Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero celebrates after scoring during the Champions League Group F soccer match between Napoli and Manchester City, at the San Paolo stadium in Naples, Italy, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP) (Associated Press)
By Andrew Dampf | AP By Andrew Dampf | AP November 1 at 7:46 PM
NAPLES, Italy — Anything related to Diego Maradona at Napoli’s San Paolo stadium is cause for celebration.
So when Sergio Aguero — Maradona’s former son-in-law — became Manchester City’s all-time top scorer with a goal in a 4-2 victory over Napoli on Wednesday, it seemed like there was a bit of destiny in the air.
“This moment is unique,” Aguero said. “The shirt is for my son. He texted me and I will bring it to him.”
While Aguero and Gianinna Maradona separated in 2012, their son, Benjamin, is the oldest grandson of Diego Maradona, who led Napoli to the 1987 and 1990 Serie A titles.
Diego Maradona won’t be pleased with this result, though, which secured City a spot in the knockout phase of the Champions League.
City’s superior physicality and height advantage proved the difference after Pep Guardiola’s side was able to weather intense pressing by Napoli in the opening half hour.
“For 20 minutes they mbadacred us,” Guardiola said, “We were destroyed, especially on the left flank with (Faouzi) Ghoulam, who together with (Lorenzo) Insigne gave us a lot of problems.
“At this level we cannot control for 90 minutes,” Guardiola added. “The question is how do we react to that situation and we did it well twice.”
City leads Group F with a maximum 12 points from four games. Shakhtar Donetsk is next with nine following a 3-1 win over Feyenoord. Serie A leader Napoli has three points and will struggle to get through, while Feyenoord remained with zero and was eliminated from contention.
Aguero finished off a swift counterattack in the 69th minute to move onto 178 goals for City — one clear of Eric Brook, who scored 177 goals in 453 appearances from 1928-1940.
Aguero has scored his tally of goals in 264 games for City since joining from Atletico Madrid in 2011.
“When one guy has achieved what he has achieved just (say) a big ‘Congratulations,’” Guardiola said. “He’s a legend.”
The goal showed that Aguero is back in form after breaking a rib in a car crash in September during a day off in the Netherlands.
“This moment has been a long time coming,” Aguero said.
Insigne had put Napoli ahead midway through the first half following a nice exchange with Dries Mertens, whose backheel pbad set up Insigne with only the goalkeeper to beat.
It was the first time in 13 matches in all competitions that City conceded the opening goal of a game — since facing Bournemouth in August.
An injury to Napoli left back Ghoulam proved costly, though, and City quickly equalized in the 34th with a header from Nicolas Otamendi.
“The injury to Ghoulam hurt us a lot because it came in a moment of the match when we were dominating,” Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri said.
Center back John Stones put City ahead with another header early in the second half.
With the “ultra” supporters at the San Paolo stadium beating drums and chanting encouragement, Napoli responded with a solid run of pressure and Leroy Sane fouled Raul Albiol to set up a penalty for Jorginho that made it 2-2.
After Aguero’s goal, Raheem Sterling added another for City in stoppage time.
It marked the first time under Sarri that Napoli conceded four goals.
“Unfortunately by attempting to win we got a little carried away and it cost us,” Sarri said. “But I liked the squad’s approach. I prefer trying to win even if that means having to take risks. We were facing one of the best teams in Europe and we were aware of the difficulties.”
In another entertaining match, like the meeting in England two weeks ago which City won 2-1, both sides also hit the woodwork.
Stones headed off the crossbar in the first half with Napoli goalkeeper Pepe Reina beaten and Insigne hit the bar with a long-range effort five minutes before Napoli earned a penalty.
“I love this team,” Guardiola said. “Football needs squads like Napoli.”
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