Napoli cruised to an emphatic 4-1 victory at Wolfsburg in the Europa League quarter-final, first leg on the day their manager Rafael Benitez turned 55.
It was the perfect gift for the Spaniard, who has found his position under intense scrutiny following a slump in form which saw his side lose four successive away games in all competitions.
The Serie A side are in a battle to secure qualification for next season’s Champions League by either securing a top-four finish or winning the Europa League, and judging by recent domestic form, lifting this trophy might be their best opportunity.
They have certainly put themselves firmly in contention to reach the semi-finals after blowing away their hosts.
Striker Gonzalo Higuain opened the scoring with a quarter-of-an-hour gone:
However, he appeared to handle the ball before smashing it past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio:
Midfielder Marek Hamsik netted either side of the half-time interval to put the game beyond the reach of the Germans.
His first was a beautifully-taken effort, effortlessly curling the ball into the net after a pinpoint through-ball from Higuain:
He then poked home Jose Callejon’s delivery which followed terrible defending by Joshua Guilavogui:
Substitute Manolo Gabbiadini nodded in the fourth just seconds after coming on to the pitch:
There was a late consolation from ex-Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner, who tapped in from point-blank range:
The Denmark international’s effort did not spark an unlikely fightback from Wolfsburg, whose fans were left in stunned silence as events unfolded.