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Chelsea Beats Sunderland in Di Canio’s First Game; QPR-Wigan Tie

Sunderland Manager Paolo Di Canio
Sunderland Manager Paolo Di Canio's appointment prompted protests last week because of a 2005 interview in which he described himself as a "fascist, not a racist." Photographer: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chelsea won 2-1 to boost its chances of playing Champions League soccer next season while handing Paolo Di Canio a loss in his first game as Sunderland coach.

Also yesterday in England’s Premier League, Wigan got an injury-time goal to tie 1-1 at 10-man Queens Park Rangers, Tottenham drew 2-2 with Everton, Liverpool tied 0-0 at home against West Ham and Newcastle beat Fulham 1-0.

Manchester United leads with 77 points, 15 ahead of Manchester City going into their meeting tonight. Chelsea moved ahead of Tottenham on goal difference, with both on 58 points. Then come Arsenal (56), Everton (52) and Liverpool (49).

Di Canio’s appointment to succeed Martin O’Neill prompted protests because of a 2005 interview in which he described himself as a “fascist, not a racist.” Last week the Italian said he was not a supporter of fascism and was “not political.” After yesterday’s game Di Canio declined to comment on criticism he’s received.

“As a person you don’t change, but you become an adult, you become a manager, now you have responsibility for many others,” he told reporters. “If I have to answer every comment it’s difficult. I would have to stay here all day.”

An own goal by Cesar Azpilicueta gave Sunderland the lead just before halftime at Stamford Bridge in west London.

Another own goal, by Sunderland’s Matthew Kilgallon, two minutes after the break tied it and Chelsea got the winner from Branislav Ivanovic in the 55th minute following a corner.

Relegation Zone

Sunderland is 17th in the 20-team standings with 31 points, the same as Wigan, which is 18th. Last-place Reading has 23 points, with QPR on 24.

Di Canio said he’s not worried about relegation, with his team one place out of the drop zone.

“When I decided to move to Sunderland, I knew what players were here but we have to fight until the end of the season,” he said. “I won’t say this was a bonus game but it was a test for us to see what we can do. I am not happy we lost 2-1, but there were positive things I can take from this.”

At Loftus Road, Bobby Zamora was red-carded for a high challenge on Wigan’s Jordi Gomez in the 21st minute. After Wigan initially took advantage of its numerical advantage, QPR regained momentum, prompted by substitute Adel Taarabt.

Loic Remy gave QPR the lead with a first-time strike from outside the penalty box in the 85th minute.

Late Goal

QPR’s Stephane Mbia then fouled an opponent just outside the penalty area in the closing seconds and Shaun Maloney chipped the resulting free kick into the top corner of the goal.

“I always thought we were going to get chances and then Remy got that great finish,” QPR manager Harry Redknapp said. “Then, with 10 seconds to go in the last minute of four minutes of added time -- it couldn’t have been more cruel. No one’s more sorry than Bobby but we’d have beaten them today with 11 men, I’m sure. Even with 10 men we should have won the game.”

Emmanuel Adebayor gave Tottenham a first-minute lead at White Hart Lane, turning in a cross from the left by Jan Vertonghen. Phil Jagielka leveled in the 15th minute, heading in from a corner.

Everton took the lead in the 53rd minute, Kevin Mirallas weaving his way through the home defense before slotting the ball in. Spurs, who were without the injured Gareth Bale, made it 2-2 after 87 minutes through Gylfi Sigurdsson, who tapped the ball in after Adebayor’s shot rebounded to him off a post.

Everton almost got an injury-time winner as Victor Anichebe’s close-range shot was saved by Hugo Lloris.

Newcastle looked to be heading for a 0-0 home draw with Fulham before Papiss Cisse scored in injury time.

Two days ago, Arsenal won 2-1 at West Brom and Aston Villa had a 3-1 victory at Stoke. Southampton won 2-0 at Reading and Norwich and Swansea drew 2-2.

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