Napoli made it four successive Champions League victories as they overcame Ajax 4-2 at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, securing their qualification for the knockout stages.
Goals from Hirving Lozano, Giacomo Raspadori, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Victor Osimhen were enough to give Luciano Spaletti’s side all three points as they remain top of Group A with two matches to play, while Davy Klaassen and Steven Bergwijn netted what would prove to be consolations for Ajax.
Alfred Schreuder’s side struggled to keep pace with the Italian side as Kvaratskhelia continued his hot streak of form off the left wing.
The Dutch champions are left still in third, increasingly less likely of qualifying for the next round.
Spaletti’s men flew out of the blocks, with a ‘Chucky’ Lozano header on four minutes opening the scoring after some excellent interplay between the Mexican and Piotr Zielinski, who delivered an exquisite dinked pass to set up the winger.
Giacomo Raspadori rattled in a second with just over 15 minutes played; a fierce left-footed strike inside Remko Pasveer’s near post, leaving the goalkeeper shell-shocked as Kvaratskhelia showed good awareness to pick out the striker, who finished ruthlessly.
Klaassen nodded home with the second half only four minutes old to halve the deficit after a good pick-out from Calvin Bassey, but Napoli’s two-goal lead was restored as Kvaratskhelia dispatched a penalty on 62 minutes after VAR confirmed a Jurrien Timber handball.
It wasn’t as if Ajax didn’t have their chances: Steven Bergwijn tested Alex Meret with a deflected effort that also saw a Steven Berghuis curler whistle narrowly over in the early exchanges. And Mohammed Kudus’ blushes were spared by the offside flag as he dragged wide a great opportunity on 13 minutes.
Kenneth Taylor crashed a shot from a tight angle into the side netting just shy of the half hour, but the visitors struggled to muster anything else as Napoli remained strong at the back, and frightening up top.
Victor Osimhen continued his comeback from injury as an early second-half substitute, and he went close with two efforts in quick succession on 56 minutes, forcing a decent save from Pasveer, before flicking a header over the bar.
VAR again proved a big talking point as Timber was adjudged to have handled a Tanguy Ndombele strike, and Kvaratskhelia produced a composed finish to cap off a near-perfect display from the Georgian.
Lozano was denied on 75 minutes by a strong Pasveer stop after Osimhen glanced on a hopeful long ball as the chances kept coming for a home side that showed no signs of slowing.
Bergwijn scored from 12 yards seven minutes from time after Juan Jesus was alleged to have hauled down Brian Brobbey on the edge of the area, but his goal meant nothing as Napoli held on to a deserved three points.
Osimhen finally got the goal on his return after a huge mistake by Daley Blind allowed the Nigerian a simple tap-in to make it four.
Yet another convincing victory for the Italians as Spalletti’s side continue to impress with their dynamism and free-flowing football, and they must channel this momentum into their most important game at Anfield on matchday six to prove that they truly are a force to be reckoned with at Europe’s top table.
TALKING POINT – CLASSY KHVICHA
We shouldn’t really wax lyrical about one player in our talking point, but it’s hard not to when we’ve got such a young starlet on our hands.
Pace, strength, dribbling and directness, the Georgian international had it all tonight.
He capped off his perfect performance with a goal from the spot, as he proved his worth to a terrifying Napoli front three, which got even scarier when Osimhen was introduced.
They could be serious dark horses this year.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – KHVICHA KVARATSKHELIA, NAPOLI
What a player.
He destroyed Jorge Sanchez, tormenting the Mexican all game, earning his direct opponent a booking for a foul, with late challenges the only way to stop the flying winger.
Able to go left or right, inside and out, Kvaratskhelia could well be the complete wide man.
He has that eye for goal to thrive as an inside forward, but as the second goal showed, he has the patience and awareness to pick out a team-mate when there is a better option in the final third.
A top talent.
Napoli: (4-2-3-1) Meret 6, di Lorenzo 6, Jesus 6, Kim 6, Olivera 7, Lobotka 7. Anguissa 7, Lozano 7, Zielinski 7, Kvaratskhelia 9, Raspadori 7. Subs: Ndombele 6, Osimhen 7, Politano 6, Elmas 6, Gaetano 6.
Ajax: (4-3-3) Pasveer 5, Sanchez 5, Timber 6, Bassey 5, Blind 5, Klaassen 6, Alvarez 6, Taylor 7, Berghuis 5, Kudus 5, Bergwijn 6. Subs: Grillitsch 6, Brobbey 6, Baas 6, Ocampos 6, Conceicao 6.
4′: GOAL! It’s taken three and half minutes for Napoli, and it’s Hirving Lozano who opens the scoring! A quick-fire start from the Italians as they execute a magical move, with a lovely one-two between the Mexican and Zielinski, as the winger nods it into the far corner beyond Pasveer. 1-0.
16′: GOAL! There’s two, and it’s only taken 16 minutes. Raspadori doubles the lead, rasping a stunner into the near post of Pasveer, assisted after great awareness by Kvaratskhelia.
49′: GOAL! Davy Klaassen with a bullet header! Great play from Bergwijn, feeding Bassey, who delivers a cute ball into the middle for Klaassen to nod home.
60′: PENALTY! A spot kick is given after Jurrien Timber is adjudged to have handled. // 62′: GOAL! Napoli restore their two-goal parity, and it’s Kvaratskhelia who dispatches the spot kick. 3-1.
81′: PENALTY! Ajax have a penalty for a foul on Brian Brobbey, and the Dutch side have a chance to halve the deficit once more. // GOAL! Bergwijn scores, it’s 3-2.
89′: GOAL! It’s four, and oh dear! A terrible error from Blind as he’s caught napping by Osimhen, who has the easiest tap in in the world to make it four!