Kvaratskhelia nets twice as Napoli beats Verona to relieve pressure on coach Garcia
MILAN (AP) — Khvicha Kvaratskhelia appears back to his stunning best as he scored two goals to help Napoli beat Hellas Verona 3-1 in Serie A on Saturday and relieve some of the pressure on coach Rudi Garcia.
Kvaratskhelia, who got married at home in Georgia during the international break, netted a goal either side of halftime. Matteo Politano set up both of those goals and also scored the opener.
That took Kvaratskhelia’s tally to five goals and three assists in his last seven matches for club and country.
The Georgia winger was a revelation last season and was named Serie A player of the year after helping Napoli to the title but hadn’t scored since March before ending his goal drought last month.
Napoli moved level on points with third-place Juventus and Fiorentina ahead of their matches in this round. The three teams are five points behind Inter Milan, which moved top with a 3-0 win at Torino.
Second-place AC Milan can reclaim top spot from its city rival with a win over Juventus on Sunday.
With only four wins in the opening eight rounds, Garcia — who replaced title-winning coach Luciano Spalletti in the offseason — was already under pressure and had met several times with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis recently.
Napoli was also without standout forward Victor Osimhen, who injured his right thigh while with Nigeria’s national team.
Napoli withstood a promising start from the home side before taking the lead in the 27th minute. Giacomo Raspadori did well to get in a cross from the left to the back post where Politano volleyed the ball into the bottom corner.
Politano turned provider two minutes before halftime as he sent Kvaratskhelia down the left and the winger cut inside, feinted and then squeezed a shot between Verona goalkeeper Lorenzo Montipò and the near post.
The Napoli duo combined again 10 minutes after the break as Kvaratskhelia sprinted from inside his own half onto a long Politano ball and raced clear before cutting inside past a defender and placing a precise effort into the bottom right corner.
However, Verona got back into the game just five minutes later with a somewhat bizarre goal. Davide Faraoni’s cross came off Napoli defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who didn’t seem aware of the ball, and fell to Darko Lazović to smash into the roof of the net.
Verona threatened to reduce the deficit further but Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret pulled off several impressive saves.
Lautaro Martínez and Marcus Thuram scored again to help Inter recover from a poor start and send the Nerazzurri a point above Milan.
The duo is emerging as one of European soccer’s most threatening partnerships.
World Cup winner Martínez took his tally to 11 league goals this season while it was Thuram’s third goal in Serie A since joining Inter in the offseason. They have also both scored in the Champions League this season.
It didn’t start so well for Inter as Torino was the stronger team in the first half and Nerazzurri goalkeeper Yann Sommer had to make two impressive saves to deny first Demba Seck and then Pietro Pellegri at the end of the first half.
Clearly unhappy with what he was seeing, Inter coach Simone Inzaghi made a triple change in the 57th minute and one of those substitutes had an immediate impact.
Just two minutes after coming off the bench, Denzel Dumfries jinxed his way into the right side of the area and rolled the ball across for Thuram to tuck into the bottom left corner.
Inter doubled its lead eight minutes later when Francesco Acerbi nodded on a corner from the left for Martínez to head in from close range.
And it capped a great second-half performance when Hakan Çalhanoğlu converted a stoppage-time penalty after Henrikh Mkhitaryan had been brought down by Torino midfielder Ivan Ilić.
Lazio made the most of defensive errors by Sassuolo to win 2-0 and continue its recovery from a poor start to the season.
Felipe Anderson broke the deadlock in the 28th minute after the home side lost possession. Luis Alberto doubled Lazio's lead seven minutes later after being gifted the ball by a poor attempt at a clearance from Sassuolo midfielder Daniel Boloca.
However, there was a nervy moment for Lazio — which also hit the woodwork three times — in the 62nd minute when goalkeeper Ivan Provedel was shown a red card for apparently handling the ball outside his area. But the sending off was revoked on video review.
It was Lazio's fourth win in five matches and moved the capital side to seventh place, ahead of the rest of the weekend's fixtures.
AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer