Khvicha Kvaratskhelia dropped another masterclass against last season’s Champions League finalists
An outstanding Khvicha Kvaratskhelia was in top form as he helped Napoli destroy last season’s finalists Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday.
As the protagonist for the Italians in midfield, the Georgian winger had just 32 touches but used them well with three key passes and an assist as Napoli roared 3-0 ahead after 45 minutes.
Already hailed as ‘Kavaradona’ in tribute to Napoli club legend Diego Maradona, whom their former Stadio San Paolo is now named after following his 2020 death, the number 77 helped Giovanni Simeone – son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone – score the hosts’ third by setting him up for a tap-in in the 44th minute.
Kvaratskhelia generally gave his Liverpool rivals the run-around before being substituted in the 57th minute, taking advantage of sloppy defending by the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez on what was a torrid night for the Reds in southern Italy.
The impressive display from the 21-year-old was just the latest since joining the Neapolitans for a reported fee between €10–12 million ($9.92-11.9 million) that has seen him dubbed the bargain of the season.
Kvaratskhelia headed to Serie A from Dinamo Batumi in Georgia, but had started to build a reputation in Russia at Rubin Kazan where he left after the military operation in Ukraine began amid reported threats to his family back home.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) September 7, 2022
Napoli’s Khvicha Kvaratskhelia is an exciting young player. Saw him against Lazio at the weekend and he was superb. He’s as difficult to play against as it is to spell his name correctly.
— Gary Lineker 💙💛 (@GaryLineker) September 7, 2022
As Piot Zielinski scored early in the second half and Luis Diaz pulled back a consolation, one of the greatest nights in Napoli’s proud European history ended 4-1 with Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp left to demand that his underperforming charges need to be better at “pretty much everything”.
Though the sacking was not said to be down to poor performances, ex-Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was dismissed after a shock 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday as the west Londoners slumped to just three wins in seven games.
With Liverpool faring worse and managing just two victories in the same amount of time, Klopp is under pressure but hailed the Merseysiders’ top brass for their more level-headed approach compared to Todd Boehly.
“Not really,” Klopp answered when asked if he feared getting the chop. “Our owners are rather calm and expect me to sort the situation and not think someone else will.”
“It was really tough to take but I would say not that difficult to explain,” Klopp said with regards to the result.
“Firstly, Napoli played really well and we didn’t. That is the first explanation for the defeat. The two penalties we concede, they were both a little unlucky.
🗣 “They are different kind of owners, our owners are rather calm.”Jurgen Klopp reassures that Liverpool’s owners will not panic during this time when asked about his future pic.twitter.com/B2MBWfui7o
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) September 8, 2022
“The next two goals we concede are handed to them on a plate. That is not cool and we should have defended better in the first place and, of course, in the last moment as well.
“We were not compact defensively or offensively. With Alisson in goal you have to be really bad to concede three goals [in the first half]. You could see it on the pitch. We were not working as a team. That is why we lose games,” Klopp offered.
“We need to reinvent ourselves,” the German stressed, if the Reds are to return to winning ways.
“There are a lot of things lacking, not in all games but the fun thing is we have to do it in the middle of the Premier League season and a Champions League campaign. We need a set-up to be better in pretty much everything.”
“We have to play in three days against Wolves,” Klopp also pointed out.
“If Wolves saw that game tonight they would not stop laughing and would say it is the perfect moment.”
Elsewhere on the continent, big wins were achieved by Ajax, who beat Rangers 4-0, and FC Barcelona, who saw off Viktoria Plzen 5-1.
Already on fire for the Catalans this season, Robert Lewandowski took the match ball home for netting a hat trick which he has now done for three different outfits in the competition including Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
As Barca’s other rivals in the group Bayern beat Inter Milan 2-0 away from home, Sporting Lisbon also managed a clean sheet as they thrashed Bayern’s compatriots and Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0 in the German finance hub.
In the Spanish and English capitals, though, viral scenes played out as Richarlison celebrated his first Champions League goals for Tottenham with his parents after scoring both in a 2-0 win over Marseille.
“It was years of struggle, and you were always by my side,” the former Everton wrote on Twitter when sharing the footage.
“I just need to thank you for not giving up on me and my dream. Today, having you here, made the moment even more exciting for me. We continue together for even bigger dreams to come! Thanks Dad!,” the Brazil international added.
Foram anos de luta, e você sempre esteve ao meu lado. Só preciso agradecer por não desistir de mim e do meu sonho. Hoje, ter você na aqui, tornou o momento ainda mais emocionante p mim. Seguimos juntos por sonhos ainda maiores que virão! Obrigado, pai! 💙🤍 pic.twitter.com/Oini3eyIAe
— Richarlison Andrade (@richarlison97) September 7, 2022
At the Metropolitano Stadium, there was chaos as Mario Hermoso scored in the 91st minute for Atletico Madrid only for Mateus Uribe to equalize for Porto in the 96th.
Then, with 101 minutes down on the clock, supersub Antoine Griezmann netted the winner and was mobbed by his teammates and Simeone who ran the length of the touchline to celebrate his last-ditch effort.
“It’s clear that I would like to play more, but I have to do the maximum in the minutes that I am given,” said the World Cup winner, who is currently confined to the bench as Atleti must pay Barca a €40 million ($40 million) fee to make his loan move permanent if he plays at least 45 minutes in half of his current team’s games this season.