Rafael Toloi gave Atalanta a surprise victory away to Empoli, but the hosts had penalty appeals late on.
The last time these teams met it was a 2-2 draw in April and ugly coda, as German Denis received a five-match ban for punching Lorenzo Tonelli in a locker room ambush, the Empoli defender also penalised for making serious threats. Before kick-off this evening, the two players shook hands and made peace.
Mauricio Pinilla returned from suspension, while Empoli surprisingly gave 19-year-old Alessandro Piu his absolute debut in senior football, partnering 36-year-old Massimo Maccarone.
Piu made a strong impact, nodding Marco Zambelli’s cross over from six yards, while Pinilla attempted one of his trademark overhead kicks.
Maxi Moralez had a shot charged down and Jasmin Kurtic blasted the follow-up over. Atalanta had more of the pressure and took the lead, as from a corner Maxi Moralez crossed for Rafael Toloi to nod in from six yards.
Empoli fought back with Ronaldo firing off target and after the break Massimo Maccarone failed to make the most of a Riccardo Saponara counter-attack that involved two nutmegs.
Pinilla’s shot was beaten away at the near post by Lukasz Skorupski and the goalkeeper smothered at Maxi Moralez’s feet.
Atalanta lost Andrea Masiello to injury after his decisive tackle on Saponara, but continued to have the better of the game and Skorupski had to fingertip a Boukary Drame’ snapshot out from under the bar.
Saponara was the most likely to score for Empoli and went on a slalom through defenders, eventually forcing Marco Sportiello’s save from point-blank range.
With five minutes left on the clock, Manuel Pucciarelli sprinted into the box and went down after going shoulder to shoulder with Toloi, but the referee waved play on and Empoli were enraged.
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