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New Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio on Tuesday faced a barrage of questions about his support for fascism, after his appointment prompted a club director to quit and outrage among many fans.

The club in northeast England, a former industrial area built on coal mining, ship-building and heavy industry, also provoked the ire of one trade union, which has demanded that they remove its banner from their Stadium of Light ground.

Di Canio, facing the media for the first time since succeeding Martin O'Neill on Sunday, was repeatedly asked whether he was a fascist, in reference to a statement he made in 2005 when he said: "I am a fascist, not a racist".

The former Lazio, Celtic and West Ham United striker, who was also once banned for giving a raised-arm salute to hardcore fans of the Rome club, responded: "I don't have to answer that anymore.

"There was a very good statement from the club, very, very clear words that came from me. I don't want to talk anymore about politics. We're not in the Houses of Parliament. I'm not a political person.

"I only want to talk about football... In 45 years, I've never had a problem with anyone."

The news conference in Sunderland was not carried live by television channels amid the controversy unleashed by Di Canio's appointment in a predominantly working class area of Britain where left-wing political support has traditionally been strong.

 

World No. 1 Serena Williams rallied to defeat world No. 2 Maria Sharapova 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Saturday in the WTA Miami final, winning the event for a record sixth time to claim her 48th career tour title.

Williams, who had shared the all-time Miami women's title mark with Steffi Graf, won the last 10 games in adding to a trophy haul that included crowns in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008 and runner-up efforts in 1999 and 2009.

It was the 11th match victory in a row for Williams over Sharapova, coming in their first meeting as the top two players in the world rankings, and gave the 31-year-old American a 12-2 edge in their all-time rivalry.

Williams became only the fourth woman in the modern era to win the same event six times, joining Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Graf's husband, Andre Agassi, won the Miami men's title six times.

Williams, a 15-time Grand Slam singles champion, also became the oldest women's champion in Miami history, four months older than Evert when the legend won here in 1986 at 31 years and two months of age.

Sharapova suffered her fifth championship-match loss at Miami and still looks for her first Miami title after having been denied a 29th career WTA triumph.

Four-time Grand Slam title winner Sharapova had won 11 matches in a row without dropping a set since losing to Williams in a Doha semi-final.

Sharapova's only two victories over Williams came in 2004 in the Wimbledon final and the WTA Los Angeles final.

 

Former world number one Rafael Nadal cruised to his 38th claycourt title at the Mexican Open, claiming his second title in three events since returning from a seven-month injury layoff.

Nadal, who has never lost to a fellow Spaniard in a final, kept his perfect record intact by routing reigning three-time champion David Ferrer 6-0, 6-2.

Second seed Nadal, who also won this event in 2005, was appearing in his third final of the year. He won in Sao Paulo on February 17 and was runner-up in Vina del Mar, Chile, the previous week.

 

Former England coach Steve McClaren said on Tuesday that he has resigned from Dutch club FC Twente, after a string of poor results that has sent them sliding down the league table.

McClaren, 51, said he held talks with the club's management after Saturday's 2-1 defeat away to Heerenveen to thrash out a way forward, which he said had to include finishing in the top four of the Dutch division and regular qualification for Europe.

The Enschede side were joint top after the winter break but have slipped to fifth in the league, six points adrift of leaders PSV Eindhoven, after four draws and two defeats in six matches, triggering criticism and protests from fans.

"Saturday's result has seen further adverse reactions and with two home games coming up we feel the team needs the support and backing from the supporters," McClaren said.

"I also needed assurances about my position both now and in the future which I know in the present situation is difficult.

"After much discussion and deliberation those assurances weren't forthcoming and we have agreed it's in the best interest of the club that I leave.

Arsenal's hopes of ending their eight-year trophy drought suffered a huge setback after they were dumped out of the FA Cup at home to second-tier Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.

Colin Kazim-Richards scored the only goal in Indian-owned Blackburn's 1-0 victory when he struck in the 72nd minute after Gunners keeper Wojciech Szczesny failed to hold Martin Olsson's shot.

 

Security firm G4S has been awarded its first Government contract since the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics security fiasco to continue running a centre for young offenders.

G4S Care and Justice Services will continue to provide services at Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent for a further two years after securing a contract extension.

The announcement comes after the firm revealed a bigger-than-expected £70 million hit on its Olympics contract for failing to provide all of its 10,400 contracted guards.

Located in Chatham, Medway opened in April 1998 and was originally designed to accommodate 40 boys but it expanded in 2002 to accommodate 76 young people, including boys and girls.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled plans to shake up youth custody in Britain, which would see "secure colleges" set up in a bid to improve the education of youth offenders.

Paul Cook, managing director G4S children's services, said the centre delivers "excellent services with outstanding outcomes for young people".

The agreement extends the 15-year contract, in place since the centre opened, by 23 months and was agreed by the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for England and Wales. It is expected to save the YJB £4.6 million.

The announcement comes as Ofsted published a positive report following an unannounced inspection of the centre last November.

 

Liverpool were left to regret a string of missed chances as Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg completed a convincing 2-0 victory in their Europa League last-32, first leg match on Thursday.

Two goals in three minutes midway through the second half turned the tide in Zenit's favour after both sides had squandered a hatful of opportunities on a badly churned-up pitch in Russia's former Imperial capital.

First, big-money Brazilian signing Hulk put the Russians ahead in the 69th minute with a blistering shot from the edge of the area which just clipped Martin Skrtel to wrong-foot Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Then on 72 minutes, Sergei Semak turned up the heat on Liverpool when he ghosted in behind Skrtel and Glenn Johson to arrive unmarked on the left to clinically dispatch Aleksandr Anyukov's cross from the right past Reina.

For Liverpool, Luis Suarez was the chief culprit and could have a hat-trick in the first half alone but for some profligate finishing.

But his worst miss came early in the second half as a good collective move orchestrated by Steven Gerrard ended with Stewart Downing teeing up Suarez in front of goal but he curled his shot casually wide.

That leaves Liverpool with an uphill struggle in the home leg at Anfield.

 

New Zealand defeated England by 55 runs in the second Twenty20 international in Hamilton on Tuesday to level the three-match series 1-1.

Chasing New Zealand's 192 for six, England were all out for 137 after 19.3 overs.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon insists his side shouldn't be regarded as underdogs when they face Italian champions Juventus in the Champions League last-16 first leg at Parkhead on Tuesday.

Lennon's team were surprise qualifiers for the last 16 after finishing ahead of Benfica and Spartak Moscow in Group G and caused a major upset when they beat Barcelona en route to their first appearance at this stage in five years.

But despite their impressive feats in the group phase, the Scottish champions are still seen by many pundits as inferior to Juventus, who are favoured to advance to the quarter-finals.

Lennon disagrees with that assessment and claims Celtic's players have the technical ability and mental strength to trouble any team in the competition.

"I think we have been (underestimated) throughout the whole campaign and going into this game we are being made out to be massive underdogs but I don't quite see it that way myself," Lennon said at a pre-match press conference in Glasgow on Monday.

"There is a real belief, anything can happen over two games. We go into the tie as underdogs but nothing is going to be decided at the end of 90 minutes tomorrow.

"It is over two games and we are prepared to play hard football over 180 minutes."

While Lennon was rightly keen to talk up his own team, he was also willing to acknowledge Juventus possess top-class players throughout their squad and particularly in attacking areas.

"They have excellent strikers - Mirko Vucinic, Fabio Quagliarella, Sebastian Giovinco, and they have also brought in Nicolas Anelka," Lennon said.

"But the one who has caught my eye is Alessandro Matri, he looks an excellent young player.

"They are very strong in midfield. Arturo Vidal is playing very well currently, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio, these are class players including Andrea Pirlo who is still one of the finest midfield players in the world.

"So the team is blessed with fantastic footballers but we knew that before the tie or before any preparations were made.

"But it would be dangerous to underestimate Celtic. We have proved already this season that we can be a match for anyone."

Tottenham Hotspur lost Jermain Defoe to injury but won 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion through a fine Gareth Bale goal to bolster their push for Champions League qualification on Sunday.

Emmanuel Adebayor's commitments with Togo at the Africa Cup of Nations have left Defoe as Spurs' only senior striker, but the England international had to go off in the 39th minute at The Hawthorns after appearing to twist his ankle.

Once again, Bale was Spurs' most dangerous player but his best effort in the first half, a fierce, bending strike in injury time, was touched over by West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster.

The hosts carved out a clear sight of goal when Graham Dorrans released Shane Long, but visiting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris narrowed the angle well to block.

Tottenham were given a helping hand early in the second half when West Brom's Macedonian left-back Goran Popov, on loan from Dynamo Kiev, was shown a straight red card for spitting towards Spurs right-back Kyle Walker.

Spurs made their numerical advantage count in the 67th minute as Bale took his tally for the season to 11 league goals with a vicious strike from just outside the 18-yard area.

On playing in a more central role, Bale told Sky Sports: "I enjoy it. It's a role that I'm learning season by season.