NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) – Napoli kept up their 100% record in the Champions League group phase and secured progress to the knockout stages by beating Ajax Amsterdam 4-2 at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium on Wednesday.
Early goals from Hirving Lozano and Giacomo Raspadori put the Serie A leaders comfortably ahead by the 16-minute mark and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia added a second-half penalty after Davy Klaassen had pulled one back for Ajax.
The Dutch club made a desperate bid for a share of the spoils as Steven Bergwijn converted an 83rd-minute penalty to bring the score back to 3-2 but a horror defensive error allowed Victor Osimhen to score Napoli’s fourth in the final minute.
Napoli’s 12-point haul means they are guaranteed a top-two finish in Group A, having scored 17 goals in four matches.
They join holders Real Madrid, Club Brugge and Manchester City as teams through to the round of 16 in February.
Any hopes Ajax had of revenging last week’s 6-1 humiliation at the Amsterdam Arena — their heaviest defeat in European club competition — were handed a blow in the opening salvoes of the match.
Lozano played a quick give-and-go with Piotr Zielinski, heading the lofted return ball into the net as Ajax’s defence were caught static in the fourth minute.
While the Dutch club had several half chances for a quick equaliser, Napoli went down the other end with a flowing run on the left from Kvaratskhelia, who played the ball inside for Raspadori to rifle a powerful shot into the net.
Ajax looked the brighter of the two sides immediately after the break and they got an instant reward as Klaassen headed home from Calvin Bassey’s inch-perfect cross in the 49th minute.
Napoli’s two goal advantage was restored in the 62nd minute after a VAR review found Jurrien Timber had handled in his area and Kvaratskhelia converted the resultant spotkick.
Ajax were awarded a penalty of their own seven minutes from time, which offered them hope of snatching a point when substitute Brian Brobbey was brought down and Bergwijn scored from the spot.
But those hopes were extinguished in the last minute when Daley Blind was dispossessed by Osimhen as the Nigerian striker marked his return from injury with a goal.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond and Toby Davis)