The Partenopei needed a victory to stay in the title race after one point from their last two games, but had Kalidou Koulibaly suspended, Giovanni Di Lorenzo, Stanislav Lobotka and Eljif Elmas injured. Alessandro Zanoli started despite a stomach bug, but the big change was a 4-2-3-1 with all the strikers used simultaneously. Empoli were without a win in 16 Serie A rounds, a new club record, with long-term absentees Lorenzo Tonelli, Riccardo Marchizza and Nicolas Haas.
Empoli really should’ve taken the lead after four minutes, but Andrea Pinamonti incredibly turned a free header wide on a corner at the back post.
Victor Osimhen nodded a couple of corners over the bar, while Alex Meret was tested twice by Valerio Verre on through balls, then made the save on Kristjan Asllani at the near post.
Just as Empoli were pinning Napoli back, they conceded on the stroke of half-time, Osimhen’s dummy letting a low Chucky Lozano cross through from the right, Mertens sweeping in first time from 12 yards.
Lorenzo Insigne got only his second Serie A goal of the season from open play, as Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa won back the ball in midfield and spread it down the left for his first-time angled drive with the weaker left foot.
Meret smothered a Filippo Bandinelli effort and punched Verre’s strike over, but Empoli finally got a deserved goal when Kevin Malcuit was robbed in midfield and a ricochet fell kindly for Liam Henderson in acres of space, with time to control and drill into the far bottom corner.
Nedim Bajrami should’ve made it 2-2 moments later, ballooning over from 12 yards, but the goal did arrive when Meret was caught napping during what should’ve been a simple ball played out from the back, pressed by Pinamonti to score from six yards.
Napoli crumbled, not for the first time this season, and went from 2-0 up to 3-2 down in just seven minutes. Bajrami went on the counter, whipped his cross over the head of Federico Di Francesco for Pinamonti to come sliding in at the back post.
It was Empoli’s first win since December 2021, which funnily enough was also against Napoli, but only the Partenopei’s second away defeat of the season.
Empoli 3-2 Napoli
Mertens 44 (N), Insigne 53 (N), Henderson 80 (E), Pinamonti 83, 87 (E)