Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 34: Enthralling Theo, Avenging Vlahovic

Although the Scudetto affair has been put to bed early, this round still had some fascinating matchups in store. Six tops sides are still battling it out for the three remaining Champions League spots, and as it happens, all of them were engaged in direct duels over the weekend. When the dust settled, it was the traditional Northern Trio that emerged victorious, as Milan, Inter and Juventus all boosted their Top-Four hopes by securing 2-0 wins. So let’s recapture the most memorable events of the weekend and identify its biggest protagonists in the Tops and Flops of Serie A Round 34.

Top (Player): Theo Hernandez

Football is a bizarre sport. Some players can spend +90 minutes laboring without leaving a significant mark, while others only need one piece of magic to steal all the limelight.

So while the football gods can be cruel, Theo Hernandez surely has their blessing. How else can we explain his knack for scoring solo goals that include launching a run from his own penalty box all the way to the opposition’s while leaving his woes in the dust before riffling his shot past the goalkeeper?

It wasn’t the first time, and it might not be the last. What a player!

Flop (Player): Roger Ibanez

There’s something about Roger Ibanez and top clashes, and sadly, it’s not a positive rapport. The Brazilian defender who committed two costly howlers in two Derby della Capitale this season did it again in Serie A Round 34, gifting Inter a second goal that killed off Roma’s chances of coming away with something in this crucial clash.

Whether it’s mental or purely technical, it’s hard to tell, but at this point, the Giallorossi must surely consider a defensive revamp at the end of the season, as the whole department has been in shambles during Chris Smalling’s absence.

Top (Manager): Simone Inzaghi

While this campaign hasn’t gone entirely smoothly for Simone Inzaghi, his team has hit its stride at the best possible moment. While a late revival was always going to be too late for a Scudetto challenge, Inter are still in the hunt for two cups (including the Champions League) and momentum is definitely on their side.

So kudos to the 47-year-old who has been on point with his squad rotation as of late, winning five matches in a row in all competitions while keeping his troops fresh ahead of the upcoming EuroDerby in the Champions League.

On Saturday, Inzaghi emerged victorious over José Mourinho in what was a closely-contested chess match, earning an immense morale boost ahead of Wednesday’s super showdown.

Flop (Manager): Gian Piero Gasperini

It’s not just the 0-2 home defeat to Juventus that earned Gian Piero Gasperini this unglamorous spot, but also his ill-advised post-match comments regarding the racist slurs aimed at Dusan Vlahovic from a section of Atalanta supporters.

Instead of condemning the whole ugly episode, the experienced manager tried to downplay it in a series of cringy interviews, claiming it was only “rude chants” rather than racial abuse.


Top (Super-Sub): Dusan Vlahovic

Speaking of the Serbian bomber, credit must be given where credit is due. The 23-year-old entered the pitch in the second half, and despite being repeatedly targeted by racist chants, he kept his composure and replied in the best possible fashion: scoring a fabulous last-minute strike to silence the haters.

That’s how you do it!

Top (Team): Milan

We spoke about Theo’s exploits above, but the whole Milan team deserves major props for a superb display against the team that started Round 34 sitting second in the Serie A table.

Nonetheless, Stefano Pioli’s men controlled the tempo from the get-go, prompting mistakes from Lazio and pouncing on the opportunities. The Rossoneri displayed great organization and desire en route towards a convincing win and three valuable points.

Flop (Team): Lazio

On the contrary, Lazio failed to show up at the San Siro for the second weekend in a row. Following a glorious run of results, Maurizio Sarri’s men have lost the plot in some of their recent encounters, and what seemed to be an almost guaranteed Champions League spot is now in great jeopardy.

The Biancocelesti failed to produce a single dangerous chance throughout the whole match, so it’s time for the squad to get back to the drawing board.

Top (Goalkeeper): Marco Carnesecchi

At this point, the young Cremonese goalkeeper has become a regular in this section. If the Grigiorossi still stand a chance at survival, then Marco Carnesecchi deserves a major bulk of the credits.

In what was a direct relegation dogfight, the Atalanta-owned custodian pulled off several crucial saves to deny Spezia and earn himself a well-deserved clean sheet.

Top (Determination): Cremonese

Yet, praising Marco Carnesecchi doesn’t do justice to the rest of the Cremonese squad. We’re talking about a group of courageous hard-working men who simply refuse to give up. What these players lack in quality, they make up for it in sheer tenacity and determination.

While Spezia had their dangerous chances, the Tigers stood firm and eventually pounced on their scoring opportunities to secure an invaluable win that keeps the flame alive.

Football would be nothing without underdog stories.

Top (Debut): Samuel Iling-Junior

Finally, Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri granted Samuel Iling-Junior his full debut following a string of impressive short cameos.

The 19-year-old made the most of the opportunity, breaking the deadlock with his maiden Serie A goal which put the Old Lady en route towards a vital away win against Atalanta in Round 34.

The Englishman dispossessed his opponent to launch the play himself, before displaying his composure in front of goal.

Top (Goal): Theo Hernandez

Whoever said lightning doesn’t strike twice, meet Mr. Theo Hernandez. The left-back managed to replicate his famous solo-run goal scored almost a year ago against Atlanta with another copycat screamer, this time at Lazio’s expense.

Mike Maignan surely didn’t expect to provide the assist when he handed the ball to his compatriot.

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