Napoli had to claw their way to a sixth straight victory, maintaining the perfect record, but SPAL made it very difficult for them in a 3-2 thriller.
The Partenopei were the only side, along with Juventus, who had a 100 per cent record after five rounds and consequently were top of the Serie A table. Maurizio Sarri’s men had notched up a club record nine consecutive League victories and visited a SPAL side fresh from three straight defeats.
There was a huge scare in the opening couple of minutes, as Faouzi Ghoulam got his chest to a Mirco Antenucci cross and accidentally sent it inches wide of his own goal.
Marek Hamsik’s dummy left Manuel Lazzari for dead at the by-line and he forced an Alfred Gomis save from close range, but Lorenzo Insigne was booked for simulation.
SPAL took a surprise lead when Antenucci reacted quicker than Kalidou Koulibaly to get on the end of a pass, rolling it across for the onrushing Pasquale Schiattarella to thump it first time right into the near bottom corner. It was a special goal for Schiattarella, who is from Naples.
Just 77 seconds later, another Neapolitan was on the scoresheet, this time for the Partenopei. Mora had intercepted a trademark Napoli passing move down the right, but Jose Callejon pounced on a hesitation on the edge of the area and Insigne spun on the spot to blast in at the near post with his weaker left foot.
Borriello risked an own goal, nodding over from the corner, but midway through the half SPAL even took control for long periods with smart passing moves. They did far more than just hang on to a draw at the Stadio Mazza.
Just before the break, Insigne flicked a Ghoulam cross, forcing Gomis to save at the near stick.
The game didn’t change in the second half, Napoli struggling to make any impact on an organised SPAL side. When Ghoulam did cut through with a give and go from Mertens, Bartosz Salamon got the decisive block from six yards.
Piotr Zielinski’s angled drive flashed across the face of goal, but Sarri went for it in the final 20 minutes with Arkadiusz Milik for a 4-2-4 system.
It worked, because Ghoulam’s cross found Callejon to sneak up through the crowd – with Mertens and Milik going away from goal – and nod in.
It was almost 3-1 moments later, as Gomis first denied Milik’s glancing header at the near post, then got just enough on a Mertens angled drive to turn it past the far stick.
However, SPAL got back on level terms when Marko Rog barged Federico Viviani over not far outside the box. That’s his favourite spot and the midfielder curled the free kick over a massive defensive wall, as Reina was unsighted.
Gomis beat away an Allan snapshot, but Ghoulam came to the rescue with a wonderful solo effort. The left-back ran at defenders, cut inside and drilled into the far bottom corner from the edge of the box with his right boot.
Milik had the chance to make it 4-2, but fired straight at Gomis on a Rog counter. The Pole then crumpled to the ground, as his right knee appeared to give way beneath him. There were moments of fear, but he was able to limp off unaided, albeit clearly shaken. Milik had surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee in September 2016.
It left Napoli down to 10 men for the remaining five minutes of injury time.