ROME, March 11 (Reuters) - AS 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.
The Rome side were therefore under pressure to deliver a result and 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. (Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Ken Ferris)