Nikola Kalinic
Football Soccer - Fiorentina v Empoli - Italian Serie A - Artemio Franchi stadium, Florence, Italy 22/11/15Nikola Kalinic of Fiorentina celebrates after scoring a goal against EmpoliREUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

MILAN (Reuters) – Substitute Nikola Kalinic scored twice in five minutes and then hit the crossbar as he rescued a 2-2 draw for Serie A title challengers Fiorentina at home to lowly Empoli on Sunday after they had trailed 2-0.

Vincenzo Montella made a losing start as coach of Sampdoria, who went down 1-0 at Udinese, and Davide Ballardini, starting a second stint in charge of Palermo, saw the Sicilians held 1-1 at Lazio.

There was an amazing finish at Genoa where Francesco Acerbi scored in the 94th minute for visitors Sassuolo to make it 1-1, only for Leonardo Pavoletti to win it for the hosts almost immediately. Both teams had a player sent off in the first half.

Fiorentina’s draw left them level at the top with Napoli, who earlier won 2-0 at Verona with second-half goals from Lorenzo Insigne and Gonzalo Higuain.

Both have 28 points, one ahead of Inter Milan who were at home to Frosinone in the evening (1945 GMT).

Empoli got off to a flying start as Marko Livaja fired home from Riccardo Saponara’s pass in the 19th minute and Liechtenstein international Marcel Buechel scored with a long-range effort eight minutes later.

The visitors could easily have gone three ahead as Saponara fired over the bar and then had a strong penalty appeal waved away.

The game changed dramatically in the second half after Fiorentina brought on Croatia forward Kalinic who reduced the arrears with a header in the 56th minute and turned in Khouma Babacar’s pass to level just after the hour.

In a dramatic finale, Kalinic hit the crossbar and saw another effort blocked by Lukasz Skorupski who also made a superb save in stoppage time to turn away Matias Vecino’s long-range shot.

Emmanuel Badu’s first half goal for Udinese ensured a losing start for new Sampdoria coach Montella, whose predecessor Walter Zenga was fired after only 14 matches. The visitors also had Ervin Zukanovic given a straight red card.

Ballardini made his Palermo debut against Lazio, where he spent an unhappy six months in 2009-10, and saw defender Edoardo Goldaniga give the Sicilians a first-half lead before Antonio Candreva levelled with a second-half penalty for Lazio.

Tempers flared just before halftime in Genoa when Sassuolo’s temperamental striker Domenico Berardi was sent off for a wild kick at Cristian Anseldi and Diego Perotti was dismissed for the hosts as he also got involved.

Venezuela midfielder Tomas Rincon put Genoa ahead with a curling effort early in the second half before an astonishing finale.

Acerbi levelled with a rebound four minutes into stoppage time but Sassuolo had barely finished celebrating when Pavoletti headed in Genoa’s winner.

Two early goals from Roberto Inglese and Riccardo Meggiorini gave Chievo a 2-1 win at Carpi and Torino won 1-0 at Atalanta thanks to Cesare Bovo’s volley in the afternoon’s other games.

(Writing by Brian Homewood in Berne; editing by Justin Palmer)

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