MILAN (AP) — The comparisons with Diego Maradona keep coming for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. And, just like the Argentina great, Kvaratskhelia appears to be leading Napoli to the Serie A title.
There were, indeed, echoes of Maradona in Kvaratskhelia’s opening goal in a 2-0 win over Atalanta which sent Napoli 18 points clear at the top of Serie A.
Kvaratskhelia lived up to his “Kvaradona” nickname when he bedazzled the Atalanta defense on the hour mark. He collected the ball from Victor Osimhen, weaved his way into the area, twisting and turning between defenders, and blasted into the roof of the net.
“Kvara displayed the fabulous quality he has. He scored a goal worthy of Maradona today,” Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti said. “He’s just phenomenal one on one.
“The way he sways past opponents it’s impossible to tell which way he’ll go, then he shoots with precision and power. This time you can bring up the best ever player.”
Maradona led Napoli to its only two Italian league titles in 1987 and 1990.
Also, Lazio missed the chance to trim the gap slightly and leapfrog second-placed Inter Milan when it was held to 0-0 at Bologna.
Atalanta’s fifth loss in seven matches diminished further its chances of qualifying for the Champions League. Atalanta was placed sixth, five points below fourth-placed Roma ahead of the Giallorossi’s match against Sassuolo on Sunday.
Napoli was looking to bounce back from losing to Lazio last weekend, its second league loss.
It plays Eintracht Frankfurt in the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday, leading 2-0 from the first leg, but coach Luciano Spalletti opted not to rotate his squad.
Napoli dominated and almost broke the deadlock in spectacular fashion at the start of the second half but Osimhen’s overhead kick was straight at Atalanta goalkeeper Juan Musso.
Instead, after Kvaratskhelia’s wonder effort, Amir Rrahmani sealed the win in the 77th with a header.
Lazio could have moved into second on Saturday. Instead, it could end the round outside the top four.
The draw at Bologna left it third, a point behind Inter and two ahead of Roma and AC Milan ahead of the Rossoneri’s match at home to lowly Salernitana on Monday.
Lazio hosts Roma in the city derby next weekend.
In Bologna, the host had the best chance of the match in the 28th minute when Giorgos Kyriakopoulos crossed from the left to the back post where Lewis Ferguson incredibly headed onto the upright from point-blank range.
Udinese got back to winning ways by 1-0 over Empoli.
Rodrigo Becão headed in early in the second half to help Udinese to its first win since January.