Wed, Mar 13, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Coach Ranieri off to winning start at Roma

Reuters, ROME

AS Roma coach Claudio Ranieri on Monday adopted a safety-first approach as they enjoyed a winning start to his second spell in charge by beating struggling Empoli 2-1 in Serie A at the Stadio Olimpico.

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, while the video assistant referee (VAR) denied Empoli a late equalizer.

Ranieri on Friday last week joined Roma until the end of the season after Eusebio di Francesco was sacked in the wake of a 3-0 derby defeat by SS Lazio and a UEFA Champions League round-of-16 exit to Porto.

“I didn’t expect us to play better, because this was a tense team that was anxious and still dealing with recent events,” Ranieri said. “They [Roma] conceded most of their goals this season by playing out from the back, so I told them to adopt a safety-first approach there.”

“I do have some ideas on how to reduce the number of goals we concede, but I won’t tell you what it is, otherwise that will give it away,” he said. “Let’s say the leitmotif of my time here is to help Roma concede fewer goals, because it’s just not possible for a team like this to leak that many goals. We have the quality to score sooner or later, so we must focus on not conceding.”

Roma have conceded 37 goals in their 27 Serie A matches this season — by far the most in the top six — and were under pressure to deliver a result under their new coach.

They got off to the perfect start when El Shaarawy curled 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.

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 leveled through Rade Krunic’s composed finish, only for the effort to be wiped out following a VAR review for a handball in the buildup.

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