Empoli ended their three-month negative streak and won the Tuscan Derby for the first time in 18 years, sending Fiorentina down to fifth place.
The hosts were without a win in 12 rounds, while the Viola needed a victory to recapture fourth place from Inter and stay in the Champions League hunt. Andrea Costa and Lukasz Skorupski were absent for Marco Giampaolo’s men, so 27-year-old Fiorentina fan Alberto Pelagotti made his Serie A debut. Nikola Kalinic returned for Paulo Sousa, missing Khouma Babacar, Mati Fernandez and Yohan Benalouane.
Empoli had only ever won this fixture once, 1-0 in November 1986, and hadn’t beaten Fiorentina at all home and away since 1997, managing four draws from 14 competitive meetings.
Fiorentina had an extremely aggressive start, as Borja Valero drilled wide and Cristian Tello’s strike was crucially deflected for a corner at the near post.
Josip Ilicic curled in a wonderful effort from a tight angle, but was clearly offside. Riccardo Saponara’s intelligent through ball was crucially intercepted by Davide Astori, as Manuel Pucciarelli was going clear on goal.
Pelagotti plucked a dangerous Ilicic free kick out of the top corner, but Empoli took the lead before half-time.
Facundo Roncaglia’s poor clearance found Pucciarelli, who waited for Gonzalo Rodriguez to slide in so he could finish from the edge of the box.
Moments later Kalinic’s header sailed just over the bar and Pelagotti flew to palm an Ilicic curler round the post.
Tello and Ilicic turned wide, but it should’ve been 2-0 for Empoli on 53 minutes when Saponara came sliding in to scuff wide after a smart Pucciarelli dummy on Mario Rui’s low cross.
Mauro Zarate fired straight at Pelagotti, while Kalinic thought he had equalised on 67 minutes, but was correctly flagged offside.
Marcos Alonso’s acrobatic scissor-kick volley was wide of the far post and another attempt from the full-back was charged down.
Fiorentina pushed forward, but did so hastily and without much organisation, resulting in easy saves for Pelagotti on Borja Valero and Zarate. Davide Astori was booked and will be suspended against Sassuolo.
Instead, Empoli doubled their lead late on when Ciprian Tatarusanu beat away a Pucciarelli effort at the near post and Piotr Zielinski placed the rebound into the far bottom corner.
Zielinski celebrated by whipping off his shirt and was booked, so will be suspended against Lazio.
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