Paolo Di Canio’s first Sunderland game ends in defeat

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Relegation-threatened Sunderland took the lead at Stamford Bridge today but couldn’t hang on as Chelsea won 2-1 and rose to third in the Premier League.

What at face value seemed surprising – the visitors going ahead – wasn’t really that shocking in context. You might have expected Sunderland’s players to make a roaring start to impress their curiously-sweatered new boss, while six of Chelsea’s weary starters began against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League three days prior.

One of those was Spain defender Cesar Azpilicueta, who put a sprightly Sunderland 1-0 up shortly before half-time by steering Adam Johnson’s corner into his own goal.

It was almost inevitable that Chelsea would be stung into more meaningful action after that, but Rafael Benitez’ side, ordinary for much of the contest, benefited from two lucky breaks.

A pass from half-time substitute Fernando Torres found Oscar, whose shot was saved by Simon Mignolet. But the rebound looped off defender Matt Kilgallon for the match’s second own-goal in the space of a couple of minutes.

There was more fortune with 55 minutes gone as Branislav Ivanovic deflected in a long-range attempt from David Luiz.

With Tottenham only drawing with Everton across London a little earlier, the result lifted Chelsea above them into third on goal difference, dropping Arsenal to fifth.

Next up for Sunderland? Only the small matter of the Tyne-Wear derby, a trip to local rivals Newcastle United a week today. And Newcastle should be extra-buoyant for that one after beating Fulham 1-0 today thanks to a late winner from Papiss Cisse that lifted them to 13th and goes a long way to easing their own relegation concerns.

Black Cats fans had better hope that Di Canio’s tactics prove sharper than his fashion sense. That sort of style has no place outside a golf course. Frankly, Paolo, we expect better. You’re Italian.

LAFC selects Urena, 4 others in MLS Expansion Draft

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Los Angeles FC selected five players in the MLS Expansion Draft, including Costa Rican national team star Marco Urena.

Whether they’ll make their way to the City of Angels is another story.

The first pick from general manager John Thorrington was goalkeeper Tyler Miller from Seattle Sounders.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Going next was Latif Blessing from Sporting KC, an electric attacker who netted thrice with an assist last season.

Next was Urena from San Jose and the Costa Rican national team, a huge addition, and then Columbus left back Jukka Raitala before closing up the draft with Raheem Edwards from Toronto FC.

LAFC has already announced the signings or acquisitions of Carlos Vela, Walker Zimmerman, Carlos Alvarez, Monday Etim, and Guillermo Vizcarra.

The club will also loan Omar Gaber from Basel and Rodrigo Pacheco from Lanus.

WATCH LIVE: Three Premier League matches

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Chelsea visits the John Smith’s Stadium to face Huddersfield Town in one of three Premier League fixtures this chilly Tuesday in December (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues are now 14 points back of Manchester City, and three points clear of fifth place.

Meanwhile there are a pair of matches on NBC Sports Gold: Burnley looks to keep pace with its Top Four ambitions when it hosts struggling Stoke City, while in-form Crystal Palace seeks a home win that would move it out of the drop zone. In its way? Dangerous, attack-minded Watford.

Burnley vs. Stoke City — 2:45 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

Crystal Palace vs. Watford — 3 p.m. ET [ STREAM ]

FIFA bans Colombia midfielder Cardona 5 games for gesture

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ZURICH (AP) FIFA has banned Colombia midfielder Edwin Cardona for five matches for making a discriminatory gesture with his eyes toward a South Korean opponent.

FIFA will allow Cardona to serve the ban in friendly games, so he should be available for Colombia’s World Cup opener against Japan on June 19.

[ MORE: Pep on post-derby celebrations ]

Cardona has also been fined 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,150) because of the incident last month in a friendly in Seoul.

Cardona apologized at the time, saying he “didn’t mean to disrespect anyone, a country or a race, but if anyone felt offended, or interpreted it in that way, I am sorry.”

Spurs’ Alderweireld won’t return until February

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Spurs finally got a bit of good news this weekend with a blowout of Stoke City.

That was a followed by a tough draw against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, and bad news on an old injury.

[ MORE: Benitez on NUFC struggles ]

Center back Toby Alderweireld is going to be gone into February, extending his time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 1 against Real Madrid.

Spurs were 6-2-2 in league when Alderweireld went down, and are just 2-2-2 since the injury. The Belgian has missed losses at Arsenal and Leicester, draws against Watford and West Brom, and wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke.

Tottenham did win both of its UCL matches since the injury.