NAPLES: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia helped Napoli take another step closer to their first Serie A title in more than three decades by putting his side 18 points clear in Saturday’s 2-0 win over Atalanta with a miracle goal.
Georgia winger Kvaratskhelia scored the opening goal on the hour after Atalanta’s defense, after fascinating dribbles, wondered which way to look before the ball landed in the back net.
His 11th league goal of the season set Napoli on course to extend their lead over Inter Milan, who suffered a surprise 2-1 defeat at the lowly Spezia on Friday.
Lazio could have moved up to second in Saturday’s late game and narrowed the lead to 17 points, but drew 0-0 in Bologna to remain third.
In Naples, Amir Rrahmani scored the points with 13 minutes remaining with a superb header from substitute Eljif Elmas’ corner.
“We’re having fun, we’re playing well, even though the start tonight was difficult because Atalanta are a good team,” Rrahmani told DAZN.
“Of course we say that’s normal, we’re in a situation where you can see from our fans how much they feel it.”
Lazio can close the yawning gap between Napoli and the rest to 17 if they win in Bologna in Saturday’s late game to finish second.
But it’s certainly only a matter of time before southern Italy’s biggest club win the Scudetto for the first time since 1990, when Diego Maradona was still within sight of Mount Vesuvius.
Kvaratskhelia was key in what was in the end a clear win but a nervous affair after last weekend’s home loss to Lazio.
Before his goal, Napoli struggled to create chances, Serie A leaders Victor Osimhen came closest just after the break with an ambitious overhead kick and a header from a corner.
And they needed Pierluigi Gollini, on loan from Atalanta, to be at his best to deny decent efforts from Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata before Rrahmani sealed the points.
Napoli now turn their attention to the visit of Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday, a 2-0 lead in the first leg and a place in the Champions League quarter-finals within reach.
“When you come to Naples, you go down in history, what people want, the feeling of the team, which can become pressure,” Spalletti said.
“You have to have imagination and believe that you can win.”
A third loss in four games is likely to hurt Atalanta’s bid for Europe’s top club competition as they remain sixth and five points adrift of the top four.
In Bologna, Pedro and Luis Alberto scored narrowly for Lazio in the first half, while Lewis Ferguson and Musa Barrow hit the wooden beam for the hosts.
Lazio could have overtaken Inter and secured second place, but the draw means they could end the weekend in fifth place if the two teams behind them win.
Roma, fourth and hosts of Sassuolo on Sunday, and AC Milan, fifth, meet Salernitana at the San Siro on Monday.
Lazio and Roma meet in the Rome derby next weekend.
Bologna, in seventh place, stayed six points behind Atalanta, who ranks last in Europe.
Earlier, Udinese had enjoyed a six-game winning streak with a 1-0 win at Empoli.
Andrea Sottil’s side are ninth on 35 points, tied with Bologna and Juventus after just their second win since early October.
Empoli remain in 14th place but are 10 points ahead of Verona, who are just inside the relegation zone and host Monza on Sunday. –AFP
https://www.thesundaily.my/home/kvaratskhelia-magic-moves-champions-elect-napoli-18-points-clear-HF10739608 Kvaratskhelia Magic moves designated champions Napoli by 18 points