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Boos ring out in Naples as defending champion loses to lowly Empoli in Serie A

MILAN (AP) — Defending champion Napoli fell to its third loss of the season in Serie A to pile the pressure on coach Rudi Garcia as a stoppage-time goal saw lowly Empoli win 1-0 at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Sunday.

Viktor Kovalenko scored with a stunning strike late on for Empoli, which had lost eight of its previous 11 matches, and the boos rang out in Naples.

All three of Napoli’s losses have come in front of its own fans and it has only won one match at home since the end of August. It lost just two matches at home on its way to the title last season under Luciano Spalletti.

Napoli remained fourth, eight points behind league leader Juventus although Inter Milan can move back top when it plays Frosinone later. Empoli moved a point clear of the relegation zone.

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Napoli’s matches immediately after the international break are against Atalanta, Real Madrid, Inter and Juventus.

Lazio was also playing Roma later in the capital derby.

Napoli could have moved third, following AC Milan’s 2-2 draw at Lecce on Saturday, but it was still without forward Victor Osimhen and Garcia opted to start with another key player on the bench, resting Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

Napoli also lost goalkeeper Alex Meret to a calf injury in the warmup so Pierluigi Gollini replaced him between the posts.

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There were boos when Garcia’s name was read out before the match and more jeers after a drab first half. Garcia’s experiment clearly hadn’t worked and Kvaratskhelia was brought on early in the second period.

Napoli looked more dangerous but Empoli goalkeeper Etrit Berisha did well to pull off a miraculous save with an outstretched leg to deny Kvaratskhelia in the final minute.

Worse was to come for Napoli moments later as Tyronne Ebuehi pulled the ball back from the byline for Kovalenko and the Ukraine midfielder curled in a magnificent strike off the inside of the far post for his first goal for Empoli.

CLOSING IN

Atalanta snatched a 1-1 draw at Udinese to move to within one point of Napoli, along with Fiorentina which beat Bologna 2-1.

After beating Milan last weekend for its first win of the season, Udinese appeared to be heading for a second straight victory following Walace’s deflected strike on the stroke of halftime — despite having earlier seen a penalty come off the post.

But Ederson headed in the equaliser in stoppage time.

It was Udinese’s fifth draw in its past six league matches and left it two points above the drop.

Fiorentina leapfrogged two points above Bologna, which fell to its first loss since the opening weekend.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer