Soccer-Memory of Maradona evoked as Napoli thrash Ajax

Soccer Football - Champions League - Group A - Ajax Amsterdam v Napoli - Johan Cruijff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands - October 4, 2022 Napoli's Giovanni Simeone celebrates scoring their sixth goal REUTERS/Piroschka Van De Wouw

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Diego Maradona is never far from the minds of Napoli and after their 6-1 drubbing of Ajax Amsterdam away in the Champions League on Tuesday, coach Luciano Spalletti was quick to invoke the memory of the club icon.

“We played a great game. We have shown what we are capable of. Even Maradona would have been proud of us," said the Napoli coach after the runaway win that ensured a 100% record in Group A at the halfway stage of the group phase campaign.

Napoli now have an opportunity to clinch a berth in next year’s knockout phase when they host Ajax in the return game in the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium next week.

"We have an excellent chance to advance in the Champions League. What would make that achievement even more special is the quality of the opponents in the group. Ajax remains a great club,” added Spalletti, whose side have scored 13 goals in three games after also beating Rangers 3-0 away and Liverpool 4-1 at home.

Ajax took an early lead on Tuesday but once Napoli equalised they looked unstoppable.

"When you concede a goal quite quickly here in a churning stadium, it's not easy to give an answer right away, but my players reacted great. The goal didn't affect our game in any way," the coach told a post-match news conference.

Napoli’s Champions League exploits come on top of an unbeaten start to the Serie A season, where they share the lead with Atalanta.

They are chasing a first league title since the pair they won in 1987 and 1990 when Maradona was at his peak and Spalletti made clear this was not far from his mind.

“One match does not change your life. It was an excellent performance. It's very nice to win like this, but now we have to go back to thinking about the next game, there are teams in Serie A that are doing very well," he said, quickly turning the focus to the weekend’s clash away at Cremonese.

(Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

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