Soccer

Claudio Ranieri lined up after Roma fires Eusebio Di Francesco

AFP-JIJI, AP

Eusebio Di Francesco was fired as Roma coach after the team crashed out of the Champions League, the Italian club confirmed on Thursday, with former boss Claudio Ranieri tipped to replace him.

Roma had taken a 2-1 advantage to Porto for the second leg of their last-16 tie on Wednesday but fell 4-3 on aggregate after a controversial penalty awarded following a VAR review deep into extra time.

“AS Roma can confirm head coach Eusebio Di Francesco has left the club with immediate effect,” the team said in a statement.

“The club would like to thank Eusebio for his work during his time at AS Roma and wish him success in the future.”

An urgent meeting had been called on Thursday afternoon in Rome between the club’s top officials to discuss Di Francesco’s future.

Club president Jim Pallotta later said: “On behalf of myself and everyone at AS Roma, I would like to thank Eusebio for his work and his commitment.

“Since returning to the club, Eusebio has always acted professionally and put the club’s needs ahead of his own. We all wish him well for the future.”

Former Sassuolo boss Di Francesco took over in June 2017.

A former Roma midfielder, he had helped the team to its last Serie A title as a player in 2001.

The 49-year-old led Roma to the Champions League semifinals last season for the first time since 1984, following an epic 3-0 comeback against Barcelona in the quarterfinals.

“Di Francesco will remain the coach who took Roma to the Champions League semi-finals after who knows how many years and he deserves credit for that,” said captain Daniele De Rossi.

“I know this isn’t our best season and the job of a coach will always be tied to results.”

The club finished third last season but this campaign has been marked by struggles with Di Francesco apologizing to fans but refusing to resign after a humiliating 7-1 defeat to Fiorentina in the Italian Cup quarterfinals last month.

Roma is now fifth in Serie A, three points off the Champions League berths for next season, after falling 3-0 last weekend to bitter city rival Lazio.

Ranieri, who memorably guided Leicester City to the 2016 Premier League title before being dismissed the following season, coached Roma from September 2009 to February 2011.

The 67-year-old Italian’s brief spell as manager of Premier League struggler Fulham ended last month after only four months in charge.

“Ranieri is ready,” wrote Gazzetta Dello Sport, adding that the former Roma boss was expected to travel to the Italian capital from London by Friday at the latest.

Other reported contenders are former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and his Stamford Bridge successor Maurizio Sarri.

Ranieri has had a long coaching career in Italy with clubs including Juventus, Inter Milan and Napoli. He coached French club Nantes before taking over at Fulham in November 2018, only to be fired on Feb. 28.

During his time in charge of Roma he oversaw 84 matches — winning 47, with 16 draws and 21 defeats.

Di Francesco has coached Roma for 87 games with 46 victories, 18 draws and 23 defeats.

The Champions League exit, however, was the final straw for American businessman Pallotta who had raged at VAR after the defeat.

The tie hinged on a decision by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir to point to the spot late in extra time upon reviewing an incident in which Alessandro Florenzi hauled back Porto forward Fernando.

Alex Telles converted the spot kick, and Roma was then denied a penalty at the other end following a review, after Patrik Schick tumbled to the ground.

“Last year we asked for VAR in the Champions League because we got screwed in the semifinal and tonight, they’ve got VAR and we still get robbed,” said Pallotta on Twitter.

“Patrik Schick was clearly clipped in the box, VAR shows it, and nothing is given. I’m tired of this crap. I give up.”

In action on the pitch, Chelsea closed in on the Europa League quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Dynamo Kiev on Thursday, while Arsenal and Benfica will have to overturn deficits in the second leg of their round-of-16 matches to advance.

Pedro Rodriguez, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi scored a goal each for Chelsea, which was in full control throughout and easily could have translated its dominance into more goals. It was the third win in three games in all competitions for Chelsea as coach Maurizio Sarri has managed to turn things around after a string of poor results.

Fellow London club Arsenal, though, is in trouble following a 3-1 loss at Rennes.