Stephan El Shaarawy and Patrik Schick have given Claudio Ranieri’s Roma the half-time lead over Empoli, despite a Juan Jesus own goal.
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This was the ‘debut’ for Ranieri after Eusebio Di Francesco’s dismissal, although in reality it was his return after resigning in February 2011. He had few options available, because Edin Dzeko, Federico Fazio and Aleksandar Kolarov were suspended, with Daniele De Rossi, Kostas Manolas, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under injured, but Nicolò Zaniolo was able to recover from a calf issue. Empoli needed a result too, as Bologna’s win over Cagliari put them just one point clear of the relegation zone, but Luca Antonelli, Antonino La Gumina and Levan Mchedlidze were side-lined.
It didn’t take long to break the deadlock, as a corner was cleared to the edge of the area, where Stephan El Shaarawy took a touch to get away from the defender and immediately smashed the right-foot screamer into the far top corner.
However, they had barely finished celebrating when the equaliser arrived in comical fashion. Matias Silvestre knocked down an Ismael Bennacer free kick and Juan Jesus under very little pressure nodded it into his own net. Alessandro Florenzi protested there was a push on Steven Nzonzi and earned himself a yellow card, meaning he’ll be suspended against SPAL.
Moments later, Empoli had almost gone 2-1 up, as Manuel Pasqual’s magnificent free kick went up and over the wall only to bounce off the spot where the upright meets the crossbar.
However, the Tuscans nearly scored an own goal when Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s header from a set play skimmed the far post.
Zaniolo should’ve done better on a well-worked team move that saw him drill wide after a smart El Shaarawy back-heel flick on Bryan Cristante’s pass.
It was Patrik Schick who instead restored Roma’s lead on another dead-ball situation. Florenzi floated his free kick from near the corner flag to the back post for Schick to out-jump Pasqual and turn his header into the ground from six yards.
Rade Krunic, Justin Kluivert and El Shaarawy scuffed finishes from promising positions.
Roma 2-1 Empoli (Half-Time)
El Shaarawy 8 (R), Juan Jesus og 12 (E), Schick 33 (R)
Roma: Olsen; Florenzi, Juan Jesus, Marcano, Santon; Cristante, Nzonzi; Kluivert, Zaniolo, El Shaarawy, Schick
Empoli: Dragowski; Veseli, Silvestre, Dell’Orco; Di Lorenzo, Acquah, Bennacer, Krunic, Pasqual; Caputo, Farias
What a strike
Ranieri’s return to Roma is off to a flyer!#SerieA pic.twitter.com/NsPxY2eQnY
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