- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ROME (AP) - Roma beat Empoli 2-1 after extra time to reach the Italian Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday thanks to a very contentious penalty.

Daniele De Rossi converted the spot kick five minutes from time, sending Empoli goalkeeper Davide Bassi the wrong way, after Piotr Zielinski was harshly adjudged to have brought down Leandro Paredes.

“You can see that he takes his legs away, but it’s difficult to tell whether it was before or after he got the ball,” Roma coach Rudi Garcia said. “I think the referee was in a great position to judge.”

Empoli almost equalized right at the end, but Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski pulled off a great save to deny Francesco Tavano.

Roma was jeered off the pitch by its own fans after a lackluster performance against a team struggling at the wrong end of the Serie A table, 22 points behind the capital club.

“I’m upset above all for my players,” Empoli coach Maurizio Sarri said. “What did I think about the penalty? What everyone in the stadium thought, but the club has asked me not to comment on anything, although the pictures speak for themselves.

“Garcia may say it could have been a penalty, but not according to his players. I spoke to two Roma players and they said it wasn’t a penalty.”

Roma got off to the perfect start as it took the lead with less than five minutes on the clock after Douglas Maicon’s cross was flicked on to Juan Manuel Iturbe.

Empoli leveled 10 minutes from the end of normal time when Simone Verdi beat the offside trap to race past Davide Astori and round Roma goalkeeper Lukasz Skorupski before firing into the far corner.

Ashley Cole made his first appearance for Roma in nearly two months - after poor form had seen him dropped to the bench. But his return lasted barely 23 minutes before he was carted off following an accidental kick to his chin from Matias Vecino.

Roma will next face either Fiorentina or Atalanta.

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