Napoli’s title defence got back on track on Saturday thanks to a brace from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia in a 3-1 win away at Verona. The result put Napoli only four points behind AC Milan in the Serie A standings.
Napoli closed the gap on second-place Milan, who will play host to Juventus on Sunday night, thanks to goals from wing wizard Kvaratskhelia in both halves.
After a rough start to the season, Rudi Garcia’s squad is now tied for fifth place with Fiorentina and third-place Juventus on 17 points thanks to a dominant performance at the Stadio Bentegodi.
Kvaratskhelia has had difficulty regaining the form that made him a key cog in last season’s championship run, but there have been encouraging indicators that he may be on the verge of rediscovering his magnificent best.
Two minutes before halftime, the Georgian attacker doubled Napoli’s lead when he slammed in a low finish at Lorenzo Montipo’s near post after being passed down the left side by Politano, who had swiped home Giacomo Raspadori’s cross for the opening goal.
And nine minutes after halftime, he scored the game-winning goal by racing onto Politano’s looping pass after being left practically the whole Verona half of the field.
Although Kvaratskhelia appeared to squander the opportunity by slowing down his charge, he effortlessly sidestepped Giangiacomo Magnani and rolled home his third league goal of the season.
Darko Lazovic pounced on some sloppy defending and roofed a finish past Alex Meret on the hour mark, and that goal proved crucial as Verona suddenly came to life.
Eight minutes after Lazovic’s goal, the home team fought hard to get back into the game, causing Meret to make a couple of good saves and also having Milan Djuric send a thundering header just wide.
After suffering their fifth loss in nine games, Marco Baroni’s squad remained in 16th place, four points above the relegation zone.
Later on Saturday, Inter Milan will go to Torino, knowing that a victory there would propel them to the top of the league, ahead of their city rivals Milan.