Massimo Maccarone came off the bench and immediately grabbed the winner as Empoli saw off Palermo in a relegation tussle.
The first Serie A match of 2017 kicked off at the Stadio Castellani, a relegation dogfight between fourth and third from bottom in the table. The Tuscans missed Andrea Costa, Federico Barba and Marco Zambelli, but Levan Mchedlidze was on fine form with three goals in two games. Eugenio Corini had revitalised the Sicilians with a victory at Genoa and draw with Pescara, so stuck with three at the back.
Empoli had lost just once against Palermo in the previous 11 years.
The hosts had the first real chances after 25 minutes, as first Edoardo Goldaniga had to use himself as a human shield as Mchedlidze came sliding in from six yards.
On the resulting corner, Giuseppe Bellusci’s strike was palmed out from under the bar and then Diousse blasted just over moments later.
Thiago Cionek had to twice intercept dangerous crosses for Mchedlidze in the same move. Palermo waited until the second half for a genuine scoring opportunity, Mato Jajalo’s audacious effort from 30 metres that skimmed the crossbar.
Lukasz Skorupski got down very quickly to palm a Robin Quaison daisy-cutter off the line, but Maccarone came off the bench and transformed the game.
Within a couple of minutes of setting foot on the pitch, Big Mac was tugged back by Cionek as he tried to get on the end of a Mchedlidze knock-down and converted the penalty himself, giving Empoli the lead.
Norbert Balogh tried to repeat the trick at the other end, but his first touch was an angled drive parried at the near post. Palermo had penalty appeals of their own in stoppages, but Andrea Rispoli seemed to have a good handful of shirt as well. It still infuriated Corini so much that he was sent off.
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