Napoli’s Europa League progress is put back in doubt after a 2-1 defeat away to Spartak Moscow, as Eljif Elmas pulled one back, but a dismal start proved decisive.
The Partenopei were decimated by injuries to Victor Osimhen – who will be out for three months with multiple facial fractures – Lorenzo Insigne, Diego Demme, Matteo Politano and Andre Frank Zambo Anguissa. The hosts also had to do without Ezequiel Ponce, Roman Zobnin and Pavel Maslov.
It was the worst possible start for the Partenopei, as within two minutes Stanislav Lobotka had clumsily brought down Quincy Promes just inside the box and Aleksandr Sobolev converted the penalty into the far top corner.
Napoli were shaken and almost conceded more, Sobolev’s header landing on the roof of the net and Alex Meret smothering a Victor Moses effort.
Napoli finally woke up after 15 minutes, Aleksandr Selikhov making a double save on Eljif Elmas, then a sensational one-handed parry on Piotr Zielinski.
Those proved decisive, because Sobolev doubled Spartak’s lead with a header at the back post on the Moses cross.
Napoli had the ball in the back of the net with Giovanni Di Lorenzo on 51 minutes, but the offside flag was up because Andrea Petagna got a flick on the cross.
They were pinning Spartak back into their own half after the restart, a Kalidou Koulibaly header held, Dries Mertens volley fingertipped over the bar and Hirving Lozano curler off target.
The goal had been coming and arrived when Petagna floated a ball to the back post for the head of Elmas.
Di Lorenzo and Piotr Zielinski couldn’t keep their shots down, while Elmas saw another blocked by defensive bodies and his diving header from point-blank range brought another great save out of Selikhov in the final minute.
This result means that Spartak Moscow now leap to the top of the group, with either Legia Warsaw or Leicester City potentially leapfrogging Napoli this evening.
Spartak Moscow 2-1 Napoli
Sobolev pen 3, 28 (S), Elmas 64 (N)