Chelsea wins, regains 3rd place in Premier League
LONDON (AP) — Paolo Di Canio, whose past fascist allegiances have become a flash point in English soccer, lost his first game as Sunderland’s manager Sunday — a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, which regained third place in the Premier League.
Chelsea was playing its fourth game in nine days but had enough energy to rally. Branislav Ivanovic netted the winner after both sides scored an own goal.
Tottenham is two points ahead of fifth-place Arsenal, having played an extra game. Everton is a further four points back in sixth. Liverpool is three points behind Everton after drawing 0-0 with West Ham, which is six points clear of relegation.
A superior goal difference is also keeping Sunderland out of the relegation zone ahead of Wigan, which drew 1-1 at Queens Park Rangers.
With the season entering its final weeks, Manchester United can all but wrap up the title Monday. A victory against its Manchester rival would put the leaders 18 points ahead of Manchester City.
Di Canio was handed his first Premier League management job a week ago, replacing the fired Martin O’Neill. Sunderland vice chairman David Miliband, a former British foreign secretary, quit in protest over Di Canio’s “past politics statements.”
Further condemnation followed as Di Canio’s political leanings were questioned. He took until Wednesday to say he does not “support the ideology of fascism.”
When asked after Sunday’s match about the criticism, Di Canio replied: “If I have to answer every comment it’s difficult. As a person you don’t change, but you become an adult, you become a manager.”
ROME (AP) — AC Milan squandered a two-goal lead over 10-man Fiorentina and settled for a 2-2 draw that ended its four-match winning streak in Serie A.
In a match between the third- and fourth-placed clubs, Riccardo Montolivo put Milan ahead against his former squad when Fiorentina’s David Pizarro gave up the ball in the 14th minute, leaving him with only the goalkeeper to beat.
After Fiorentina defender Nenad Tomovic was shown a red card in the 39th, Montolivo provided the cross that Mathieu Flamini redirected for Milan’s second goal in the 62nd. Fiorentina, however, struck back with two penalty kicks.
Milan moved within one point of second-place Napoli. Fiorentina remained six points behind Milan in fourth, and just two ahead of Inter Milan and Lazio.
On Saturday, Serie A leader Juventus beat 10-man Pescara 2-1 ahead of Wednesday’s return leg against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals.
BERLIN (AP) — Nuremberg defeated Mainz 2-1 in the Bundesliga to end the visitors’ seven-game unbeaten run and deal a blow to their hopes of a European qualification place.
Nuremberg defender Per Nilsson broke the deadlock in the 54th minute when he met Hiroshi Kiyotake’s in-swinging free kick to head inside the far post. Nicolai Mueller tied it six minutes later with a chip over the rushing goalkeeper. But Nilsson scored his second goal in the 69th when he scrambled the ball into the net.
Mainz dropped to eighth place while Nuremberg preserved an unbeaten run at home going back to Sept. 29.
Hannover could only draw 0-0 at home with Stuttgart in the late match, which ended to a chorus of whistles from fans. The result leaves Hannover ninth, four points behind Eintracht Frankfurt in the last European qualification place. Stuttgart remains 13th.
American defender Steve Cherundolo started for Hannover in his first appearance since December. He had knee surgery in February.
Bayern Munich wrapped up the title with a record six games to spare by winning 1-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
PARIS (AP) — Saint-Etienne beat relegation-threatened Evian 1-0 in the French league to pull even with third-place Lyon, which lost by the same score at Reims as its already slim title hopes evaporated.
Saint-Etienne scored the only goal with 12 minutes left. Francois Clerc crossed to the far post and Romain Hamouma’s header crashed off the underside of the crossbar. The ball went down onto the line and Evian goalkeeper Bertrand Laquait was unable to keep it out. Evian protested fiercely but replays showed the ball had gone over.
Saint-Etienne and Lyon have 53 points, 11 points behind league-leader Paris Saint-Germain and four behind second-place Marseille.
Evian is one point off the bottom three while Reims is four points off the drop zone.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Rayo Vallecano beat relegation-threatened Celta Vigo 2-0 with goals by Francisco “Piti” Medina and Andrija Delibasic in the Spanish league.
Espanyol won 2-0 at Osasuna after Wakaso Mubarak went on at halftime to set up one goal and score another.
Celta has just one point from the past five games and is three points from the safety zone with eight rounds to play.
Espanyol’s second straight away win lifted it to the middle of the standings. Osasuna’s home losing streak reached three games.
AMSTERDAM (AP) — Ajax beat Heracles Almelo 4-0 to stay in first place in the Dutch Eredivisie despite playing much of the second half with 10 men after goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer was sent off.
PSV kept the pressure on Ajax by beating last-placed Willem II 3-1 in Tilburg on Saturday. Vitesse Arnhem is even on points with PSV and three points behind Ajax, which travels to PSV next Sunday.