Both teams were promoted from Serie B last summer and were doing better than expected. Michael Svoboda and Mattia Viti sat out bans, while the hosts had Ebuehi at the Africa Cup of Nations and new signing Luis Nani on the bench. The Lagunari were hit by a COVID outbreak, including Sergio Romero. Empoli missed Federico Di Francesco and Nicolas Haas, but Sebastiano Luperto and Filippo Bandinelli returned from suspension.
It was all Empoli from the start, Luca Lezzerini palming away an Andrea Pinamonti header on a corner, then Bandinelli’s volley just over the bar from the D and Szymon Zurkowski curling not far wide at all.
Venezia finally had a shot on goal after 20 minutes, Guglielmo Vicario having to fingertip the Mattia Aramu scorcher over from a tricky angle.
However, Empoli dominated and took a deserved lead when Bandinelli’s cross from the left found Zurkowski for a splendid volley at the back post.
There was almost a second for Zurkowski moments later, the diving header only glanced at Lezzerini. Venezia coach Paolo Zanetti hit the panic button and made a double tactical substitution just 35 minutes in.
Zurkowski’s angled drive skimmed the far post, while David Okereke’s header from a corner was just over the bar.
The hosts improved considerably after the break, Okereke’s chest and half-volley not far off target at all and a save on the Crnigoj diving header, although there was also a push in the build-up.
Luis Nani made his Venezia debut for the final 20 minutes and made an immediate impact, providing the assist moments later for Okereke to fire in.
It was almost 2-1 for Venezia a couple of minutes after that, Okereke’s angled drive denied by a one-handed Vicario save. The Lagunari continued to look stronger as time wore on, Ceccaroni’s volley charged down in the box.
Venezia 1-1 Empoli
Zurkowski 26 (E), Okereke 73 (V)