The late Johan Cruyff is a legend of world football, and he created many famous quotes and sayings during his life.
One of football’s idealists and a staunch critic of Italian football, the Dutchman once said that the Italians can never beat you, but you can lose to them. It was his way of saying that Italian teams were opportunistic and were never interested in controlling the play.
Cruyff started his professional playing and coaching careers with Ajax, and if he was still alive today, he would have been astounded to have seen his former club annihilated 6-1 by Italian club Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.
It was a performance that debunked the dated stereotype of Italian football being slow, defensive, and ugly. The Partenopei played in an exciting fashion, attacking the Dutch giants at a high tempo from start to finish, and they perhaps should have added to their six-goal tally considering the chances they created.
Napoli dominated Ajax on all fronts and broke records
Arguably the most surprising thing about this game in hindsight was that Ajax took an early lead through Mohammed Kudus in the ninth minute. Both teams were on the attack from the first whistle but Napoli became more potent after that goal from the Ghana international.
In addition to the final score, the Neapolitans dominated in many other categories according to Opta.
Napoli had 26 shots with 13 on target whereas Ajax had eight shots and just two hit the target. The Partenopei dominated possession 56.3% to 43.7, made 491 successful passes to 375, had a successful passing rate of 82.9% compared to 72.8, and recovered the ball on 71 occasions in contrast to 63.
This victory for the southern Italian club is already of great historical significance. They became the fourth team from Italy after the traditional powers of Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter to win their first three games in a Champions League group stage, and they also became the first Italian side to score at least 11 goals in the opening three Champions League group matches.
Another record for Napoli was that they scored six goals in a European tie for the first time in their history. As for Ajax, this was their worst defeat in a European fixture, and before that, they had only lost twice to Dutch rivals Feyenoord by five goals in 1960 and 1964.
Raspadori maintains his scoring prowess for club and country
Italian striker Giacomo Raspadori was one of the stars for Napoli in their demolition of Ajax, scoring twice, taking his tally to four goals in his last five competitive games for his club, and he had scored twice in two match for Italy during the international break.
At 22 years and 228 days, he is the third youngest player after Lorenzo Insigne and Arkadiusz Milik two score twice in a Champions League game, and he also the third Partenopei player to score in his first two Champions League appearances after Edinson Cavani in 2011 and Milik in 2016.
Raspadori is also the youngest Italian player to have been involved in three goals in a Champions League match. The former Sassuolo striker supplied an assist for Kvicha Kvaratskhelia in addition to his brace. Mario Balotelli was the youngest at 18 years and 84 days when he scored a goal and provided two assists in a 3-3 draw against Cypriot side Anothorsis Famagusta in 2008.