Eduardo Vargas ensured that SSC Napoli's 100th European fixture was one to remember as he scored a hat-trick against AIK Solna in UEFA Europa League Group F.
The young Chile striker, yet to begin a league game for the Partenopei, made the most of a rare starting berth with an assured finish early in each half. His third, with 21 minutes remaining, and Blerim Dzemaili's deflected strike in added time put the seal on Napoli's fourth successive win in all competitions.
The Azzurri went into the game unbeaten at the Stadio San Paolo in 14 European outings, and the prospect of that run ending against AIK began to seem remote when Vargas gave them a sixth-minute lead. Sent clear by Alessandro Gamberini, the 22-year-old held off the backtracking Nils-Eric Johansson, steadied himself and unerringly beat Ivan Turina for his first Napoli goal since joining the club in January.
In Atakora Lalawélé, Mohamed Bangura, Kwame Karikari and Martin Kayongo Mutumba, AIK had pace in abundance, though. As the half developed, the quartet began to pull the Napoli defence here and there, with Karikari spurning a free header and Mutumba causing all manner of consternation with a low ball across goal. European debutant Antonio Rosati was then quick of his line to thwart Bangura.
AIK's task became steeper within seconds of the restart, however, when Vargas ran on to another Gamberini pass and finished with aplomb. He completed his treble midway through the half, rifling substitute Marek Hamšík's tapered pass across Turina. Hamšík was dismissed six minutes later for lashing out at Johansson, but by then Vargas had long since done the damage – and Dzemaili still had time to add a fourth.
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