Roma earned a fourth consecutive victory in all competition with Steven Nzonzi and Edin Dzeko, but Empoli hit the woodwork and missed a penalty.
The Giallorossi had won three on the bounce between Serie A and the Champions League since moving to a 4-2-3-1 formation. With Javier Pastore and Aleksandar Kolarov injured, Lorenzo Pellegrini was pushed up into his new trequartista role, with 19-year-old full-back Luca Pellegrini given his first start for his home-town club. It was a reunion for Aurelio Andreazzoli, who spent over a decade in the Roma staff, including as caretaker manager in 2013.
Cengiz Under unleashed a scorcher from 30 metres out that Pietro Terracciano flew to beat away, while Lorenzo Pellegrini pulled back from the by-line for the Turkish forward, but his finish was deflected wide off teammate Edin Dzeko.
Empoli wasted a couple of promising counter-attacks with Leonardo Capezzi and Francesco Caputo, but were made to pay for those errors.
Lorenzo Pellegrini put in a free kick over the top for Steven Nzonzi’s glancing header into the far bottom corner past the outstretched hand of Terracciano. It was Pellegrini’s third assist in as many games.
Dzeko was lining up a volley at the back post when Matias Silvestre crucially intercepted the cross.
It was a lively start to the second half for Ismael Bennacer, who first gave the ball away for Cengiz Under to curl inches wide of the far post, then placed his own excellent free kick over the wall to clip the outside of the upright. That was the seventh time this season that Empoli had rattled the woodwork.
A corner was pulled back and struck Cengiz Under on the hand, with his arm trailing out fairly wide, and the referee opted for a penalty. Francesco Caputo stepped up, but ballooned his spot-kick horribly both high and wide of the target.
Empoli kept pushing and Roma were living dangerously, but Caputo sprung the offside trap on a through ball only to again completely over-hit it over from eight yards.
It really was not Caputo’s night and he fired another fine chance on to the side-netting after a smart pass, but the Giallorossi were increasingly clinging on and substitute Antonino La Gumina flashed his finish across the face of goal.
Instead, Roma doubled their lead against the run of play, as Stephan El Shaarawy threaded a slide-rule pass on the counter for Dzeko, who shrugged off defenders and kept his cool to fire into the roof of the net from 10 yards.
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Missed penalty: Caputo 58 (E)