Through the first ten minutes of the match, Roma looked every bit of a team coming off an international break. While they weren’t necessarily off the mark, the pace of play was lacking, to say nothing of their lack of incisiveness; they existed, is what I’m getting at, but there was no real ethos or spirit to their play. Considering the two week break and the two missing midfielders, not to mention the subtle tactical change to a 3-4-3, some rust was bound to be expected.
As the match moved towards the quarter hour mark, Roma started to shake off some of that dust, as Bruno Peres played Radja Nainggolan into the box, only to be robbed by a text book sliding tackle from an Empoli defender. But then, as he’s seemingly done all season long, Edin Dzeko rose to the occasion.
Edin Dzeko: 12th Minute
El gol de Edin Dzeko para adelantar a la Roma 1-0 ante Empoli...pic.twitter.com/LRgrtux1mA— AS ROMA (@NoticiASRoma) April 1, 2017
Not the greatest goal Dzeko has ever scored, but we’ll take it, right? Dzeko got on the end of a Leandro Paredes corner, guiding the ball home with a deftly placed and angled knee, giving Roma the early lead. This goal was emblematic of Dzeko’s season in so many ways, as moments early he botched a headed attempt, only to turn around and do this, but the tallies speak for themselves, the man has 22 league goals in 30 matches.
The remainder of the first half, save a lovely attempt from, well, Lovely Leo, was rather uneventful, but Roma managed to maintain their one-nil lead after the first 45 minutes.
After nearly losing that lead early in the second half, bailed out by a miraculous fingertip save from Wojciech Szczesny, Dzeko would strike again, putting the match beyond all reasonable doubt.
Edin Dzeko: 56th Minute
Dzeko with a brace! Roma in the lead 2-0 pic.twitter.com/2zdlDEcv0E— Stereo Serie A Radio (@StereoSerieA) April 1, 2017
Diego Perotti started the series off with a beautiful, sweeping/lofted cross to Mohamed Salah at the far post. From there, the Egyptian quickly and deftly headed it over to Dzeko, who simply and succinctly drove it home, doubling their lead. A quick, tidy and wonderfully executed goal all the way around, top marks to all three men.
That goal, Dzeko’s 33rd in all competitions, set a new club record to boot. We’ve said it all season long, but it bears repeating: his turnaround has simply been remarkable, from a guy who couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn to a club record holder...unreal.
Roma would relent for the remainder of the match, doing just enough to toy with Empoli, killing the clock on their way to three points. Diego Perotti was subbed off for presumptive starter Clement Grenier, while Dzeko received a hero’s welcome when he was replaced by Francesco Totti—hard to imagine that a year ago.
After coming on in the 73rd minute, Totti immediately got to work, nearly picking out Salah with a lovely through ball, only to be denied by the lighting quick reflexes and anticipation of Lukasz Skorupski, who, coincidentally, should not be counted out of Roma’s long-term goalkeeping discussion.
Totti's passing....cherish these moments, folks.— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) April 1, 2017
And that’s really the salient point. We simply have no idea where Totti’s head is at regarding next season, so enjoy these moments—the backheels, the switches of play, the flicks, the crosses, all the little things he does so incredibly well—because they’ll be gone before you know it.
Even the objective observers among us should take note. This isn’t merely a Roman legend walking away, it’s the end of an era. Once Totti hangs ‘em up, that’s the end of the classic number 10—Totti is the last of his breed, the lone survivor of an era in which pure, unadulterated playmakers dominated the game and entertained throngs of fans the world over.
This isn’t just a loss for Roma, it’s a loss for the sport itself.
But I digress, Roma got the job done tonight, dispatching of Empoli in rather convincing fashion—there were relatively few nervy moments, the execution was sharp and the usual looming disasters never came home to roost—temporarily putting them five points ahead of third place Napoli, who close out the Serie A weekend against Juventus tomorrow evening.
As much as we always love to see Juventus lose, I think this is one instance in which the smart play is to root for the Old Lady. Increasing their lead over Napoli will better serve Roma over the final two months than would cutting Juve’s title edge. The Oldy won’t squander a five point lead over the final eight matches, so we might as well make hay while the sun shines and lock down second place.
However, lest you think that was Roma’s only concern, there is the matter of Tuesday’s possibly Curva-barrier free derby against Lazio.
Never a dull moment...
Man ‘O The Match?
This poll is closed
Edin Dzeko (duh)
Radja Nainggolan (precision passing today)
Wojciech Szczęsny (for that save alone)
Leandro Paredes (silky smooth)