The Giallorossi welcomed back Chris Smalling and switched to a 3-5-2 formation, but Lorenzo Pellegrini and Leonardo Spinazzola were still injured, with Ebrima Darboe and Amadou Diawara were at the Africa Cup of Nations. The Tuscans were missing Federico Di Francesco, Nicolas Haas and Sebastiano Luperto, but also exhausted after taking Inter to extra time in the Coppa Italia midweek.
Nedim Bajrami should’ve done better when blasting over from 12 yards on a well-worked short corner.
Ardian Ismajli made a decisive block after Henrikh Mkhitaryan set up Zaniolo, but Roma took the lead as Sergio Oliveira’s shot was deflected into the path of Tammy Abraham, who turned rapidly to fire in from 12 yards.
Zaniolo set up Ainsley Maitland-Niles only for a weak finish to be beaten away at the near post, but Roma doubled their advantage from the resulting corner.
It was chaotic, Gianluca Mancini’s initial header charged down, the Abraham follow-up parried until Mancini bundled it over the line at the third time of asking. However, the goal-line technology showed Abraham’s attempt had already crossed over, so it was his goal.
In the space of four minutes, Empoli simply crumbled under the swarms of counter-attacks, conceding another two goals.
It was an attack down the right, Zaniolo knocking it on for Sergio Oliveira to fire into the top corner from 12 yards.
Moments later, Mkhitaryan surged down the left and rolled across for Zaniolo to sweep home undisturbed from a similar position.
It went from bad to worse for Empoli, as Riccardo Marchizza was stretchered off in agony with what looked to be a serious knee injury, as his leg moved in an unnatural direction when he fell.
Empoli 2-4 Roma
Abraham 24, 33 (R), Sergio Oliviera 35 (R), Zaniolo 37 (R), Pinamonti 55 (E), Bajrami 72 (E)