Salzburg 2-3 Napoli: Mertens gets a double in thriller

Dries Mertens and Erling Haaland both scored twice as Napoli edged Salzburg 3-2 in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Dries Mertens surpassed Diego Maradona's tally of 115 goals for Napoli.   -  Getty Images

Dries Mertens scored a goal in each half as Napoli beat Salzburg 3-2 in an entertaining Champions League encounter to stay on top of Group E.

Mertens – who also scored in Napoli's 2-0 win over Liverpool last month – twice put his side in front on Wednesday, only to see teenage prodigy Erling Haaland level for the host on both occasions.

The terrific Mertens then turned provider, setting up substitute Lorenzo Insigne for the 73rd-minute winner, a strike that came swiftly after Haaland got his second.

Haaland thought he had put the host in front in the eighth minute with an instinctive left-foot finish, but the celebrations of the home fans were cut short by a VAR-assisted offside decision.

At the other end, Mertens was causing problems and he fired Napoli in front after racing inside the penalty area and thrashing a fierce strike from a tight angle past Salzburg goalkeeper Cican Stankovic.

Salzburg responded well to falling behind, though, the outstanding Haaland forcing two good saves from Napoli's Alex Meret before he also shot wide.

READ| Messi sets Champions League record as Barca beats Slavia Prague 2-1

Meret also kept out a terrific Patson Daka effort before Haaland got the goal his first-half performance deserved when Hwang Hee-chan skipped past Kevin Malcuit and was then brought down inside the penalty area by the defender.

The striker coolly slotted away the spot-kick as both sides went to the break level and after a tame beginning to the second half, the match exploded into life when Mertens, left free at the back post, turned a 64th-minute cross in.

Haaland levelled again, scoring a thumping header, but Napoli was not to be denied, Insigne's clever finish settling matters in Austria.

 

What does it mean?

Victory means undefeated Napoli remains one point clear of European champions Liverpool in Group E.

The Reds beat Genk 4-1 on Wednesday, meaning Salzburg stays two points ahead of the Belgian side in third.

Haaland justifies the hype … again

There is a reason Salzburg's teenage striker is one of the most-talked about youngsters in world football and Haaland showed exactly why with another incredible performance. He now has 20 goals in 13 games this season for the club.

His strength, power and nous around goal were all on display as the 19-year-old tormented Napoli.

Stankovic's night to forget

Mertens' first goal was struck well but Stankovic would not have liked getting beaten at his near post.

The goalkeeper's night was short-lived, too, replaced by Carlos in the 33th minute after he suffered what looked to be a hamstring injury.

Key Opta facts

- Haaland is the first player to score as many as six goals in his first three Champions League appearances.
- The Norwegian forward is also the second-youngest player to net a penalty in the Champions League (19 years 94 days) after Bojan did so for Barcelona against Sporting CP in November 2008 (18y 90d).
- Mertens' brace was just the third scored away from home in the Champions League by a Napoli player and the first since Arkadiusz Milik netted twice against Dynamo Kiev in September 2016.
- The Belgian has now scored 116 goals for Napoli in all competitions; more than Diego Maradona netted for the club (115).
- Jose Callejon has assisted two goals in his past four away games in the Champions League – he failed to set up a team-mate in his previous 16 matches on the road in the competition (for Real Madrid and Napoli).

What's next?

Napoli go to Serie A strugglers SPAL on Sunday and Carlo Ancelotti's men will host Salzburg in its next Champions League assignment on November 5. Salzburg hosts Rapid Vienna on Sunday.

  Dugout videos