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SERIE A

African soccer king, Osimhen again on target as Napoli beat Cagliari to go fourth

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Serie A - Napoli v Cagliari - Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Naples, Italy - December 16, 2023 Napoli's Victor Osimhen celebrates scoring their first goal REUTERS/Ciro De Luca Acquire Licensing Rights

Victor Osimhen and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia scored in the second half as Napoli eventually broke down Cagliari 2-1 at home in Serie A on Saturday and moved provisionally up to fourth in the standings.

Champions Napoli, who have struggled at home this season having gained just one point in their previous four league games at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium, rose two places to fourth on 27 points from 16 games.

They are 11 points behind leaders Inter Milan and two above fifth-placed AS Roma, who visit Lazio and Bologna respectively on Sunday.

“It was a very important victory for us, we needed a restart,” coach Walter Mazzarri told DAZN.

“We had to get three points, otherwise a bad mechanism would have been triggered because the team that won the Scudetto, in a moment like this with several defeats at home… would have been put to the test.”

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Kickoff was delayed by 30 minutes due to strong winds which slowed the entry of fans in some sectors while officials checked the roof of the stadium for safety reasons, Italian media reported.

Napoli defender Amir Rrahmani hit the post with a header for the hosts’ closest chance of the first half just before the half-hour mark as Mazzarri’s side failed to benefit from their early domination, leaving the game level at halftime.

Osimhen headed Napoli in front in the 69th minute, with Cagliari keeper Simone Scuffet deflecting the ball on to the post only for it to bounce back into the net.

The Nigeria striker, who was crowned African Footballer of the Year on Monday, has now scored seven goals in Serie A this season and could have had more were it not for a recent hamstring injury that sidelined him for more than a month.

Cagliari forward Leonardo Pavoletti briefly spoiled the fun for Napoli, equalising three minutes later from close range.

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But Kvaratskhelia restored the home side’s lead with another goal that bounced in off the post after Osimhen teed him up 15 minutes from fulltime.

Winger Matteo Politano thought he had made it 3-1 with a low shot from outside the box shortly after, but his goal was ruled out for offside.

Cagliari, who have beaten Napoli once in their previous 24 games in Serie A, are in 16th place on 13 points.

“The will and strength of my players is to save themselves,” said coach Claudio Ranieri, who in June helped Cagliari to get back into the top flight after a one-year absence.

“My work will be completed when I have saved this team.”

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Cagliari have won three league games this season and are one point above the relegation zone.

-Reuters

 

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.

SERIE A

Ademola Lookman wins Atalanta’s ‘Player of The Season Award

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Nigeria’s Super Eagles winger and silver medal winner with the country at the last AFCON 2023 tournament in Cote D’Ivoire, Ademola Lookman, has emerged as the Atalanta Player of the Season.

The pint-size forward has won the converted award Back-to-back with the Bergamo-based side after his exploit in the domestic and European matches for the side.

Atalanta qualified for two finals with the Nigerian International playing an active role in the campaign.

He was instrumental to Atalanta winning the UEFA Europa League beating Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 in the final with the Nigerian scoring all the goals.

The club announced on its official website on Thursday saying, “It’s him again, Ademola Lookman! The reigning champion defends his title and is crowned straight-a student for the second year in a row after staving off an unsparing competition, to the point of both bringing the contest to an overtime runoff and stepping the pose down up to the Instagram profile after the regular session ended in a tie. Kudos to Mola for his back-to-back Player of the Season!” it noted.
It went further that,” building on his 17 goals and 11 key passes in all competitions (making him the team’s second-best seasonal scorer and wingman) and with the hat-trick scored in the magical Dublin final as his main leg-up, Lookman tips the ItalianOptic branded crown once again,” the web remarked.

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Aside from Ademola, the second and third-best positions were also announced as the midfield duo of Jose dos Santo Éderson and Teun Koopmeiners.

The Nigerian had a brilliant AFCON experience with Nigeria where he scored three goals and his exploits so far have put him in strong contention to win the next ‘African Footballer of the Year’ award which will come up before the end of the year at a venue yet to be announced by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).

Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen is the reigning winner of the award alongside Asissat Oshoola who retained the version.

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SERIE A

Napoli reduces Victor Osimhen’s value

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Former Serie A champions Napoli are reportedly ready to drop their asking price for Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen as his future grows ever more uncertain.

The 25-year-old is looking for a move away from Serie A but Napoli’s initial €150M release clause has warned off any potential suitors.

Quoting from another Italian outlet, Calciomercato, Getfootballnewsitaly reports that Napoli are ready to lower the initial valuation to €100M, in the hope that they can free up much needed transfer funds for new boss Antonio Conte, who is understood to be desperate to land Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku this summer.

It is also stated that the English Premier League sides, Chelsea who were understood to be in pole-position to sign the Nigerian international, has never opened any negotiation with the 2023 Serie A champions.

The only avenues open at this time seem to be the Saudi Pro-League, where a reported salary of €40M a season has been offered, or Paris Saint-Germain, with Osimhen not keen on either option, preferring a move to the English Premier League.

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SERIE A

Osimhen’s Napoli European hopes end with 0-0 draw against Lecce

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If Nigeria’s Victor Osimhen remains in Napoli in the next season, he will not have any action in UEFA competitions.

Napoli lost their slim chances to participate in European competitions next season when they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Lecce in their last Serie A game of the campaign on Sunday.

Last season’s champions Napoli finished 10th on 53 points, level with ninth-placed Torino who were beaten 3-0 at Atalanta in a simultaneous kick off on Sunday.

Despite their loss, Torino can now still earn a Europa Conference League playoffs spot if eighth-placed Fiorentina, who have a game in hand, win the Europa Conference League.

Fiorentina face Greece’s Olympiacos for the title on Wednesday.

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Napoli needed a win to maintain their European hopes but despite 24 shots, five of them on target, they ended their disappointing campaign winless in their last seven games.

Substitute Cyril Ngonge had a good chance to give Napoli the lead just after the break but his shot from the edge of the box was saved by Lecce goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone.

Jens Cajuste hit the far post with a low strike shortly before Ngonge hit the bar in the 64th minute.

Europa League winners Atalanta, meanwhile, secured at least fourth spot after Gianluca Scamacca, Ademola Lookman and Mario Pasalic were all on target in a 3-0 win against Torino.

They sit fourth on 69 points but can still leapfrog third-placed Juventus, on 71 points, if they beat Fiorentina in their last remaining game next Sunday.

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-Reuters

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