Nigerian striker Osimhen leads Napoli to defeat Cagliari 2-1

AP , Saturday 16 Dec 2023

Freshly crowned African player of the year, Victor Osimhen showed why he’s considered one of the world’s top strikers on Saturday.

Victor Osimhen
Napoli s Victor Osimhen heads the ball, during the Italian Serie A soccer match between Napoli and Cagliari Calcio, at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium, in Naples, Italy, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. AP

 

Having already scored one goal with a towering header between two defenders, Osimhen was even more impressive when he provided the assist for Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s winner in defending champion Napoli’s 2-1 win over Claudio Ranieri’s Cagliari in Serie A.

First, Osimhen controlled a pass with his right foot. He used his chest before bouncing the ball three times off his right thigh and onto his head. Appearing to lose control at that point, Osimhen instead muscled his way past three defenders to cross to the unmarked Kvaratskhelia, who pounded the ball in off the near post.

Kvaratskhelia immediately pointed at Osimhen after the ball went in.

Ending a four-match winless streak at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in the league, Napoli moved up to fourth place, 11 points behind leader Inter Milan, which visits Lazio on Sunday.

Osimhen was instrumental during Napoli’s title run last season with 26 goals to lead the league. Slowed by injury this season, he has only six. And he's due to miss a big chunk of the season when he joins Nigeria’s squad for the African Cup of Nations in January.

Napoli is still adapting to a midseason coaching change where Walter Mazzarri replaced the fired Rudi Garcia. There were boos when the first half ended 0-0 despite numerous chances for the Partenopei.

Osimhen took over when he rose to meet a cross from Mario Rui with a powerful header. The ball went directly at Simone Scuffet but the Cagliari goalkeeper couldn’t stop it.

Leonardo Pavoletti equalized three minutes later when he got past Napoli defender Juan Jesus to redirect in a cross.

Then Osimhen drew the entire defense toward him and set up the winner with his dribbling show.

The effort for the assist appeared to leave Osimhen with an injured groin but he didn’t come off.

The start of the match was delayed for a half hour after strong winds prompted an inspection of the stadium roof. While there was no damage, the inspection delayed the fans’ entrance.

Osimhen posed with his African Player of the Year award — having flown to Morocco earlier in the week to pick it up. Osimhen won the honor ahead of Achraf Hakimi and Mohamed Salah.

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