Time’s up for Di Canio

Paolo Di Canio was sacked by Sunderland on Sunday night after the players told him that they had no faith in his controversial methods.

What took them so long, I hear you ask.

Di Canio, whose team had taken only one point from the season’s opening five league fixtures, called the meeting to discuss the previous day’s 3-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion. When the manager criticised his players, Lee Cattermole, the midfielder he stripped of the captaincy is reported to have told him the squad had lost faith in his methods.

When details of the row were relayed to Ellis Short, Sunderland’s owner, Di Canio was a lame duck.

“Sunderland AFC confirms that it has parted company with head coach Paolo Di Canio this evening,” read a club statement. “Kevin Ball will take charge of the squad ahead of Tuesday night’s Capital One Cup game against Peterborough and an announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor. The club would like to place on record its thanks to Paolo and his staff and wishes them well for the future.”

For a man who has a tattoo of Benito Mussolini etched on his back, Di Canio’s dictatorial style of management was perhaps to be expected. But what was unforeseen was how limited he would be as a man manager. For him it was all about the stick, with the players always blamed for their perceived inadequacies, one of which was their inability to speak English – of those recruited in the summer 13 were foreign – which became quite a problem when it became apparent that there was communication at set-pieces.

Di Canio was adamant that, given time, his attacking formation – 4-2-4 was the favoured line-up – would pay pay off  and his strict new disciplinary regime would transform Sunderland’s fortunes.

Now, we will never know. For that, Sunderland fans will feel much relief.

Istanbul derby match abandoned

The Istanbul derby between Beskitas and Galatasaray was abandoned on Sunday night after supporters invaded the pitch in injury time.

The catalyst for the invasion was the dismissal in the closing moments of Gala’s combative midfielder Felipe Melo. Perhaps unaware that he was playing in a high profile Istanbul derby match,  Melo was initally reluctant to leave the pitch, preferring instead to confront the man he had just scythed down. The combustible Brazilian, who revels in his reputation as a hardman, took to Twitter last week to promote an image of himself as part man, part Terminator, tagging his post with the terms #guerreiro #warrior #terminator #pitbull, but surprisingly not the most apt, #cretin.

That incident lit the blue touch paper, and hundreds of Besiktas supporters, many of whom were brandishing plastic garden chairs, stormed onto the playing area. Volatile derby matches are not uncommon, but the placement around the pitch of so many portable seats is most unusual.

The players sprinted off the pitch and mercifully made it to the sanctuary of the tunnel moments before the arrival of their pursuers, who, in turn, were hastily chased back behind the advertising hoardings by scores of riot police.

The match was the first derby of the season and follows months of civil unrest in Turkey’s largest city.

It has been reported by Turkish media that the trouble started after simmering tensions between Besiktas fans and riot police inside the stadium.

Be afraid, be very afraid

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says striker Luis Suarez is ready for action after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The Uruguay international is available for Wednesday’s eagerly awaited Capital One Cup tie against Manchester United after serving a 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in April.

“It has been a really difficult time for him not playing games,” said Rodgers, who confirmed a decision would be made in the next 24 hours whether the 26-year-old would start at Old Trafford.

“How he has prepared himself over the last number of weeks has been fantastic.”

Asked whether the Uruguayan was looking forward to playing again, Rodgers replied: ”He’s really chomping at the bit to help the team.”

An unfortunate turn of phrase, all things considered.

“Everyone knows the depth of his quality and his attitude,” added the Liverpool boss.

“Once he gets back on the field again he will show what he has shown since he’s been here.”

Asked whether Suarez had learned his lesson Rodgers, not sounding entirely convincing, said “We will see, we will see.”

Goal of the day

Fantastic  build up sets up the chance for Barcelona’s Wilder Medina against Deportivo Quito.

Save of the day

It had to happen. After 21 successful penalty conversions Mario Balotelli missed the first spot-kick of his career, courtesy of a wonderful save from Napoli’s on loan goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Quote of the day

“Neymar and Lionel Messi are two attacking players. That means that a player is doing less work and defensively that is a problem. Barcelona have a style of play where players have to work hard on the flanks, but Neymar is not a workhorse like Pedro or Cristian Tello.”

Johan Cruyff is unconvinced that Neymar is suited to his current role at Barcelona.

Gill advocates the C word

David Gill, former chief executive at Manchester United and now employed variously as a UEFA executive committee member, a vice-chairman of the English Football Association and a director of Manchester United, has spoken of the need for all interested parties to find a compromise over an alternative date if the 2022 Qatar World Cup is moved from summer.

Gill was in Dubrovnik last week attending a series of key UEFA meetings and has been quick to dismiss the idea that switching the 2022 World Cup to the northern hemisphere winter will disrupt three league seasons.

“It needs to be limited to a one-season impact,” Gill told BBC Radio. “I know the Premier League has talked about it impacting on three seasons but I believe it can be sorted to impact on only one.”

“No dates were discussed at the meeting (in Dubrovnik). What happened was that the 54 association presidents decided that they weren’t against playing the World Cup in the winter – and that was all that was decided.

“The position was ratified by the UEFA executive committee and, at the upcoming FIFA executive committee in early October, no doubt it will be discussed there. It’s up to FIFA.

“The important message out of UEFA was that no decision on dates is to be made at this time. The work has to be done and has to involve all stakeholders within the game, whether associations, clubs, players, leagues etc. It’s only through that work that the final decision can be made.”

Gill re-iterated that UEFA will not be proposing taking the World Cup away from Qatar. Instead, he said, it was all about compromise involving everyone – including FIFA, UEFA and the clubs.

“Maybe FIFA has to reduce the player call-up period, the (English) FA may have to give up [FA Cup] replays in a particular season, clubs may have to forgo lucrative pre-season tours to fit into a crowded calendar.

“It’s not ideal because the World Cup has been a traditional part of the calendar in the summer and a move, if it is to be made, has to involve compromise from all parties. For example, UEFA may have to move the Champions League round of 16 from four weeks to two weeks. If everyone goes in with that attitude I’m sure you can come up with a solution which is acceptable to everyone.

“But it cannot be foisted upon football, saying: ‘That’s it, get on with it.’ If people are open-minded . . . we can come up with a solution.”

Stat of the day

Barcelona enjoyed less than 50 percent of the ball for the first time in five years when they won 4-0 at Rayo Vallecano in La Liga on Saturday.

The Spanish champions have been undergoing something of a change in strategy under new coach Gerardo Martino, and although they’re not exactly comparable to a Tony Pulis Stoke City side, they have definitely adopted a more direct approach than we saw under Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.

Against Rayo, who also value possession highly under coach Paco Jemez and who have the second highest percentage figures behind Barca in La Liga, the champions finally met their match.

Rayo edged them 51 to 49 percent on Saturday to end a run of 316 games where Barca have controlled possession, according to the sports and media company Infostrada.

The last team to register higher possession figures in a match against Barca were arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Real triumphed 4-1 in a ‘Clasico’ at the Bernabeu in May 2008, just before Pep Guardiola took over and introduced his possession-based style of play.

Jesus wept

Benfica boss Jorge Jesus endeared himself to the club’s supporters when he leapt to the defence of a fan who had enteredthe field of play to celebrate the 1-0 win over Vitoria Guimaeres.

Excitable fans ran onto the pitch, prompting police intervention. Jesus, however, took particular exception to the law’s treatment of one Benfica fan that he argued with and wrestled with the officer before manager and fan were led off in separate directions.