Roma had the points locked down within six minutes thanks to identical Roger Ibanez and Tammy Abraham headers on corners, while Guglielmio Vicario’s triple save kept it at 2-0.
The Giallorossi were feeling the tension after Nicolò Zaniolo tried to force a January transfer, they lost to Serie A leaders Napoli and crashed out of the Coppa Italia to Cremonese. Leonardo Spinazzola was out injured and Rick Karsdorp still frozen out. The Tuscans were unbeaten in six, including a victory away to 10-man Inter, with Fabiano Parisi and Liam Henderson back from suspension, but Mattia Destro, Ardian Ismajli, Lorenzo Tonelli and Alberto Grassi out of action.
It took barely 90 seconds to break the deadlock, as Paulo Dybala whipped in a free kick for the Roger Ibanez free header from eight yards, bouncing off the turf to surprise Guglielmo Vicario. Incredibly, all six of Ibanez’s career Serie A goals have been headers.
The second goal was practically identical, again Dybala swinging in the corner and this time Tammy Abraham with the header from six yards.
Dybala nearly added one himself, running onto the Nemanja Matic through ball, cutting inside and drilling inches wide of the near post.
Rui Patricio rushed off his line to smother at the feet of Tommaso Baldanzi, while Abraham had penalty appeals for a potential Koni De Winter clip on the back of his boot.
Abraham was allowed another free header on a corner, which Vicario palmed out from under the crossbar, then nodded wide from a Lorenzo Pellegrini free kick.
Ciccio Caputo saw his strike crucially charged down by Gianluca Mancini and Razvan Marin blasted a free kick well over, but Empoli really should’ve equalised when Marin’s set play found Tyronne Ebuehi at the back post, volleying over with his knee from a yard out.
Jean-Daniel Akpa Akpro also smashed a right-foot scorcher just wide, but straight after the restart Vicario performed a career-best extraordinary triple save. On the corner, he parried first Dybala’s volley, then the Mancini follow-up and used his trailing foot to kick an Abraham header off the line from point-blank range.
Rui Patricio needed two touches to get Baldanzi’s solo effort under control, Parisi failed to make the most of a Matic misplaced pass and Cambiaghi flicked the ball back over his shoulder and the bar.
Diego Llorente made his debut in stoppages after a deadline day move from Leeds United.
Roma 2-0 Empoli
Ibanez 2 (R), Abraham 6 (R)