Osimhen and ‘Kvara’ extend Napoli’s winning streak to 13

ROME (AP) — What a shame for most soccer fans that Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia won’t be at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Napoli forwards have been two of the most exciting players in Europe this season.

When he’s healthy — which isn’t often — Osimhen is as big of a goal-scoring threat as nearly anyone. Kvaratskhelia, meanwhile, is a dribbling wizard who can set up goals, score himself and just generally put spectators on the edge of their seats every time he touches the ball.

Osimhen scored a hat trick and Kvaratskhelia scored one and set up two as Serie A leader Napoli beat Sassuolo 4-0 on Saturday to extend a club record with its 13th straight win across all competitions.

“I just want to keep the momentum going and to help my team,” Osimhen said. “This season the coach (Luciano Spalletti) has given me as much confidence as I can get.”

Osimhen dedicated all of his goals to his daughter.

“Every time I score I think of her,” Osimhen said. “She’s my life now.”

Juventus and Inter Milan also won, beating Lecce and Sampdoria, respectively.

Osimhen and Kvaratskhelia won’t be at the World Cup in three weeks because Osimhen’s Nigeria and Kvaratskhelia’s Georgia failed to qualify.

Nigeria is missing its first World Cup since 2006, while Georgia, which started playing independently only in the 1990s after the breakup of the Soviet Union, has never qualified.

That’s just fine for Napoli, though, which will be happy to gain some extra rest for its top two players during the World Cup.

Along with superstar-filled Paris Saint-Germain and 14-time European champion Real Madrid, Napoli was among the only clubs in Europe’s five major leagues to remain unbeaten.

Napoli’s latest victory came on a day when the team celebrated the birthday of club great Diego Maradona, who would have turned 62 on Sunday. Maradona, who died in 2020, led Napoli to its only two Serie A titles in 1987 and 1990.

Another title finally appears within reach for the southern club.

Napoli extended its lead to six points ahead of defending champion AC Milan, which visits Torino on Sunday.

Osimhen opened the scoring four minutes in at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, using two touches to redirect a cross that was flicked on by Kvaratskhelia to the far post.

A quarter of an hour later, “Kvara” pulled back a quick pass from the end line directly to Osimhen, who fired it in from the edge of the six-yard box in a move that resembled billiards.

Kvaratskhelia took matters into his own hands for Napoli’s third, producing acrobatic control of a ball over the top from Mário Rui before quickly unleashing an accurate shot.

Osimhen added another score after the break by chipping over charging goalkeeper Andrea Consigli to finish off a counterattack.

Osimhen — who missed five weeks of the season due to injury — has seven goals in eight matches to top the Serie A chart alongside Bologna’s Marko Arnautović. “Kvara” has produced even more with six goals and five assists.

Up next is a visit to Liverpool on Tuesday, when Napoli will try to complete a perfect Champions League group phase after winning its opening five matches in emphatic fashion — including a 4-1 home win over Liverpool.

JUVENTUS REACTS

Juventus rebounded from its Champions League elimination with a 1-0 win at Serie B champion Lecce for its third straight victory in Serie A.

Nicolò Fagioli scored his first league goal in the 73rd with a spectacular, curling effort after being set up by fellow substitute Samuel Iling-Junior, who was also one of the few bright spots in the midweek 4-3 loss at Benfica.

Morten Hjulmand nearly equalized for Lecce with a shot off the post in another performance from Juventus that wasn’t entirely convincing.

Still, Juventus moved up to sixth, 10 points behind Napoli.

Also, Inter defeated struggling Sampdoria 3-0 with goals from Stefan de Vrij, Nicolò Barella and Joaquin Correa to move up to fifth with its fourth straight league win.

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AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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