Latin America

Batista takes reins at Vasco da Gama

Adilson Batista replaces Dorival Jr. as coach of struggling Vasco da Gama.
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SAO PAULO (AP)

Brazilian club Vasco da Gama hired Adilson Batista as its new coach on Tuesday in a bid to avoid its second relegation in six years.

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With seven rounds left to play in the national top-flight, Batista will replace Dorival Jr., who was fired following the team's defeat at the weekend, the third in four matches. The Rio de Janeiro club is 18th in the 20-team standings, and three points away from avoiding relegation.

Dorival, who was the Vasco coach when the club played in the second division for the first time in 2009, has won only nine and drawn eight of 29 matches since being hired in the seventh round this year, when the team was 14th on the table.

Vasco, the four-time national champion and 1998 Copa Libertadores winner, features World Cup veteran midfielder Juninho, who has been the team leader on an off the field. It also has Argentine midfielder Pablo Guinazu, although he has been injured for most of the campaign.

Batista was officially introduced on Tuesday, with a contract going only until the end of the season.

''I know it's a difficult moment, but I'm certain that Vasco will be able to stay in the first division,'' the 45-year-old coach told a news conference. ''The team needs to stay confident that it can overcome this moment. It can be done.''

Batista was without a club since leaving second-division club Figueirense this year. He previously coached Cruzeiro, Gremio, Corinthians, Sao Paulo and Santos, among other clubs. He saved three teams from relegation in the past - Gremio in 2003, Paysandu in 2004 and Figueirense in 2005.

''I've been in this situation before and I know how hard it is to get out of it,'' Batista said. ''But I know it can be done, it happened in the past.''

Vasco's next match is Saturday at home against Coritiba, which is also fighting to escape relegation.

Vasco's latest loss came on Sunday against Ponte Preta in Campinas, where the team conceded a last-minute goal after relinquishing a 1-0 lead. It has won only one of its last six league matches and last week was eliminated by Goias in the Brazilian Cup quarterfinals.

Marred by political instability internally, Vasco has been struggling financially for years. Coach Paulo Autuori left the club shortly after the Brazilian league began this year because he allegedly had not been receiving his salary on time. Club President Roberto Dinamite, a former star midfielder, said Tuesday that salaries for coaches and players have been paid on time recently.

Security was reinforced at the team's headquarters on Tuesday and fans were kept from attending practice to avoid protests.

One of Vasco's greatest players was Romario, who scored his 1,000th career goal with the club at age 41 in 2007. The team's last national title was the Brazilian Cup in 2011. The last Brazilian league trophy was won in 2000.

Another top Rio de Janeiro club hoping to avoid relegation is Fluminense, the defending league champion. The team coached by former Brazil and Real Madrid manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo is 16th, just three points outside of the relegation zone.

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