ROMA OPEN SERIE A IN STYLE
After all the waiting, all the transfers, and all the preseason, it was finally time to get Serie A underway once more. Last season’s surprise champions, AS Roma, were set to raise the curtain on the year by hosting Empoli at the Stadio Olimpico.
The Giallorossi had a number of new names in the starting eleven for the match. Sebastian Corchia, Asmir Begovic, Clement Grenier, and Nuri Sahin all made their full league debuts for their new club, while McDonald Mariga appeared from the bench. A new-look side from Totti, perhaps, but the class and winning mentality were still there from last season.
The first half passed with little incident as Empoli’s entrenched defense did very well to hold back Roma’s attacking trio of Pjanic, Ljajic, and Destro. The imperial passing skills of Sahin and Grenier in the center of the park allowed their side to dominate possession, but Empoli packed central midfield with four bodies, and there was little space to make chances in.
Two minutes into the second half, however, Empoli was undone. Asmir Begovic had launched the ball long toward his strikers, and Mattia Destro nodded the ball down expertly to Miralem Pjanic. The playmaking Bosnian slipped in Adem Ljajic with one touch who hammered the ball just under the crossbar to give Roma a well-earned 1-0 lead.
Almost an hour in, things went from bad to worse for the newly promoted side. Clement Grenier had turned brilliantly around Empoli’s captain Davide Moro, but the 32 year old veteran let a rush of blood control him and lunged in two footed. The referee did not hesitate in sending the skipper to an early bath for his vicious foul.
Just three minutes later, new man Sebastian Corchia thundered down the right flank, beating two men with elaborate stepovers. The French fullback didn’t even need to look up as he swerved in an early cross, and looked up to see Mattia Destro slide in front of his marker and poke the ball inside the near post to double the Giallorossi’s advantage and make the game safe.
By the end of the match, Roma had enjoyed 69% of the possession and mustered an outstanding 21 shots to Empoli’s 3, a pure footballing masterclass. Both of Totti’s starting strikers had found the goal, as well, an encouraging way to start the year.
“That was a good way to kick off the season,” said ‘Il Gladiatore’ after the match. “I think we have the quality to challenge for the league title again this year, but we need to take things one match at a time. Next up is AC Milan at the San Siro, so we must be prepared.”