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Osimhen’s brace keeps Napoli back to Serie A contention

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Super Eagles forward, Victor Osimhen, on Sunday ensured that Napoli stayed on the heels of Serie A leaders AC Milan as he scored both goals in an eventful 2-1 win at Verona.

The win moves Napoli up the ladder to the second position. The Nigerian striker, who is expected to lead Super Eagles’ attack in the World Cup play-off matches against Ghana later this month, struck in each half as Luciano Spalletti’s team ensured they would be three points behind Milan come the end of the weekend, with Inter five points back in third ahead of their trip to Torino. 

He gave the away side a deserved 14th-minute lead by thumping home a perfect header from Matteo Politano’s cross on a busy day in which he also forgot his protective face mask when coming out for the second half. 

At one point it looked as though Napoli would have to do without Osimhen for the best part of half an hour when the 23-year-old was down with a left shoulder problem following a clash with Koray Gunter. 

Osimhen was on the floor for two minutes and then treated pitch side while Spalletti was also deciding what to do with goalkeeper David Ospina, who just moments earlier had Federico Ceccherini land on his hand during a goalmouth scramble and looked in serious pain. 

That created a real problem for Spalletti who was also without Alex Meret with a fractured vertebra and on the bench only had young stoppers Davide Marfella and Hubert Idasiak, neither of whom have ever played a Serie A match. 

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Both carried on however and Osimhen doubled Napoli’s lead in the 71st minute, meeting Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s low pull back with a neat first-time finish which left Lorenzo Montipo with no chance. 

The match looked done and dusted but there was still time for more drama as Marco Faraoni headed the hosts back into the game six minutes later following a delightful move and a pinpoint Adrien Tameze cross. 

However just as Igor Tudor’s team pushed for the draw Ceccherini was sent off for a second bookable offense which allowed a ruffled Napoli to close out the match. 

Ceccherini’s sending off infuriated Verona and captain Faraoni was also shown a red card after the final whistle following livid protests directed at referee Daniele Doveri. 

The Nigerian has now scored nine goals in 19 matches but 13 goals across all competitions in the on-going season. 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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