MILAN (Reuters) - Napoli’s Serie A title hopes were dealt a potentially fatal blow on Sunday when they were thumped 3-0 at Fiorentina after defender Kalidou Koulibaly was sent off in the eighth minute and the hosts took advantage with a Giovanni Simeone hat-trick.
The defeat left Napoli four points behind leaders Juventus with three matches to play, only a week after re-igniting the title race with a last-minute win away to the Turin side.
Juventus beat Inter Milan 3-2 on Saturday after scoring twice in the last five minutes against opponents who played for over an hour with 10 men.
The game hinged on the first attack when Simeone broke clear of Koulibaly — scorer of the winner at Juventus last week — and was felled as he was about to shoot.
The referee at first gave a penalty to Fiorentina and booked Koulibaly but changed both decisions after a VAR review.
After seeing that the incident had taken place outside the area and that Koulibaly had denied Simeone a clear scoring chance, he changed the penalty to a free kick and the yellow card to a red.
Napoli never settled after that and fell behind to another long ball forward to Simeone, who broke clear and slotted the ball past Pepe Reina in the 38th minute.
Dominant Fiorentina extended their lead in the 62nd minute when Simeone scored from close range after the ball pinged around the Napoli area following a corner.
The son of Atletico Madrid coach Diego capped his performance — and Napoli’s misery — when he was sent clear again and slotted past Reina in the 90th minute.
“It was a very poor performance and I can’t find anything positive to say about it,” said Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri.
“We were lost as a team. Too many players tried to find the solution on their own.”
Juventus lead on 88 points with Napoli on 84 followed by AS Roma on 70, Lazio on 67 and Inter Milan on 66.
In the afternoon games, AC Milan won 2-1 at Bologna to end a six-match winless run.
After coach Gennaro Gattuso said his team “lacked soul” in a home defeat by bottom club Benevento last week, Milan responded to his stinging criticism by taking a 2-0 halftime lead through Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura. Sebastien De Maio replied for the hosts.
Milan stayed seventh on 57 points, one behind Atalanta who beat Genoa 3-1 with goals from Musa Barrow, Bryan Cristante and Josip Ilicic.
SPAL climbed out of the drop zone when they came from behind to win 3-1 away to Verona in a relegation dogfight.
Second-half goals from Felipe and Jasmin Kurtic stunned Verona, who are one off the bottom with 25 points and seven adrift of safety with three matches to play.
SPAL (32 points) moved one place above Verona’s neighbours Chievo (31), who lost 4-1 at AS Roma on Saturday and sacked coach Rolando Maran on Sunday morning.
SPAL are one point behind Cagliari after the Sardinians were thumped 4-1 at Sampdoria.
Marcello Trotta and Simy scored twice each as escape artists Crotone, who survived last season by winning their final game, beat Sassuolo 4-1 to move up to 15th.
Former France, Arsenal and Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna scored a 90th minute equaliser to give Benevento, already relegated, a 3-3 draw at home to Udinese, who themselves ended a run of 11 successive defeats.
Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond