Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 29: Jesus Rises Above Hate, Maldini Stuns Cagliari

In the final weekend before the March international break, the action was slightly anti-climatic, especially in the closing curtain of the round. While the clash between Inter and Napoli was supposed to be a top showdown between the champions-elect and their predecessors, the double Champions League elimination reduced it to a battle of the wounded. To make matters worse, the match was blemished by a controversial incident which we will discuss later on.

On a more worrying note, the preceding encounter between Atalanta and Fiorentina was postponed as the latter club’s CEO Joe Barone was hospitalized and remains in a serious condition, thus adding another blemish to the troublesome weekend. Nevertheless, there were still remarkable displays to pick up, and we’ll shed some light on it all in the Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 29.

Top (Player): Juan Jesus

While we don’t want to dwell too much on the ugly row that occurred during the Inter and Napoli encounter – as it deserves its own discussion due to the graveness of the topic – Juan Jesus accused Francesco Acerbi of racially abusing him during the second half.

The Brazilian was enjoying a solid display at the back, producing a host of decisive interventions against Lautaro Martinez and Marcus Thuram.

But while this incident would have been enough to put off any person, the 32-year-old maintained his composure, and eventually emerged as the savior for Francesco Calzona’s side by nodding home a late equalizer as the Partenopei become the first Serie A team to derail Inter this season.

Furthermore, Jesus eventually forgave his abuser for his despicable action, which must still warrant a severe punishment if proven.

Flop (Human-Being): Francesco Acerbi

IF convicted of racist abuse, of course.

Flop (Player): Dusan Vlahovic

In the first two months of the year, Dusan Vlahovic was the most in-form striker in Europe, netting goals almost at will. But sadly for the Serbian, March just hasn’t been his month.

After a poor display against Napoli followed by a ban against Atalanta, the Juventus striker returned with a point to prove, but instead emerged as the main culprit against Genoa.

In his defense, Vlahovic wasn’t properly served, but he still had a couple of chances to inflict damage. However, he couldn’t direct his header goalwards.

But that wasn’t all.

After disagreeing with a refereeing decision, the bomber was booked for dissent, but the yellow card wasn’t enough for the young man to back down and bite his tongue, which earned him his marching orders.

This means he’ll miss his team’s clash against Lazio in what will be his second suspension of the month.

Top (Manager): Thiago Motta

Thiago Motta has been our most regular customer in this section. While a slim 1-0 win over Empoli might not sound like a major accomplishment, Friday’s night encounter displayed the Bologna manager’s man-management skills which have mostly been overlooked in favor of his tactical brilliance.

Despite watching his players squandering one glorious chance after another, the Italo-Brazilian kept encouraging them. Even when Riccardo Orsolini scuffed his shot wide in added time, the manager responded with applause.

Motta was eventually rewarded for his positivity and remarkable patience as Giovanni Fabbian produced the well-deserved winner at the death to cement the club’s place in the Champions League zone.

Flop (Manager): Massimiliano Allegri

While Motta has often appeared in the Top section this season, Massimiliano Allegri has dominated the Flop section over the past few months.

The Tuscan tactician once again failed to stimulate a reaction from his players while the likes of Vlahovic and Federico Chiesa have been cutting miserable figures as of late.

To make matters even more cringy, the Juventus manager insists on defending his team’s listless displays, going as far as quarreling with a journalist during the post-match interviews.

Mad Max at his finest.

Top (Team): Milan

On Sunday, Milan produced one of their most enchanting displays recently, beating the stubborn Verona by three goals to one at the Bentegodi Stadium. Stefano Pioli’s men could have even added more goals to their tally.

So kudos to the Rossoneri for finding their feet at the right time, even if some would argue that it’s a case of ‘too little too late’ at his point, with Inter already placing one hand on the Scudetto trophy.

Flop (Team): Udinese

In a hollow display in front of their home supporters, Udinese failed to mount any noteworthy attack on the Torino goal, with Vanja Milinkovic-Savic enjoying a quiet afternoon in Friuli.

The Zebrette were also shaky at the back, allowing Duvan Zapata and company to score twice and return home with three relatively easy points in the bag.

Top (Goalkeeper): Wladimiro Falcone

Luca Gotti enjoyed a winning debut as Lecce coach, escaping Salerno with a 1-0 victory courtesy of Norbert Gyomber’s own-goal.

But in reality, this valuable win wouldn’t have been possible without the outstanding heroics of Wladimiro Falcone between the posts.

The former Sampdoria man kept producing superb saves to deny Salernitana who might well resort to the services of an exorcist after everything they’ve endured this season.

Top (Save): Lorenzo Montipo

Falcone may have produced a flurry of saves, but none beats the astonishing reaction stop that Lorenzo Montipo pulled off to deny Noah Okafor.

The Verona goalkeeper then conceded thrice, but that miraculous effort was enough to make his day.

Top (Match): Frosinone vs Lazio

Between Maurizio Sarri’s resignation and Igor Tudor’s appointment, Giovanni Martusciello only had one match in charge at Lazio, but it was certainly an eventful one.

The Biancocelesti found themselves trailing behind Frosinone in the regional Derby, but Mattia Zaccagni restored parity, while Taty Castellanos replaced Ciro Immobile after the break to score twice. Walid Cheddira pulled one back for the Canarini, but it wasn’t enough to salvage the result.

While it wasn’t a Serie A classic by any means, it proved to be the best of a hardly inspiring weekend.

Flop (Match): Juventus vs Genoa

If you missed Sunday’s lunchtime kickoff, consider yourself lucky. Even if you didn’t enjoy the most delicious meal, rest assured that it was surely tastier than whatever Allegri was cooking.

We certainly can’t fault Alberto Gilardino for this one. The Genoa boss knows fully well the capacity of his men and so he asked them to fight tooth and nail for a draw. But it’s Juve’s infertile play that continues to raise question marks.

Top (Super-Sub): Taty Castellanos

Since he arrived in the Italian capital, Castellanos has yet to steal the headlines as he hasn’t truly affirmed himself as a regular customer on the scoring sheet. But with Ciro Immobile’s career slowly fading, the Argentine appears to be Lazio’s best bet in attack at the moment.

On Sunday, the 25-year-old netted two goals following his introduction against Frosinone, making a case for a starting berth against Juventus after the international break in what will be Tudor’s debut in the Lazio dugout.

Top (Assist): Mergim Vojvoda

Mergim Vojvoda might be one of the most versatile and equally underrated players in Serie A.

The 29-year-old often played as a left wingback during his stint at Torino, but on Saturday, he proved to be a capable right centre-back, one who could also deliver sublime crosses with either foot as evidenced by his assist for Zapata’s opener.

Top (Goal): Daniel Maldini

Since making the move to Monza in January, Daniel Maldini has been showing his promise while trying to gradually move outside the looming shadow of his father’s unparalleled legacy.

But to all his great achievements, Paolo Maldini never produced an impeccable freekick like the one forged by his son this weekend.

This proved to be the solitary strike of the match between the Biancorossi and Cagliari.

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