Viktor Kovalenko’s stoppage-time wonder goal for Empoli dealt a devastating blow to Serie A champions Napoli, as they suffered a 1-0 defeat. The result has heaped pressure on Napoli’s coach, Rudi Garcia, who reportedly held talks with club president Aurelio De Laurentiis following their 1-1 draw with Union Berlin in the Champions League.
Napoli had hoped to secure a victory against relegation-threatened Empoli at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, in order to head into the international break in third place. However, substitute Kovalenko had other plans, as he curled in a sensational winner for the visitors in the 91st minute.
The match was not short of drama, with Empoli’s goalkeeper, Etrit Berisha, putting on a spectacular display. Just moments before Kovalenko’s goal, Berisha pulled off a superb save to deny Khvicha Kvaratskhelia’s close-range effort. Berisha had already made impressive stops throughout the game, denying Napoli’s Matteo Politano, Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, and Kvaratskhelia.
Napoli did manage to find the back of the net through Giovanni Simeone, but his goal was disallowed for offside. Empoli also had their fair share of chances in the first half, with Filippo Ranocchia, Matteo Cancellieri, and Nicolo Cambiaghi all going close.
In the second half, Napoli dominated play, but their efforts were in vain without star striker Victor Osimhen. As a result, they missed the opportunity to leapfrog Milan in the standings, while Empoli climbed out of the relegation zone.
The defeat has undoubtedly raised doubts about Garcia’s future as Napoli’s coach. With talks already held with the club president, his position may be hanging by a thread. The international break will provide a crucial period for Napoli to regroup and reassess their strategies before returning to Serie A action.