Claudio Ranieri enjoys winning return with Roma
El Shaarawy and Schick goals secure victory against struggling Empoli
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri on the sideline during the Serie A match against Empoli at the Stadio Olimpico. Photograph: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images
Roma 2 Empoli 1
Roma coach Claudio Ranieri enjoyed a winning start to his second spell in charge of the club as they beat struggling Empoli 2-1 in Serie A at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday.
First-half strikes by Stephan El Shaarawy and Patrik Schick, either side of a Juan Jesus own goal, moved Roma within three points of the top four but they had Alessandro Florenzi sent off with 10 minutes left while VAR denied Empoli a late equaliser.
Ranieri on Friday joined Roma until the end of the season after Eusebio Di Francesco was sacked in the wake of a 3-0 derby defeat by Lazio and a Champions League last 16 exit to Porto. Ranieri had lasted just 106 days in his last managerial job at Fulham before being sacked at the end of February.
Under pressure to deliver a result, Roma got off to a perfect start when El Shaarawy curled a finish into the top corner after nine minutes.
Empoli were level three minutes later, though, when Jesus headed into his own net from a set piece before visiting captain Manuel Pasqual came close to turning the game on its head when his free-kick hit the angle between post and bar.
Roma restored their lead after 33 minutes when Schick rose to power home a header from Florenzi’s free-kick.
Empoli had a one-man advantage after Florenzi was shown a second yellow card and they thought they had levelled through Rade Krunic’s composed finish, only for the effort to be wiped out following a VAR review for a handball in the build-up.
The result keeps fifth-placed Roma in the hunt for the Champions League qualifying spots on 47 points behind fourth-placed Inter Milan, while Empoli remain in 17th place on 22 points, a point above the relegation zone.