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Friday, Dec. 24, 2010

Benitez axed by Inter Milan

MILAN, Italy (AP) Rafa Benitez's spell as Inter Milan coach is over after six months.

The Serie A champions announced Thursday that they have reached an agreement with Benitez to terminate his contract.

Benitez, who took charge in June, had a contract until the end of next season. Italian media are reporting that former AC Milan coach Leonardo has already been selected as his replacement.

Benitez reportedly angered club officials when he said after Saturday's 3-0 win over TP Mazembe in the Club World Cup final that the board should either fully support him and buy new players in January, or let him go.

Except for the Club World Cup, Inter has struggled all season, and sits seventh in the standings, 13 points behind city rival AC Milan.

Inter is off until it hosts second-place Napoli when the Serie A resumes on Jan. 6.

Real Madrid runs riot

MADRID — Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema had three goals each to lead Real Madrid to an 8-0 rout of Levante on Wednesday night in the first leg of the fifth round of the King's Cup.

Ronaldo scored in the 45th, 72nd and 74th minutes, raising his season total to 25 goals in 24 matches in all competitions for Madrid this season.

Benzema connected in the sixth, 32nd and 70th minutes, and Mesut Oezil and Pedro Leon also scored.

Kean to stay on

BLACKBURN, England (AP) Blackburn's owners will leave temporary coach Steve Kean in charge of the Premier League team until the end of the season.

Kean has been in charge for less than two weeks and for just one game. That ended in a 1-1 draw against last-place West Ham on Saturday, but Asian poultry giant Venky's said Wednesday that Kean will lead the side until June.

Venky's bought the northwest England club for £46 million ($73 million) on Nov. 19 and fired manager Sam Allardyce with it 13th in the 20-team Premier League.

Hosogai to Bayer

ZURICH (AP) FIFA president Sepp Blatter has reiterated his view that countries upset at being overlooked for the right to host the World Cup in 2018 and '22 should accept defeat gracefully.

Repeating FIFA's stance that the tournaments were awarded to Russia and Qatar to spread the sport into new territories, Blatter said that the response of some losing bidders had not been sportsmanlike.

"Maybe some people have forgotten that in football you have to learn to lose as well as to win," Blatter said in an interview on FIFA's website. "It was a competition. Some people won, some people lost. That's normal."

England was among the nations unhappy that FIFA did not declare before bidding began that the World Cup would go to countries that had never previously hosted the event.

But Blatter remained unrepentant despite criticism.

"The sporting media don't always appreciate the social or cultural importance of awarding the World Cup finals to a country," Blatter said. "They just think about penalties, corners, refereeing and money. But, as I've already said, this decision wasn't about making money."

Highlighting what he said was the huge success of this year's World Cup in South Africa, Blatter said it was important to keep sending the tournament all over the world.

"We have made historic decisions in terms of sport and geopolitics," Blatter said. "We've sent the World Cup to new territories. The 2018 World Cup will go to eastern Europe and the vast country that is Russia, and the 2022 event will go to Qatar, in the Arab world.

"The World Cup will discover new cultures in new regions, and that's something I'm delighted about."

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