A tale of two number 9s as Napoli crush Frankfurt's dreams
If it's of any consolation to Frankfurt, they're not the first team Napoli have torn apart this season. The Serie A champions-in-waiting were measured in their defusing of the Europa League winners with a performance that deserved even more than the two-goal margin they secured.
For a few short minutes, Kevin Trapp's big penalty save from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia promised to ignite the hosts but such was the scale of Napoli's superiority, the Georgian's miss didn't matter after 90 minutes and won't after 180. Luciano Spaletti's side looked like a team 15 points clear at the top of Serie A; slick in possession, business-like in front of goal.
Victor Osimhen was the executioner-in-chief, scoring from close range after a scintillating run and cross by Hirving Lozano after Mario Götze's loose pass was punished. The opener came just four minutes after the penalty miss, which would have rattled lesser teams.
Osimhen's transfer from Lille for €70 million in 2020 was a risk at the time but no one is questioning the fee now, given his return of 19 goals in 23 games this season. He has been a revelation at the apex of a Napoli team drilled by Spaletti to play to Osimhen's best attributes: intelligent movement, searing pace and precise finishing.
Muani takes Frankfurt's hopes with him
Frankfurt have their own imposing striker too, a player who also cut his teeth in France and shares many of Osimhen's best traits. Kolo Muani has lit up the Bundesliga this season and has seemed to be on the cusp of bigger and better things ever since his €16 million move from Nantes last year. But while his opposite number 9 spearheaded Napoli to victory, Muani's night couldn't have been any different.
He spent the evening starved of service and unable to make inroads against Serie A's best defense before being caught up in the game's major flashpoint. Just shy of the hour, he overran the ball and lunged forward to reach it ahead of Andre-Frank Anguissa. He mistimed it though and plunged his studs into Anguissa's ankle. Malicious it wasn't, a red card it was, and Muani's suspension for the return leg on March 15 makes a thankless task almost impossible.
Napoli weren't done there though. A beautiful, flowing move was lasered into the bottom corner by Giovanni Di Lorenzo after an impudent back-heel by Kvaratskhelia. That was a hammer blow for Frankfurt, whose Champions League journey has seen them scale new heights — but here they were simply outclassed by one of Europe's finest.