Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia carrying Napoli to new heights
ROME (AP) — Victor Osimhen combines the characteristics of a classic No. 9 with the talents of a modern striker.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s dribbling wizardry and passing abilities befuddle defenders in Italy and beyond.
Individually, Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia are devastating enough. Together, they are leading Napoli to new heights game after game.
The latest demonstration came when Osimhen scored a brace of headers and Kvaratskhelia earned and converted a penalty and set up two goals in Napoli’s 4-0 win at Torino in Serie A on Sunday.
The victory moved the runaway leader a staggering 21 points ahead of second-place Inter Milan and a step closer to Napoli’s first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two Italian league championships back in 1987 and 1990.
Osimhen started it off midway through the first half when he leaped above the defense to redirect in a corner with a towering header.
After a couple of key saves from Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret — who is also quietly having a standout season — Kvaratskhelia doubled the advantage with a penalty.
But that was just the warmup.
The main act was Napoli’s third goal, a full team move with Kvaratskhelia providing a backheel flick to Mathias Olivera, who floated in a cross for Osimhen to head in at the far post.
Osimhen became the first player to score with two headers in the same Serie A match since former Italy striker Alberto Gilardino accomplished the feat in 2009-10 with Fiorentina.
Osimhen has a league-best 21 goals in 27 matches, while Kvaratskhelia has 12 goals and 10 assists — the first player with such production in their first season in Europe’s big five leagues since Diego scored 13 and provided 13 assists for Werder Bremen 16 years ago.
Kvaratskhelia also set up Tanguy Ndombole’s first Serie A goal midway through the second half.
Osimhen also scored twice when Napoli beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 on Wednesday to secure a 5-0 aggregate victory and reach the Champions League quarterfinals.
Also Sunday, Fiorentina moved into the top half of the table by beating Lecce 1-0 with an own-goal from Antonino Gallo and Sampdoria defeated Hellas Verona 3-1 with a brace from Manolo Gabbiadini in a matchup of two teams in the drop zone.
Meanwhile, fans clashed with police outside the Stadio Olimpico before the Rome derby between Roma and Lazio.
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf ___
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Andrew Dampf, The Associated Press