the shape of Kristjan Asllani, as evidenced by his majestic assist with the outside of the boot to Lautaro Martinez.

Top (Goals): Rafael Leao & Mateo Retegui

Just this time, we’ll allow ourselves to make two choices as you simply can’t leave out either one of the two pearlers witnessed in Round 26.

Rafael Leao ended his Serie A drought with the type of supreme solo effort that made it worth the wait.

For his part, Mateo Retegui stunned the crowds at Marassi with a superb overhead kick that served as a timely reminder for Luciano Spalletti who could be tempted to give the Genoa striker a call ahead of Euro 2024.

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