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The Sport Matrix: Tuesday 2 April 2013

Sunderland under attack as Di Canio faces racism storm

The controversy surrounding the appointment of Paolo di Canio as Sunderland head coach exploded yesterday when he was forced to deny claims he is a racist. The club's board were also so angered by the reaction to the hiring of Di Canio as their replacement to Martin O'Neill that they too defended the 44-year-old.

Di Canio, above, made a fascist salute when he played for Lazio and it has been widely reported that he used the term "I am fascist, not a racist," in an interview.

Sunderland's non-executive director David Miliband resigned from his position in light of the appointment and Piara Powar, a director at Football Against Racism in Europe, called it a "worrying time". Powar said: "There is no place in a sport, which seeks to draw out a positive impact on social relations and community, to have someone who says: 'I am a fascist and I admire Mussolini.'"

Di Canio, in a statement, denied that he is racist or fascist. "I've never had a problem with people from a different culture," he said. "[The 'fascist' quote] was twisted. They did not use all of the interview." MORE

Liberty Counsel wins Irish National

Liberty Counsel emerged victorious in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse yesterday, with jockey Ben Dalton guiding the 50-1 outsider home to a win for trainer Dot Love. Away We Go came home second at 25-1.

Masters hopefuls in mixed form

DA Points put himself in prime shape for the Masters next week by winning the Houston Open by a single shot. Britain's Brian Davis came sixth with Lee Westwood just behind, while Rory McIlroy improved from a poor start to finish joint 45th.

Donald takes up challenge in Japan

Bath and New Zealand fly-half Stephen Donald will leave The Rec for Japan at the end of the season. Donald, who will join Mitsubishi Dynaboars after just 31 appearances for Bath, said: "I feel it is time for a new challenge in a new league." MORE

QPR fall short after spirited comeback

A determined second-half performance from QPR was not enough to prevent them losing 3-2 to Fulham at Craven Cottage. A Dimitar Berbatov double and Clint Hill own goal put Fulham 3-0 up, before Adel Taarabt and Loïc Rémy brought QPR within arm's length of point. MORE

Warrington and St Helens run riot

Warrington Wolves ran in 10 tries to dismantle strugglers London Broncos 54-20 yesterday, going third in the Super League. St Helens moved up to fourth, scoring nine tries on their way to a 48-18 win over Castleford Tigers. MORE

Wolves tame fears with vital victory

Wolves eased their relegation worries by securing a 3-2 win at Birmingham. Stephen Hunt grabbed the opener before Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's double put Wolves 3-0 up at the break, with Wade Elliot scoring twice in reply for the Blues. MORE

PSG chief wants Beckham to stay

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi wants David Beckham to remain at the club beyond the summer after joining in January on a five-month deal, making five appearances since. "He is very happy in Paris," he said. "Frankly, we want to keep him with us next season."

Brilliant Ba takes Chelsea through

Demba Ba's spectacular winner ended Manchester United's quest for the Double and secured holders Chelsea an FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City. Ba's athletic finish was the only goal of the game, leaving United with just the league to concentrate on. MORE

Opinion: James Lawton

Although we know how much political posturing masquerades as bone-deep conviction, it is still no hardship applauding David Miliband's resignation as vice-chairman of Sunderland. page 51

Warnock leaves Leeds after defeat

Leeds manager Neil Warnock parted company with the Championship club last night after his side lost their third successive match. Leeds lost 2-1 to Derby yesterday, which leaves them in 12th place, well adrift of the play-offs and just five points clear of the drop zone. MORE

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