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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.”

Porto beats Roma in extra time thanks to VAR

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  • Porto secures 2-1 result to send it to extra time
  • VAR penalizes Alessandro Florenzi for foul in the box
  • Alex Telles scores game-winning PK

Video Assistant Referee provided the drama in Oporto as FC Porto defeated AS Roma, 4-3, on aggregate Wednesday evening. WIth the win, Porto advances to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

[VIDEO: Man United secures amazing comeback win on aggregate over PSG]

VAR came into action in the 113th minute, after Florenzi pulled the shirt of Fernando in the box to slow him down. The foul was not originally called but after reviewing the tape, referee Cuneyt Cakir motioned for a penalty kick. Alex Telles stepped up and put Roma goalkeeper Robin Olsen the wrong way to set up the victory.

Porto initially took the lead in the 26th minute through a Tiquinho goal from close range, but Roma took advantage back for the tie with a Daniele De Rossi penalty kick goal in the 37th minute.

Moussa Marenga tied the score on aggregate in the 52nd minute with a finish past Olsen but neither side could find another goal to win the game in regulation. Edin Dzeko had two chances go begging.

It all led to the drama of extra time, where Porto completed an impressive comeback in the tie overall. Meanwhile, it’s another tough defeat for Roma in the past week, after a 3-0 loss to Lazio.

Serie A: Juventus survives to beat Napoli, Torino and Atalanta both stroll

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Juventus survived a late scare to top Napoli and essentially wrap up the Serie A title, winning 2-1 to open up a massive 16-point lead at the top of the table.

On the road in Naples, Juve took a two-goal lead before the break, both coming after Napoli was reduced to 10 men. A horrible back-pass from Kevin Malcuit saw Cristiano Ronaldo clean through on goal, so Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret came charging out of the 18-yard box to challenge. Ronaldo touched to his left, leaving Meret grasping at nothing but air, and while the two never made contact, Ronaldo had nowhere to go but up and over the sprawled goalkeeper before crashing to the ground, and the call was easy for the referee as he sent Meret off.

Juventus immediately took the lead on the ensuing free-kick as Miralem Pjanic sent it just barely over the wall and into the top-left corner. They doubled the lead soon after when Emre Can headed home a 39th minute cross by Federico Bernardeschi.

After the halftime break, things got dicey for the league leaders. Pjanic was given his marching orders after picking up a second yellow card for a handball in midfield, a harsh call after Allan‘s looped pass hit him quickly, with little time for the Juve midfielder to react. With the game at 10 v. 10, Napoli made things interesting as Lorenzo Insigne’s cross met Jose Callejon at the back post to make it 2-1, with the Spaniard beating Georgio Chiellini.

Napoli was given a chance to get back level as the referee used VAR to give the hosts a penalty for a Alex Sandro handball. It was yet another harsh decision with Fabian Ruiz powering the ball straight into the Juve defender’s arm. Still, the referee pointed to the spot, but Insigne’s penalty came off the post and with hit the chance for Napoli to earn a result.

Elsewhere, Fabio Quagliarella scored twice inside the opening 15 minutes to lead Sampdoria to a 2-1 win over SPAL. His first was a brilliant finish, meeting Bartosz Bereszynski’s looped cross with an acrobatic scissor-kick that powered the ball into the ground and into the back of the net. His second came just seven minutes later with a towering header, and that was all the visitors needed. SPAL had a goal disallowed in the 67th minute for offside, and that proved decisive as Jasmin Kurtic would scupper the clean sheet in stoppage time, but it was ultimately nothing more than a consolation. Sampdoria moves to ninth in the Serie A table with the win, while SPAL remains five points above the relegation zone in 16th.

Torino needed 73 minutes to find the opener, but once they did the floodgates opened as they topped Chievo Verona 3-0. Andrea Belotti delivered a long-range missile with his right foot to break the deadlock, and while Torino saw the rest of the game out, they added the cherry on top in added time. In the 92nd minute Thomas Rincon made it 2-0 on a similar strike to Belotti’s opener, and Simone Zaza had the third a minute later as he beat Marco Andreolli to a bouncing back-pass and put the game away.

Atalanta fell behind Fiorentina just three minutes into the match, but they stormed back at home to win 3-1 behind goals from Josip Ilicic, Alejandro Gómez, Robin Gosens to move eighth in the table on 41 points, level with Torino but behind them on head-to-head.

Vinicius Junior called up for Brazil for first time

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Vinicius Junior has been called up to the Brazilian national team for the first time for friendly matches against Panama and the Czech Republic.

The 18-year-old striker has become a key player for Real Madrid this season.

[ MORE: PL relegation picture in focus ]

Brazil coach Tite also called up midfielder Felipe Anderson and striker Richarlison.

Brazil is preparing to host the Copa America in June.

Squad:

Goalkeepers: Alisson (Liverpool), Ederson (Manchester City), Weverton (Palmeiras)

Ddefenders: Alex Sandro (Juventus), Danilo (Manchester City), Filipe Luis (Atletico Madrid), Eder Militao (Porto), Dani Alves (Paris Saint-Germain), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Thiago Silva (Paris Saint-Germain), Miranda (Inter Milan)

Midfielders: Allan (Napoli), Arthur (Barcelona), Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Fabinho (Liverpool), Felipe Anderson (West Ham), Lucas Paqueta (AC Milan)

Forwards: Everton (Gremio), Roberto Firmino (Liverpool), Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), Richarlison (Everton), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)

Blocked from traveling, Cagliari kicks over milk in compromise

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Sardinian side Cagliari had an interesting Serie A travel day to Milan in that there was a chance it might not happen at all.

The Italians were trapped inside their training ground by over 100 protestors who were not challenging Cagliari’s on-field performances, but wanted the 15th place side to cancel their match at AC Milan in solidarity with them over high milk prices.

[ MORE: Wild day in Bundesliga ]

Part of a nation-wide protest which sees people kick over milk on the road, protestors would only let Cagliari’s players leave for Sunday’s match at AC Milan via compromise.

That compromise saw three Cagliari players join in the protest. From Football-Italia.net:

The team was only allowed to leave after several players, including Nicolo Barella, Alessandro Deiola and Joao Pedrowere filmed kicking over milk pails in a gesture of solidarity.

This a story we didn’t expect at the start of the Matchday.