Napoli’s dreams shattered by Empoli’s late knock

Napoli’s Serie A championship hopes were dashed on Sunday as the third-placed southerners blew a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at Empoli.

Luciano Spalletti’s team led 2-0 with ten minutes remaining when Scottish midfielder Liam Henderson ignited a comeback for the hosts, who scored three goals in an eight-minute span.

With four games remaining this season, Napoli sits five points behind leaders Inter Milan and four behind second-placed AC Milan, both of whom have a game in hand.

Napoli has not won the Serie A championship since club star Diego Maradona led them to two league titles in 1987 and 1990.

Dries Mertens opened the scoring shortly before halftime, and Lorenzo Insigne added a second eight minutes later.

However, in the absence of banned Kalidou Koulibaly, Napoli’s defense crumbled.

A Kevin Malcuit mistake enabled Henderson to equalize after 80 minutes, with Andrea Pinamonti capitalizing on an error by visiting goalkeeper Alex Meret to score after 83 minutes.

Pinamonti scored a second five minutes later for the 14th-placed hosts, ending a 16-match winless streak that began on December 12 with a 1-0 victory over Napoli in Naples.

“Imagining such a match ending is impossible,” remarked Spalletti, whose team has now gone three games without a victory.

“But these are games when the opponent fights with the appropriate mentality, where we perhaps lost a little concentration and made errors we shouldn’t have done.”

“I’m accountable for this team’s technical and mental attitude, and I must accept the repercussions of what occurs on the field.”

Napoli’s Champions League qualifying does not seem to be jeopardized, as they still hold a nine-point lead over AS Roma in fifth place.

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