Napoli blew a two goal lead to suffer a late heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Empoli in Serie A, who ended their 17-game run without a win in unbelievable fashion as they scored three times in the last ten minutes to all but end the Partenopei’s chances of winning the Scudetto.
Napoli were the side to take the lead, and it came just before half-time and against the run of play.
Hirving Lozano’s cross from the right flank was well finished from inside the box by Dries Mertens, despite Empoli goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario getting a hand on it.
The visitors then doubled their lead on 54 minutes, as Lorenzo Insigne placed an effort into the far corner from inside the box after great work by Andre-Franck Zambo Angissa with a neat through ball for the Italian.
However, Empoli turned the game on its head with just over ten minutes to go, as Liam Henderson struck from inside the box to get his side back in it.
Then, just four minutes later, Empoli were level in dramatic circumstances, as Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret gifted the equaliser to Andrea Pinamonti after a shocking error.
Then, in the 87th minute, Empoli’s comeback was complete, as Pinamonti tapped home Nedim Bajrami’s deep cross to send the Gli Azzurri into raptures and deal a damning blow to Napoli.
TALKING POINT – NAPOLI CAPITULATE AT THE WORST TIME
Napoli fans may find this result hard to forgive their team for, considering the ramifications this defeat has on their Scudetto ambitions, which are now all but over. The gap to Inter Milan remains at five points with four games left to play, but the Partenopei have played a game more than both the Nerazzurri and AC Milan, and in reality needed to win all of their last five games to stand a chance.
Considering Empoli’s horrible run of form coming into the game – 17 games without a win to be precise – Napoli thought after 75 minutes that with their two goal cushion, they could just see out the win. That proved not to be the case, as they completely capitulated.
Empoli shocked the Napoli players with three goals in just over seven minutes – including a gift by Alex Meret for Andrea Pinamonti – to seal a historic first league double over the Partenopei, having also last tasted victory against the same opponents back in December.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH – HIRVING LOZANO
The 26-year-old proved to be a constant threat on the right wing for Napoli, as he was running at the Empoli defence down the right byline, and delivering dangerous balls into the box, which Victor Osimhen on many occasions could not make the most of.
However, one of his crosses did prove successful, as it was the assist for Napoli’s opening goal, as Dries Mertens finished well into the bottom corner.
In total, Lozano made a total of five key passes, made five successful dribbles and won 5/7 of his tackles (71% success rate).
Empoli: Vicario 5, Stojanovic 7, Viti 6, Luperto 6, Parisi 6, Zurkowski 7, Asllani 7, Bandinelli 6, Verre 6, Cutrone 6, Pinamonti 8. Subs: Bajrami 7, Henderson 6, Stulac 6, Cacace 6, Francesco 6.
Napoli: Meret 6, Rui 6, Jesus 6, Rrahmani 6, Zanoli 7, Ruiz 6, Anguissa 7, Insigne 7, Mertens 7, Lozano 8, Osimhen 6. Subs: Zielinski 5, Politano 5, Malcuit 6, Ounas 6.
3’ – WHAT A CHANCE! – A big miss for Empoli! They should be in front! The corner comes in from the right, and Pinamonti is unmarked at the back post but his header is just wide of the goal when it seemed easier to score!
43’ – GOAL! (Dries Mertens) – The visitors lead! And you have to say that it is a surprise! Dries Mertens gives Napoli the advantage. Lozano crosses the ball in from the right flank for Osimhen, but the forward opts to leave the ball for Mertens behind him, and the Belgian fires low into the corner, despite Vicario getting a touch on the ball in the Empoli goal!
54’ – GOAL! (Lorenzo Insigne) – Napoli strike again! It”s Lorenzo Insigne! Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa does really well to pinch the ball off Empoli in midfield, before driving forward down the centre of the pitch, and teeing Insigne up to his left. The Italian then finishes well into the far corner from inside the box. That should seal it for Napoli!
79’ – GOAL! (Liam Henderson) – Empoli strike with just over ten minutes to play! Substitute Liam Henderson sends a low shot into the bottom left corner from inside the box! This certainly makes things interesting with not much time to play!
83’ – GOAL! (Andrea Pinamonti) – Scenes here! The home side are back on terms after a shocking howler from Meret in the Napoli goal! Unsure what he was thinking, but he just gifted the ball to Pinamonti, who tapped the ball in from close range to make these last five minutes very interesting indeed! Have Napoli blown this?
87’ – GOAL! (Andrea Pinamonti) – Scenes here! Pinamonti puts Napoli in front! Bajrami steams down the right hand side, and puts in a fantastic cross from deep for Pinamonti in the box, and the striker stabs the ball home! Unbelievable. Napoli have capitulated!