Victor Osimhen continued his red-hot return from injury on Saturday with a hat-trick in Napoli’s 4-0 win over Sassuolo which sent his team six points clear at the top of Serie A.
Nigeria forward Osimhen struck twice in the first 19 minutes in Naples and then dinked home his third with 13 minutes remaining to ensure Napoli extended both their club-record winning streak to 13 matches and their lead on champions AC Milan, who face Torino on Sunday.
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The 23-year-old has burst back into the team after over a month out with a thigh injury, rattling in six goals in his last four matches between Serie A and the Champions League.
Saturday’s clinical display of finishing took his league tally this season to seven goals in eight appearances and moved him to level with Bologna’s Marko Arnautovic at the top of the scoring charts.
“I just want to help keep the momentum going, I want to keep helping my team,” Osimhen told DAZN.
“I think this season the coach has given me as much confidence as I can get and I’m really happy to work under him… I just came back from a five weeks injury, which is not easy.”
Osimhen’s first two goals were laid on by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, this year’s revelation who also netted the third in an exciting performance on the day Napoli celebrated late club icon Diego Maradona’s 62nd birthday, which would have been Sunday.
Georgia winger Kvaratskhelia has scored eight times and set up eight more since arriving in the summer and plays for Napoli with the kind of zest and freedom that few have since Maradona fled Italy in disgrace in the early 1990s.
A group of fellow Georgians travelled to Naples to watch their hero help Luciano Spalletti’s team to 50 goals in all competitions.
The manner of their victories make Napoli look like the real deal, a team which could end Naples’ 32-year wait for the league title, and Osimhen made sure that they took no time in getting off the mark with his brilliantly taken first of the afternoon.
Three minutes had gone at the Stadio Maradona when the Nigerian quickly took down Kvaratskhelia’s flick-on and in a flash poked the hosts into the lead from a tight angle.
The inspired Kvaratskhelia then had a dipping shot tipped onto the bar by Andrea Consigli before Andrea Pinamonti was unlucky not to level when his low shot in the 16th minute skimmed the bottom of the post.
And Osimhen then combined with Kvaratskhelia again to double Napoli’s lead, tapping in from close range after typically great wing play from the Georgian.
Sassuolo didn’t give up and would have halved the deficit had it not been for Alex Meret, who pulled off two smart saves from Kristian Thorstvedt and Armand Lauriente – who was sent off late on – before Kvaratskhelia got the goal his display deserved.
He collected Mario Rui’s chipped-through ball and in the same movement lashed home a low finish which effectively decided the match with nine minutes remaining of the first half.
Alessio Dionisi has got ninth-placed Sassuolo playing a forward-thinking style of their own and it was down to Meret that Napoli kept a clean sheet, as Davide Frattesi was twice denied a goal the enterprising away side deserved.
But Osimhen put 50,000 Napoli fans in a party mood by punishing a lazy backpass with his delicate finish over Consigli.
Later on Sunday crisis-club Juventus take on Lecce with 10 first-team players out before Inter Milan host Sampdoria on a high after securing passage to the last 16 of the Champions League midweek.