Empoli vs Torino was one of the few tilts that had something on the line in both sides and, despite the lopsided result, it hung in the balance up until the 70th minute. In the end, the desire to avoid relegation proved to be more forceful than chasing the European dream.
The Azzurri entered the game having picked up six mammoth points in the last two games, putting pressure especially on Genoa among the teams in front of them. The Granata had not lost in eight rounds, winning three of the last four matches and staying close to Roma and Milan in the standings.
Aurelio Andreazzoli lost his linchpin Rade Krunic in the final practice and replaced him with Afriyie Acquah, while Domenica Maietta returned in the XI after a thigh strain. Walter Mazzarri substituted the injured Cristian Ansaldi with Ola Aina and kept Alex Berenguer in the XI, despite Iago Falque’s return and Simone Zaza scoring last week.
The Tuscan side came out of the gate better and was menacing especially when able to run. Armando Izzo stopped the first raid by Diego Farias, then Salvatore Sirigu batted away the sharp shot at the end of the second one. It broke through at the 27th minute, when Marko Pajac intercepted an errant pass, served Acquah on the edge of the box and the Ghanaian midfield put it past the goal with a cross-shot, even though he was perhaps looking to pass.
Torino responded and racked up chances: Lorenzo De Silvestri connected with Andrea Belotti on two great crosses, but Bartlomiej Dragowski denied the Gallo’s first acrobatic attempt, while the second, a header, ended up just wide. The striker also hit the post in the same manner on a corner kick. Torino were reinvigorated by the insertion of Iago Falque few minutes into the second half and the Spaniard equalized right away, finding the far post with surgical lefty curled shot.
The guests looked poised to take control, but Empoli resumed exploiting the acres of space and scored the second goal with Matteo Brighi, who had just come on for Acquah and tapped it home after a pair of ricochets in the box. He had not scored in five years.
Torino became increasingly offensive, but the locals had more juice and found the dagger at the 70th minute with Giovanni Di Lorenzo, who corralled the ball in the box, juked Izzo with a dummy and blasted it under the bar. After Dragoswki saved a point-blank attempt by Simone Zaza, Francesco Caputo rounded up the score in the final minutes, finishing with aplomb after a great feed by Farias on yet another fast break.
Empoli fully took advantage of Genoa’s draw against Cagliari and control their own destiny heading into the season finale, but they will face Inter that still need points to be sure of a Champions League berth. Torino can not catch Roma due to the disadvantage in the head-to-head record.
Plenty of bonus points were handed in the contest: Empoli’s scorers Caputo, Di Lorenzo, Brighi and Acquah got four, same as Marko Pajac that provided two assists and Iago Falque for Torino. Belotti earned two for a helper, Farias one for the same reason but he was booked.
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