Empoli fought back from 2-0 down and saved a penalty in a dramatic 3-2 relegation play-out final that sends Vicenza into Lega Pro.
The first leg of this play-out ended 0-0, so another draw with any scoreline – as away goals do not count – would see Empoli stay in Serie B because they finished the season higher up the table.
Matteo Paro’s free kick was just over the bar, then Alberto Frison used his foot to parry a Riccardo Saponara effort from close range.
Massimo Maccarone thought he’d put Empoli in front, but Nicholas Giani’s goalline clearance was decisive.
The former Middlesbrough man also tested the goalkeeper from distance, then just failed to get on the end of a Mirko Valdifiori free kick that flashed across the face of goal.
For all their pressure, Empoli went behind to one of Vicenza’s first scoring opportunities. Giani burst down the left and crossed for Michele Paolucci to get in front of Renato Dossena for a precise header.
Just six minutes later Paolucci had bagged his brace, running on to a Pasquale Maiorino assist to power home the angled drive.
Frison again came to the rescue on Maccarone, but could do nothing on Levan Mchedlidze’s tap-in from a deflected Mac effort.
Just 60 seconds later the referee pointed to the spot for Nicolo Brighenti’s foul on Francesco Tavano, who got back up to convert the equalising penalty.
The game was turned upside down, as Vicenza threw away a 2-0 lead in the space of two minutes. The Biancorossi thought they had the chance to secure victory when another penalty was awarded for Franco Signorelli’s shirt tug, but Dossena did brilliantly to save Paolucci’s spot-kick.
It proved to be a decisive moment, as in stoppages Maccarone finally managed to beat Frison in a one-on-one.
Vicenza go down to Lega Pro, while Empoli survive in Serie B for another year.
Empoli 3-2 Vicenza
Scorers: Paolucci 59, 65 (V), Mchedlidze 71 (E), Tavano pen 73 (E), Maccarone 91 (E)
Saved penalty: Paolucci 85 (V)
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