Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 37: Rodriguez Returns to Haunt Scattered Milan

Although the most important business of the season has already been settled, the penultimate weekend of Serie A still delivered the fireworks. Inter finally raised the trophy they already secured several weeks ago following a 1-1 draw with Lazio, while their runners-up Milan are already in vacation mode. Bologna and Juventus made sure there wasn’t a dull moment on Monday night, while the relegation battle provided the expected drama. So let’s recap the most interesting action of the Italian weekend in the Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 37.

Top (Player): Riccardo Calafiori

While many would deny the existence of perfect performance in football, Riccardo Calafiori’s masterclass on Monday might be the closest thing you’d get for claiming such a thing. The 22-year-old has been one of the breakout stars of the Serie A campaign, and watching him improve with every passing week has been a privilege for Italian football fans.

However, his outing against Juventus – who are reportedly leading the race for his signature – was something else. The centre-back opened the scoring in the second minute with a vicious strike that earned him his maiden goal in Italy’s top flight. In the second half, he chipped the ball over Wojciech Szczesny with his weaker right foot to earn a memorable brace. And more importantly, he was an absolute rock at the back.

Calafiori left the pitch in the 75th minute with Bologna enjoying a three-goal cushion. Ironically, Juve’s comeback began in the 76th minute.

This was hardly a coincidence…

Flop (Players): Danilo & Gleison Bremer

While Calafiori was superb, Juve’s Brazilian duo had a torrid outing at the Renato Dall’Ara, leaving Paolo Montero perplexed on his Serie A managerial debut. The two defenders have been resolute at the back all season, but completely lost the plot on Monday, as their combined howlers allowed the Emilians to score three goals and threaten to add more.

Top (Manager): Claudio Ranieri

After leading Cagliari back to Serie A last term on the back of a dramatic promotion, Claudio Ranieri ensured the Sardinians avoided immediate relegation with a round to spare after beating Lecce at the Via del Mare by two unanswered goals.

The Tinkerman has been excellent in the dugout all season long, embracing the chaotic nature of the Isolani who live and dire by the sword.

Sadly for football, Ranieri has now decided to call it a day, putting an end to one of the most fascinating managerial careers in history, leaving us wondering whether we’ll ever witness a universally beloved gentleman like him in football ever again.

Flop (Manager): Stefano Pioli

With Massimiliano Allegri already gone – and in his very own shocking fashion – Stefano Pioli is probably the next in line, and at this point, he appears to have resigned to his fate, and so do his players.

The 58-year-old has been unable to properly inspire his men in recent weeks, and the team’s hollow display in the 1-3 defeat to Torino depicted a side short on cohesion, ideas and hunger.

In earnest, Pioli deserves a dignified exit, so let’s hope his men oblige when they host Salernitana next weekend at San Siro on what should be the manager’s farewell party.

Top (Team): Torino

While Milan hardly looked like a team that intended to play football on Saturday night, Torino were determined to greet their home supporters with a victory over one of the big Serie A boys.

Ivan Juric is also likely on his way out, but he surely enjoyed his men’s impressive display. The Granata were clinical, precise and worked as a unit, with all three goals coming from lovely team plays.

Flop (Team): Milan

We already mentioned above how abysmal Milan were in their appearance in Turin. The Rossoneri were scattered back and barren in attack. Missing a few starters in the lineup shouldn’t be enough to justify this woeful outing.

Top (Goalkeeper): Ivan Provedel

For the second week in a row, a Lazio goalkeeper gets the recognition. But while it was Christos Mandas last weekend, Ivan Provedel made his long-awaited return from injury to remind the world why he remains the Number One in the Eternal City despite the rise of a young and hungry contender to the throne.

The 30-year-old pulled off a string of wonderful saves to deny Inter who were desperate to earn a result to avoid a blemishing defeat ahead of the Scudetto title ceremony.

The Nerazzurri eventually got their wish as the Italian goalkeeper could do nothing about Denzel Dumfries’ equalizer. But the custodian certainly staked his claim for a spot in Luciano Spalletti’s Euro 2024 squad.

Top (Match): Bologna vs Juventus

At the 75th minute, the Old Lady was dead, buried and had more than enough nails in the coffins while showing absolutely no signs of life. But football is a crazy game, and Calafiori’s exit turned out to be the flare that revived Juventus and gave Montero something to cheer about on a debut that started on a miserable note.

The Bianconeri scored thrice to complete a sensational comeback from 0-3 to 3-0 and even kept pushing for a winner in front of the shell-shocked Rossoblu crowds at the Dall’Ara.

What a clash!

Top (Super-Sub): Kenan Yildiz

Perhaps Calafiori’s exit left a major gap at the back, but Kenan Yildiz was the man who exploited it. Federico Chiesa kickstarted the comeback by latching into a defensive blunder, and the Turkish teenager then took over the show.

The 19-year-old won the freekick that was converted to goal by Arkadiusz Milik, and then scored the equalizer with a solo effort. He won back possession, ran at the defense and unleashed a clever shot that beat Lukasz Skorupski before pulling off Alessandro Del Piero’s iconic tongue celebration which was the icing on the cake for the Juventus faithful.

Flop to Top: Lazar Samardzic

If you’re a fan of dramatic relegation scraps, look no further than Sunday’s encounter between Udinese and Empoli. Forget about the first 90 minutes where the two sides created a single shot on target between them. These dogfights are all about glorious added-time chaos, and Lazar Samardzic was at the heart of the action at both ends of the pitch.

The Serbian gave away a penalty kick for a high boot, allowing M’Baye Niang to score what appeared to be the winner that could keep Empoli in the top flight. But on the very last play of the match, an extended VAR review (that felt like ages for everyone involved) granted a spot kick on the other side of the pitch.

This is where we have to applaud Samardzic for shaking off the psychological effects of his earlier error (which had only occurred a few minutes ago) and taking the responsibility to convert the penalty kick that earned Udinese an invaluable point that kept them afloat.

This kid certainly has the IT factor.

Top or Flop (Father): Lilian Thuram

During Inter’s title celebrations, their fans were singing their famous anti-Juventus song (Whoever isn’t a Bianconero must jump) and Marcus Thuram was happy to join the chorus, gleefully jumping in front of his old man who happens to be a former Juventus defender.

Therefore, Lilian Thuram responded by attempting to slap his son in the face, much to the latter’s delight.

Depending on your allegiance, you might consider him the Father of the Year, or the worst dad in the world. So we’ll let you decide on this one.

Top (Assist): Ricardo Rodriguez

Ricardo Rodriguez reserved his most memorable appearance for Torino in what could be his last home fixture for the club, and it came at the expense of his former employers Milan. The Swiss has often been playing in the back-three this season, but Juric decided to unleash him on the left wing this time, and it certainly paid dividends.

The 31-year-old’s outing began by setting up Duvan Zapata with one of an inch-perfect cross.

Top (Goal): Ricardo Rodriguez

But if that glorious assist wasn’t enough to appease his Granata supporters, Rodriguez stunned Marco Sportiello with an absolute rocket that landed in the corner of the goal, which curiously marked his first – and well likely – last goal for Torino.

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