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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Juventus fires Ranieri; Black Cats fall to Portsmouth

TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus fired coach Claudio Ranieri on Monday, saying a shakeup was the only way to salvage what's left of a disappointing season in which the Turin club has gone winless in its last seven games.

The team announced it was replacing Ranieri with Ciro Ferrara, a former Juve defender and current coach of the club's youth side.

General Manager Jean-Claude Blanc said the club hoped the change would spur the players to at least pull out a third-place finish in the Serie A and "give them the possibility of changing our future."

Juve drew 2-2 at home Sunday with Atalanta, leaving the Turin side three points behind second-placed AC Milan with two games left. Inter Milan has clinched the Serie A title.

"We absolutely have to do something different," Blanc said, according to the ANSA news agency. "We wanted to give a strong shakeup and now it's all in the hands of the players."

Ferrara said he welcomed the pressure.

"I'm not afraid to confront this particular moment," he said at a news conference with Blanc. "I don't look back, and I want to assume the responsibilities that I'll have for the next 15 days."

Ferrara, 42, is expected to remain as coach only until the end of the season, though Blanc suggested Juventus may have longer-term plans for him.

He said that Ferrara has "all the qualities to be considered with a lot of attention for the future," though he stressed that the performance in the final two games would be critical.

Media speculation that Ranieri would be replaced had been mounting for weeks.

Juventus has not won since March, picking up six draws and a defeat in its last seven games. It lost to Chelsea in the first knockout round of the Champions League and fell in the semifinals of the Italian Cup to eventual champion Lazio.

The winless streak in the Serie A has left Juventus only one point clear of Fiorentina in the race for third place — the last one to guarantee direct entry into the Champions League draw.

Ranieri, a former Chelsea manager, took over at Juventus two years ago just as the club had been promoted back to Serie A after a season in the lower division as punishment for its role in a match-fixing scandal.

Ranieri's first season was seen as a success as the team qualified for the Champions League. This year, Juve remained in contention for the league title until about midseason.

Black Cats on brink

PORTSMOUTH , England (AP) Sunderland threw away the lead and lost 3-1 at Portsmouth on Monday night to stay in danger of relegation from the Premier League.

Although Kenwyne Jones gave the Black Cats a 59th minute lead, John Utaka equalized a minute later. An own goal by Sunderland defender Phil Bardsley and Armand Traore's late goal confirmed Portsmouth's victory.

The loss left Sunderland with 36 points in 16th place with only two points more than 18th place Newcastle. Last place West Bromwich Albion is already sure to go down and next-to-last Middlesbrough has to win its final game and hope that Hull, in 17th place, loses heavily.

Portsmouth striker Peter Crouch headed against the post after only four minutes at Fratton Park. But Jones almost captured the lead for Sunderland just before halftime with a glancing header that hit the inside of the post.

Sunderland went in front when defender Calum Davenport moved upfield and crossed for Jones to shoot home with a first-time drive.

But the home side was level within a minute when a header by Crouch bounced off Grant Leadbitter and the ball rolled to Utaka who shot home.

Seven minutes later, Sunderland defender Anton Ferdinand failed to deal with a long ball and Utaka got clear. The striker beat goalkeeper Marton Fulop and Bardsley, trying to clear the ball, could only turn it into his own net.

Traore added the third goal with two minutes remaining.

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