Claudio Ranieri ‘positive’ after winning on first game back at Roma

ROME, ITALY - MARCH 11: AS Roma head coach Claudio Ranieri looks on during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Empoli at Stadio Olimpico on March 11, 2019 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

Claudio Ranieri was pleased to make a winning start on his return to AS Roma after emerging with a 2-1 win over Empoli.

The 67-year-old made his return to the dugout of his hometown club as caretaker manager on Monday night as Roma looked to end a run of back-to-back defeats against 17th-place Empoli.

It proved to be an exciting encounter at the Stadio Olimpico with Stephan El Shaarawy’s 25-yard strike giving Roma a ninth-minute lead before Juan Jesus put the ball into the back of his own net to put Empoli level just three minutes later.

Fortunately, Patrik Schick’s header was enough to secure all three points for Roma after VAR ruled out a late Empoli equaliser due to Dimitri Oberlin’s handball.

Although it didn’t all end well for the Giallorossi after Alessandro Florenzi was sent-off for two bookings during the game.

Speaking after winning his second debut as Roma manager, Ranieri expressed his satisfaction with the way his injury-stricken side coped with a “difficult” challenge from Empoli.

“I feel positive about the fact it was a difficult game, with so many players missing and others who have barely played this season, missing leaders who really give an identity to the team,” The Italian told Sky Sport Italia.

“I congratulate the team, because they remained solid and practically allowed no Empoli chances.

“I didn’t understand what happened on the Empoli goal, because we knew they’d attempt a block on the marking. The second was disallowed, as you could see it hit his hand.

“I thank the fans, as they gave us a big hand this evening. I didn’t expect us to play better, because this was a tense team that was anxious and still dealing with recent events. They conceded most of their goals this season by playing out from the back, so I told them to adopt a safety-first approach there.”

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Hernan Crespo: Lautaro is a potential champion

Argentine legend Hernan Crespo praised his compatriot Lautaro Martinez saying the youngster is a potential champion.

The former Chelsea and Leicester City boss plans on resolving Roma’s defensive issues after conceding 37 goals in their 27 Serie A games this season.

The most goals the other top-six sides in Italy have conceded are 23, which is held by both AC Milan and Torino.

Ranieri added: “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’ll give it away.

“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 remain in fifth-place in the Serie A table and three points behind Inter Milan in fourth and the final Champions League qualification spot.