SPAL came back twice for a spectacular and potentially decisive victory, ending Empoli’s six-match unbeaten home run, in a 4-2 thriller.
This was a crucial relegation dogfight, as the hosts were stuck in the bottom three even after their heroic draw under siege from Atalanta, but SPAL were only six points clear of the drop zone despite a shock victory over Juventus last week, their fourth win in the last five rounds.
Empoli had a long injury list including Diego Farias, Lucas Antonelli, Antonino La Gumina, Marko Pajac and Matias Silvestre. Mohamed Fares was suspended for SPAL, with Bosko Jankovic, Lorenzo Simic and Lorenzo Dickmann injured.
These teams drew 2-2 when they met earlier this season, but Empoli were hoping to extend their five-game unbeaten home run.
Traore horribly wasted a great counter-attack after eight minutes when he stumbled at the decisive moment on Rade Krunic’s assist, but Empoli saw Domenico Maietta stretchered off in agony after a collision, further increasing their injury woes.
The hosts took the lead after 21 minutes and SPAL left Ciccio Caputo criminally unmarked at the back post to turn in a flicked-on Krunic corner kick.
SPAL got back on track from the penalty spot, as Nikolaou trod on the back of Sergio Floccari’s heel and Andrea Petagna coolly converted.
The Spallini had already overturned the result to beat Juventus last week and completed another comeback here, as Floccari’s diving header on a Manuel Lazzari cross flew in at the near post from 10 yards.
Levan Mchedlidze replaced Cristian Dell’Orco and made an immediate impact, as he completed the give and go with Hamed Junior Traore for a side-foot sweep into the far bottom corner from just inside the box to draw Empoli level.
It still wasn’t over with a dramatic Stadio Castellani match, as SPAL restored their advantage when Petagna gathered in the D, spun round and smashed in a right-foot finish.
Empoli poured forward and had penalty appeals waved away, but during that move SPAL countered and Mirco Antenucci cut inside from the left for a right-foot curler into the far top corner.
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