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Roma slips in race for Champions League place

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AS Roma could be in serious trouble in the race for a Champions League race with just a week to go after a 0-0 draw at 10th-placed Sassuolo in heavy rain.

The visitors came close, as Edin Dzeko and Justin Kluivert both found iron, each hitting the post in the second half, while a potential Federico Fazio stoppage time winner was pulled back after Dzeko was ruled offside. Otherwise, the Roma attack offered little up front despite the high stakes of the match.

The draw pegs Roma back after a confidence-boosting win over Juventus the week before and sees their Champions League hopes placed on life support. They currently sit fifth in the table, a point behind fourth-placed Atalanta with all other top-nine teams set to play tomorrow. While Atalanta is forced to visit confirmed champions Juventus in Turin, sixth-placed AC Milan could leap into fifth with a win over relegated Frosinone.

Claudio Ranieri took over Roma in early March with the club in fifth, and he has been unable to resurrect their season to the club’s lofty standards. A brutal stretch in March saw the club lose three of four, and while they haven’t lost in the eight league matches since, the four draws in that span have been lethal. Roma has competed in the Champions League each of the last five seasons, reaching the knockout stage in three of the last four.

The draw completes a brutal week for the club which announced days ago that team legend Daniele de Rossi would depart at age 35 after 15 seasons with Roma.

Serie A: Ronaldo pegs back Inter, Roma into top four

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Inter dominated the first half, but Cristiano Ronaldo struck just past the hour mark and gave Juventus a 1-1 draw at Inter that prevented the hosts from truly pulling away from the Champions League muck.

Juventus, having already confirmed the Italian title last weekend, was held to just one shot on target through the first half. On the other end, Radja Nainggolan struck a beautiful goal to to pen the scoring, a blistering hit from outside the top right corner of the box that left Wojciech Szczesny late to react.

That had Inter in the lead, with a win set to push them six points above fourth-placed Roma, into a great spot leaving the Champions League race well behind them. Instead, Ronaldo played a one-two with Paulo Dybala and found space in the box to slot home the equalizer from near the penalty spot. That confirmed the 1-1 final scoreline, pushing Inter just four points above Roma and leaving with AC Milan with the opportunity to pull within three of Inter with a win Sunday.

AS Roma moved into the top four – at least for now – with a convincing 3-0 win against Cagliari in the Italian capital. The home side got revenge for the reverse fixture that featured a two-goal comeback by Cagliari despite being down two men. This time around, Roma went up 2-0 inside the opening 10 minutes on goals from Federico Fazio and Javier Pastore, and Aleksandr Kolarov finished it off late. The win moves them up to 58 points, good to move past AC Milan into fourth. AC Milan still has to take the field tomorrow at Torino, but any slip would see Roma gain the advantage for the final Champions League spot.

Finally, Bologna topped Empoli 3-1 at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara to keep the visitors in serious relegation trouble. Empoli had a 1-0 lead at halftime, but Roberto Soriano, Riccardo Orsolini, and Nicola Sansone all scored throughout the second half to send the home side on its way. That left Empoli in the final relegation position, four points back of 17th placed Udinese.

Ranieri victorious in his first game back in charge of Roma

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ROME (AP) Claudio Ranieri won his first game back in charge at Roma but it was far from comfortable.

Stephan El Shaarawy and Patrik Schick scored in the first half, and relegation-threatened Empoli’s late equalizer was disallowed on video review as Roma held on to win 2-1 on Monday.

Captain Alessandro Florenzi was sent off 10 minutes from time – on his 28th birthday – following a second booking, and Empoli’s Rade Krunic almost made the advantage count before the video assistant referee determined the ball hit Dimitri Oberlin in the arm just before the goal.

“The first match is over, and the best thing is the result,” Ranieri said. “We have to work a lot, but we will always score sooner or later. We have to work instead on staying focused in order not to concede. It’s not possible that we’re letting in all these goals.

“These 90 minutes hasn’t made me feel calmer, but I’m focused and positive.”

Roma moved three points behind fourth-place Inter Milan, with the top four from Serie A qualifying for the Champions League. Empoli remained a point above the relegation zone.

Ranieri was appointed as interim coach on Friday, a day after Roma fired Eusebio Di Francesco following elimination from the Champions League and a derby defeat to Lazio. In charge of Roma from 2009-11, Ranieri was fired by Fulham of the Premier League on Feb. 28.

His second spell got off to a good start. El Shaarawy fired Roma in front in the ninth minute when he curled a stunning effort into the top right corner, but Empoli leveled in somewhat comical fashion three minutes later as Juan Jesus headed the ball into his own net under very little pressure.

Empoli almost immediately scored a second, but Manuel Pasqual’s free kick bounced off the top left corner of the goal.

Roma took the lead again in the 33rd minute as Florenzi floated in a free kick from outside the right side of the penalty area and Schick headed it into the bottom left corner.

Empoli dominated as Roma’s task was made harder by the list of players missing: Daniele De Rossi, Kostas Manolas, Lorenzo Pellegrini and Cengiz Under were all injured, and Edin Dzeko, Federico Fazio and Aleksandar Kolarov were suspended.

“It was a difficult match without many men seeing that the leaders were out – those who play 90 minutes, players who give a sense of direction to the play and the team,” Ranieri said.

“I knew it would be difficult and I have to congratulate the team, which always remained compact even when we went down to 10 men.”

Serie A: Napoli’s stoppage-time winner; Roma’s comeback

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ SATURDAY: Cristiano Ronaldo scores winner in his first Turin derby ]

Cagliari 0-1 Napoli

Arkadiusz Milik scored a stoppage-time winner to hand Napoli all three points and keep them within eight points of runaway leaders and presumed champions-elect Juventus.

Roma 3-2 Genoa

There is very little doubt about who will likely almost certainly win the Serie A title this season — that honor appears reserved for Juventus, for the eighth straight year — and Napoli and Inter Milan have pretty well established themselves as the second- and third-best teams, interchangeably, which leaves anywhere from three to nine teams with dreams of finishing fourth.

As things stand, five teams are within three points of fourth place, including Roma who needed a comeback (twice) to beat Genoa on Sunday and move to within two points of AC Milan for the final UEFA Champions League place. It should be noted that fourth-place Milan and fifth-place Lazio are yet to play their round-16 fixture.

A dreadful start to the season (just one win from their first five league games) has relented very little for Eusebio Di Francesco’s side which has now won just two of its last eight league games.

Krzysztof Piatek put the visitors ahead after just 17 minutes, only for Federico Fazio to level the score just after the half-hour mark. The 1-1 scoreline was short-lived, though, as Oscar Hiljemark restored Genoa’s lead in the 33rd minute. Justin Kluivert scored just before halftime, setting the stage for Roma to assume control in the second half.

Bryan Cristante smashed home the winner from just outside the penalty area, set up by Kluivert’s cushioned header, in the 59th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

SPAL 0-0 Chievo
Fiorentina 3-1 Empoli
Frosinone 0-2 Sassuolo
Sampdoria 2-0 Parma

Remaining Serie A schedule

Atalanta vs. Lazio — 2:30 p.m. ET (Monday)
Bologna vs. AC Milan — 2:30 p.m. ET (Tuesday)

Serie A: Ronaldo sets up Juve’s comeback win over Napoli

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 7? ]

Juventus 3-1 Napoli

Three games into his Juventus career, Cristiano Ronaldo had yet to find the back of the net in Italy and the whispers quickly began: perhaps the seven-time defending Serie A champions had made a mistake by splashing out $123 million for the 33-year-old this summer. This notion was, of course, preposterous.

Fast-forward just a month, to the present day, and Ronaldo has amassed three goals and four assists in seven league appearances, including a pair of helpers during Saturday’s 3-1 comeback victory to remain perfect on the still-young season — 21 points from seven games. Dries Mertens put the visitors ahead with a tap-in from close range after just 10 minutes, but Ronaldo floated a cross toward the head of Mario Mandzukic for an easy equalizer in the 26th minute.

Ronaldo nearly got on the scoresheet himself four minutes into the second half, but his shot came back off the post. Fortunately for Juve, the ball fell to an unmarked Mandzukic with a wide open net. That made it 2-1 before Ronaldo flicked on a corner kick for Leonardo Bonucci to stab home in the 76th minute to complete the scoring at 3-1.

Roma 3-1 Lazio

Roma needed — and got — a pair of late goals to come out on top in the Rome derby on Saturday. Lorenzo Pellegrini put the home side ahead in the 45th minute, but Lazio drew level through Ciro Immobile’s 67th-minute equalizer.

The scoreline didn’t last long, though, as two more goals came from the most unlikely of sources — defenders Aleksandar Kolarov and Federico Fazio — in the 71st and 86th minutes, respectively. Despite the victory, Roma remain sixth in the league table, still a point behind their capital rivals but also only four points behind second-place Napoli.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Inter Milan 2-0 Cagliari

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Bologna vs. Udinese — 6:30 a.m. ET
Fiorentina vs. Atalanta — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Frosinone vs. Genoa — 9 a.m. ET
Parma vs. Empoli — 12 p.m. ET
Sassuolo vs. AC Milan — 2:30 p.m. ET