Well, that just happened.
Given the starting lineup--the inclusion of Mattia Destro meant Francesco Totti was on the left-the shape was pretty much what we should have expected from Rudi Garcia. Despite those changes, the game opened up quick. And by quick, I mean as quickly as a Romanista changes their mind.Well, not quite that quick, but Juan Iturbe would make it 1-0 around five minutes into the match.
Juan Iturbe: Fifth Minute
From a Douglas Maicon cross, Destro did well to drag a defender away, leaving Iturbe enough room to slot the ball into the back of the net on his right. Roma, though, could do little with that early momentum. It was almost as if Roma's early goal shell shocked themselves.
Empoli's movement was something from which Roma could learn. It was the highlight of the first half for me, but Empoli just couldn't finish the early chances they generated. Around the twentieth minute, things would only get worse for Roma and Ashley Cole in particular. The defender took a knock to the head, forcing Jose Holebas to come on in his place. I think it is safe to say things went from bad to worse for Cole there, let's hope that this injury is nothing serious. But the match would continue. Destro was doing well to hold up play, but Roma as a whole was just not playing as a unit.
The second half would open with a good chance, however. In the opening minutes, Mattia Destro would do well to stay on side, but put his kung fu effort wide. The only thing worse might have been his attempt from the halfway line moments later. Then the half took entered a trance; there were large stretches of time filled with wasteful possession and few chances. Nothing I could really add to the narrative, might as well use this time to talk about hair. Anyone else notice the growing number of mohawks donned by the men in black tonight?
Anyway, I might was well keep you up to date on the substitutions. Totti would make way for Ljajic in the 67th, and for Empoli Saponara for Zielinski(56th), Laurini for Hisaj(52nd) and Maccarone would come off for Verdi in the 80th minute.
Well, just as I got lost in thought, it would seem as though Roma did the same. On what should have been a simple back pass to Davide Astori, the fresh legs of Verdi were enough to beat him to the ball. Skorupski would come off his line but Verdi did well to make the most of Roma's mistake, levelling the match at 1-1.
A moment later Garcia thought everyone should be reminded that Pjanic was indeed on the pitch, subbing him off for Leandro Paredes. Roma's young midfielder would do well after coming on for Pjanic.
After the Empoli keeper turned away a flurry of chances from Iturbe to close out the second half, the first ninety would finish with both sides level. But this is the Coppa italia, and you know what that means right? If you guessed extra time, and maybe even penalties if we're lucky enough you would be right.
Lucky for us Romanisti, extra time is thirty minutes long, because the first fifteen minutes of extra time were rather uneventful, ending with Ljajic's beautiful chance being denied. As we edged closer and closer to penalties, you could tell it was starting to weigh on the players. The movement in attack just vanished. Tired legs were leaving acres of space on both sides. The only thing that really stood out to me was the play of Paredes, that kid looks great.
It was a Destro pass that got things rolling again. Sending a nice ball forward, Peardes was taken down inside the box by a Zielinski challenge. And Marco di Bello would point to the spot, under a barrage of protest from the away side. It would be De Rossi who would put the weight on his back at the penalty spot. And he was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
Waiting for Bassi to go left, De Rossi would calmly put it in the right corner. Roma led with six minutes remaining. Empoli seemed unphased by the mountain now in front of them and pushed on. The former Roma player, Tavano, was very close to seeing that mountain climbed, but Roma would manage to hang on and secure advancement to the next round in their quest for the silver star.