Birthday boy Kvaratskhelia helps send Napoli 16 points clear

Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia celebrates scoring their side's first goal of the game during the Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Cremonese at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium in Naples, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023. (Alessandro Garofalo/LaPresse via AP)

MILAN (AP) — On the day of his 22nd birthday, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia scored in the 22nd minute to help send Napoli 16 points clear at the top of Serie A.

Victor Osimhen and Elif Elmas wrapped up the points in the second half as Napoli beat Cremonese 3-0 on Sunday to avenge its Italian Cup defeat.

Inter Milan can cut the gap to Napoli to 13 points with a win at Sampdoria on Monday. Cremonese remained rock bottom of Serie A, 11 points from safety.

Cremonese pulled off a big upset when it won at Napoli on penalties in the Italian Cup last month. It then went on to eliminate Roma and reach the semifinals for only the second time in its history.

But it hadn’t won in the league all season and its chances of getting anything from Sunday’s match diminished in the 22nd minute.

Defender Leonardo Sernicola tried to head a cross away for a corner but it fell to Kvaratskhelia, who cut inside from the left, carved out some space and drilled across into the far corner.

Osimhen had scored in his last five matches and he made it six straight with probably the easiest of his 17 league goals this season. Cremonese goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi managed to get a hand to Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header from a corner but Kim Min-jae’s diving header turned into an assist for Osimhen to tap in from practically on the goal line.

Elmas netted in the 79th, with an angled drive into the far bottom corner, eight minutes after coming off the bench.


Still reeling from a massive points penalty, Juventus inched closer to the final European qualifying spot in Serie A with a 1-0 win at fierce rival Fiorentina.

Adrien Rabiot netted the only goal of the match in the first half and both sides had a goal ruled out for offside, including what would have been a late leveler for Fiorentina.

Juventus — which was hit by a 15-point penalty for false accounting last month — moved to within one point of seventh-place Torino and the Europa Conference League qualifying berth. Fiorentina, which could have leapfrogged the Bianconeri with a win, was five points further back.

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri decided to unleash the superstar trident of Ángel Di María and former Fiorentina players Dušan Vlahović and Federico Chiesa.

The match was fiery from the start but it took until the 34th minute for the deadlock to be broken.

A cross was cleared but only to Di María on the right side of the area and he floated the ball back in for Rabiot to head in at the back post. Fiorentina goalkeeper Pietro Terracciano clawed the ball away but the goal-line technology informed the referee that it had already crossed.

Vlahović thought he had doubled his side’s lead on the hour mark and he made a big show of not celebrating against his former club but the goal was ruled out as he was marginally offside on Filip Kostić’s through ball.

Gaetano Castrovilli had an equalizer ruled out a minute from time. After reviewing the goal on the pitchside monitor, the referee adjudged that Luca Ranieri was offside and interfering with play in the buildup.


Destiny Udogie netted the fastest goal in Serie A this season but it was not enough for his team to win as Udinese drew 2-2 against Sassuolo.

Udogie scored after just 25 seconds but it was almost immediately canceled out as Matheus Henrique equalized in the sixth minute.

The strike had taken a deflection off Jaka Bijol but the Udinese defender made up for it in the 28th when he slid in to prod Lazar Vujadin Samardžić’s free kick home.

However, Sassuolo leveled again on the stroke of halftime as Udinese defender Nehuén Pérez turned the ball into his own net.

Udinese moved level on points with Torino. Monza won 1-0 at Bologna to leave both teams a point behind Udinese.