Kvaratskhelia goal echoes Maradona genius as Napoli boss Spalletti hails wonder strike

By Sports Desk March 11, 2023

Luciano Spalletti hailed "a Maradona-like goal" from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia as Napoli beat Atalanta 2-0 to stretch their dominant lead at the top of Serie A.

The 11th goal of the Georgian's debut Serie A season came in the 60th minute of Saturday's game, as he slalomed his way into the penalty area and left defenders floundering before burying a fierce finish into the roof of the net.

Kvaratskhelia left Atalanta captain Rafael Toloi bamboozled by his shimmying footwork, and it was hard not to think of the great goals scored by Napoli legend Diego Maradona as a reasonable measure of comparison.

This was special, and it means Kvaratskhelia has 20 goal involvements in the league campaign, given he has also notched up nine assists. He and fellow Napoli forward Victor Osimhen are the only players in Serie A this season to reach that mark, with striker Osimhen on 23 (19 goals, four assists).

"It was very difficult to beat this Atalanta team, they are a solid and aggressive team," Spalletti said. "We were good in terms of intensity and then Kvara put his enormous quality into it.

"He scored a Maradona-like goal. It was a goal that started from afar, first with [Frank] Anguissa's great ball recovery, then with Osimhen's progression, and then with the prowess of Khvicha who is an extraordinary player in one-on-one situations."

Spalletti watched admiringly and spoke of how Kvaratskhelia had the defenders in trouble "without ever making it clear whether he'll go to the right or to the left, and then he shoots with precision and power".

Amir Rrahmani headed a second in the 77th minute to make sure of victory after Atalanta had their most threatening spell of the game.

Napoli's win took them 18 points clear of closest rivals Inter, with Lazio having a chance in the late game on Saturday to jump to second, albeit still a distant 17 points adrift of Spalletti's side.

This result in Naples came in the wake of a rare loss for Napoli against Lazio last time out in Serie A, with the return to winning ways surely soothing any nerves.

Napoli's lead is huge, and they know this is a platform from which they must become champions as they seek a first league title since Maradona himself drove the team to glory in 1986-87 and 1989-90, the only Scudetto triumphs in their history.

"Winning this match was very important for the team," Spalletti said, quoted on Napoli's website. "We want to reach the stars, and we will do everything to achieve it.

"We've already heard too many rumours after the evening against Lazio, many immediately rushed to give summary judgements, and therefore it was right to respond on the pitch.

"We'll do everything to reach the stars, but in the middle there are games that you have to play with concreteness, conviction and character. If we continue with this mentality, we can be calm."

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