Napoli’s relentless charge to the Scudetto continued with a straightforward 2-0 win at Sassuolo on Friday, their key men at the fore yet again.
Victory at Mapei Stadium made it seven Serie A wins in a row since a 1-0 defeat to Inter in their first game back after the World Cup, extending the Partenopei’s lead at the summit to 18 points.
Khvicha Kvaratskhelia put Napoli in front early on with a wonderful solo effort, before their other talisman, Victor Osimhen, made it 2-0 just after the half-hour mark to become the club’s first player to net in seven successive top-flight games in the three-points-for-a-win era.
Sassuolo somewhat contentiously had a goal chalked off late in the first half, but thereafter Napoli’s game management was exceptional, with the only shame for the visitors coming late on when Giovanni Simeone had a goal disallowed for offside.
It took Napoli 12 minutes to take charge as Kvaratskhelia breezed through midfield and coolly slotted into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
Armand Lauriente and Osimhen were both then denied by the post at either end, though the latter did not have to wait much longer to get his customary goal.
The Nigerian brilliantly held off two defenders before catching Andrea Consigli off guard with a ferocious effort hit early from a tight angle.
Sassuolo’s Lauriente thought he had followed suit just before the break, only for his tap-in to be disallowed for an offside in the build-up.
Osimhen spurned a one-on-one opportunity early in the second half, and Andrea Pinamonti nodded agonisingly wide at the other end.
Substitute Simeone appeared to have added further gloss in stoppage time, yet VAR cut short his celebrations as Napoli had to settle for two.
7 – Victor #Osimhen is the first Napoli’s player able to score in 7 matches in a row in Serie A in the three points for a win era (since 1994/95). Monster.#SassuoloNapoli #SerieA pic.twitter.com/4IQt0NRJ0x
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 17, 2023
What does it mean? Napoli providing an emphatic response
Ahead of their first match of 2023, much of the talk around Napoli centred on a relatively tricky run of games to begin the year.
When they then lost to Inter on January 4, Napoli’s detractors wondered if that would be enough to derail their title charge – they have now won seven on the bounce since then, including that 5-1 demolition of rivals Juventus.
The defeat to Inter was a mere blip and their response to that has been astonishing. The Nerazzurri can reduce the deficit again on Saturday, though if they lose to Udinese then Napoli’s incredible 18-point lead will remain intact for another week.
Lobotka provides another exhibition
He does not hog the headlines like Kvaratskhelia and Osimhen, but Stanislav Lobotka is some player. This was just the latest in a series of excellent all-round performances.
The central midfielder was typically tidy on the ball as he completed all but three of his 65 passes, and he worked tirelessly off it with a team-high five tackles and eight recoveries, which not bettered by any of his team-mates.
Unlucky to have a goal wiped out due to the apparent interference of the offside Gregoire Defrel, Lauriente was a real livewire for the hosts.
He registered four key passes in all, which was the most of anyone on the pitch – not bad when you consider the creative force that is Kvaratskhelia was operating on the opposite flank.
Seven. Straight. Wins. #SassuoloNapoli pic.twitter.com/jm0TI0Gg4K
— Lega Serie A (@SerieA_EN) February 17, 2023
Key Opta Facts
– Napoli have won their last three games against Sassuolo in the league, scoring 17 goals.
– Napoli have netted 56 times in 23 league games this season, overtaking their previous high mark of goals at this stage of a Serie A season (55 in the 2016-17 campaign).
– Sassuolo have conceded at least twice in six of their eight Serie A games in 2023, a joint-worst record of teams in Europe’s big-five leagues.
– Kvaratskhelia (22 years and five days) has become the third-youngest Napoli player to score at least 10 goals in a single Serie A season after Attila Sallustro (21y, 154d) and Carlo Buscaglia (21y, 150d).
– Since the beginning of 2023 only Osimhen (10 – nine goals and one assist) has played a part in more goals than Kvaratskhelia (eight – four goals and four assists) in Europe’s top five leagues.
Napoli face Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany on Tuesday in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie, before going to Empoli in Serie A four days later.
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