Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland: Giggs’ honeymoon over (video)

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Sunderland stunned Manchester United on Saturday, as the Black Cats left Old Trafford with a 1-0 win all but securing their status as Premier League team next season.

Man United pressed hard early on but Sunderland took the lead after 30 minutes as Sebastian Larsson finished off Connor Wickham’s cross superbly and the Red Devils never recovered. In the second half United pressed for the equalizer as Nemanja Vidic was twice denied as Sunderland’s defense held on for a huge victory.

With their win the Black Cats relegated Fulham and Cardiff City and they now sit three points above the drop zone and they have two games to go. Sunderland’s safety will be secured if Norwich lose to Chelsea on Sunday… baring an improbable swing in goal differential. As for United, Ryan Giggs’ second game in charge resulted in defeat as his men never really got going and remain in seventh spot in the standings.

MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Man United dominated the early proceedings as Juan Mata buzzed around Sunderland’s defense. The closest United came to opening the scoring was when Michael Carrick whipped in a cross from the right and former Untied defender John O’Shea almost shanked the ball into his own net. Soon after Patrice Evra rose highest to head towards goal after some poor Sunderland marking as the Black Cats started slowly.

However as the first half wore on United failed to make their superior possession count and on the half hour mark Sunderland went ahead. Reigning Premier League Player of the Month Wickham ran down the right win and clipped in a pinpoint cross to Larsson, with the Swedish international cushioning a fine volley into the far corner to put the Black Cats 1-0 up.

Old Trafford was stunned as a Moyes-esque performance was playing out for interim boss Giggs with the Red Devils. United continued to have all the play but they just couldn’t engineer any clear-cut chances as Mata smashed a shot on goal just before the interval but Vito Mannone got down well to save.

After the break United continued to have all the play and Vidic really should have done better in the 51st minute but the central defender headed wide from six-yards out, as the Serbian complained about having his shirt held. Soon after a cross from the left saw Mannone flap at it and Vidic almost got in to score at the back post but Sunderland cleared.

Sunderland continued to defend resolutely as plenty of crosses flung into the box and Vidic again was thwarted by a combination of Mannone and Mackems defenders on the line. Manchester United were pushing hard but Sunderland almost sealed the win on the break as U.S. international Jozy Altidore pulled the ball back to Giaccherini but he hit the post and United cleared. Then Danny Welbeck got the ball on the edge of the box but smashed over before Fabio Borini curled an effort against the woodwork as Sunderland came even closer to a second goal.

In the end they held onto their 1-0 advantage to all but secure their PL status.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea, Jones, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Nani (Januzaj, 51′), Carrick, Fletcher, Young (Welbeck, 67′), Mata (Van Persie, 66′), Hernandez

Sunderland: Mannone, Vergini, Alonso, Brown, O’Shea, Cattermole, Larsson (Bridcutt, 74′), Colback, Johnson (Giaccherini , 58′), Borini, Wickham (Altidore, 65′)

Goal: Larsson (30′)

PL Preview: Brighton vs. Stoke City

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  • Stoke leads all-time 16W-14D-9L
  • First league meeting since 2006
  • Potters have won last 8 in series

Brighton and Hove Albion meets Stoke City for the first time in Premier League history when the two battle at the Amex Stadium on Monday (Watch live at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Brighton is unbeaten in its last four PL matches, with a pair of away wins and two draws at home.

They’ve been led at the back end by Shane Duffy and in attack by Pascal Gross, but it’s been a well-traveled Premier League veteran filling the goals. Glenn Murray has historic motivation to keep scoring, knowing that a marker versus Stoke would make him the first Brighton player to ever score a goal in four successive top flight matches.

Stoke followed up its win over Watford with a draw against Leicester City. The Potters have two goals and four assists from Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, and three and one from Senegalese scorer Mame Biram Diouf.

What they’re saying

Brighton’s Chris Hughton on bagging wins“For a club like us to get back-to-back wins would show the level we are playing at. It’s tough. I remember being told by somebody with one of the promoted teams that they didn’t get their first away win until February-March. That can happen and it’s exactly the same for a team getting promoted to get back-to-wins. They are hard to come by. Any way we are able to do that would certainly be a major boost for us.”

Stoke manager Mark Hughes on Xherdan ShaqiriHe is taking on more the role of the main instigator of our attacking threat. When he gets the ball, I think the whole team responds to that. You sense that maybe something’s going to happen. And I think the crowd sends it as well. And I know opposition team sense it too.”

Prediction

Few matches are more of a toss-up than this one, and there’s no recent match-ups on which to rest our heads. So we’ll side with the home team managing a point, and maybe a pair of old-timer goals from Murray and Peter Crouch, in a 1-1 draw.

Italy soccer chief resigns after failure to reach World Cup

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ROME (AP) Italian football federation president Carlo Tavecchio has resigned a week after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Monday’s announcement came following calls for a complete overhaul of the nation’s most popular sport, from the amateur leagues right up to Serie A and the national teams.

[ MORE: What’s next for West Brom? ]

Sweden’s playoff win over Italy kept the four-time champion out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Italy coach Gian Piero Ventura was fired two days after the loss.

For the last week, Tavecchio has resisted calls to step down but he eventually lost the support of the federation’s board of directors.

Former federation chief Giancarlo Abete said as he left the board meeting where Tavecchio resigned that a new election would be held within 90 days.

Managerial change a slippery slope for West Brom

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Tony Pulis brought much needed stability to West Bromwich Albion before his tenure soured in a hurry.

When Pulis took over at the Hawthorns, West Brom had seen both Pepe Mel and Alan Irvine do little winning in abbreviated managerial stints. Mel won three of 17 matches in charge, while Irvine could only nab five in 22.

[ MORE: Pulis sacked ]

So there is little debating, even for those who West Brom fans who revel in the club’s former free-flowing ways, that Pulis had a productive time in charge from January 2015 right on through most of last season.

But Pulis was seemingly limited to setting a points total and then kicking his heels up once Premier League safety was reached.

While that sounds a bit laughable, the facts are that the Baggies finished 10th last season despite an impressive start that saw the club comfortably eighth for much of the season. However, West Brom won five points from its final 12 matches to finish 16 points behind a European place (including five shutout losses at home).

The Baggies finished 14th the previous season, Pulis’ first full year in charge, but collapsed again after hitting the rarefied air of 11th. That final stretch? Five losses and four draws including shutout losses at home to Norwich City, Watford, and West Ham.

In doing so, Pulis belied his own budgetary critiques by proving the Baggies had the talent to compete for something relatively special.

Pulis was good at getting his side to play with the fury of a relegation contender from Day One, but it was so clear the side was sated once safety was secure. It wouldn’t be callous to opine that the manager would’ve viewed the Europa League as a nuisance to his “never been relegated” reputation (an idea buttressed by West Brom’s performances in Cup competitions, where Pulis never advanced to a quarterfinal while losing to Reading, Norwich City, Derby County, Northampton Town, and, this season, Man City).

What West Brom does next will say a lot. If it’s as simple as a rehashing of the “never been relegated” deck with Sam Allardyce, well, that’s something. But the Baggies are in the tricky predicament of having to replace a relatively stable hand who was their first good hire in three tries, while also running with the knowledge that their players clearly are capable of so much better than 17th.

The names on the bettor’s lists show what’s expected of West Brom: gritty style from an island manager. Derek McInnes is the favorite, with Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill just ahead of Sam Allardyce. Alan Pardew is next, followed by Ronald Koeman (For what it’s worth, bookies are still milking money from gamblers by including Jurgen Klinsmann’s name at 20:1 or so).

West Brom is in its eighth-straight Premier League campaign. The firing will jostle an already rocking ship, but the Baggies have steady leadership in Jonny Evans, Ben Foster, Chris Brunt, Gareth Barry, Gareth McAuley, and Craig Dawson. They have the wherewithal to achieve safety again, and can even look good in the process should a manager find the right way to use Salomon Rondon, Matty Phillips, Jay Rodriguez, Nacer Chadli, and others.

Who’s the right man for the job?

West Brom fires manager Tony Pulis

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Tony Pulis‘ reign over the Hawthorns is over, as West Bromwich Albion has fired the 59-year-old after just under three years in charge of the Premier League outfit.

Assistant coach Gary Megson takes over on an interim basis.

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The Baggies have not won a game since August, and were belted 4-0 at home by Chelsea on Saturday to leave the club one point above the drop zone.

Overall, Pulis oversaw wins in just 36 of his 121 matches, losing 49, in what will go down as one of the least successful stints in his well-traveled career. Only three PL clubs have scored less than the Baggies’ nine goals.

Here’s the club statement:

“These decisions are never taken lightly but always in the interests of the Club.

“We are in a results business and over the back end of last season and this season to date, ours have been very disappointing.

“We would like to place on record our appreciation of Tony’s contribution and hard work during a period of transition for the Club which included a change of ownership. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Pulis will almost certainly be back on the touch line soon, as he hasn’t spent more than a few months out of work since 2002.