Football - UPDATE 1-Soccer-CSKA Sofia sack coach Mladenov

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SOFIA, Jan 4 (Reuters) - CSKA Sofia sacked coach Stoycho Mladenov on Friday after a mediocre run in the first half of the season, the 31-times Bulgarian champions said.

"The owners are not satisfied with CSKA's performance," chief executive Ventsislav Zhivkov told reporters at CSKA's Bulgarska Armiya stadium.

"It's just not acceptable for CSKA to be fourth in the table. You know that we're always fighting for the title."

CSKA, who have not won the domestic league title since 2008, are fourth in the standings with 29 points from 15 matches, nine points behind leaders Ludogorets. The league is on its mid-season break and will resume on March 2.

Former Bulgaria coach Mladenov returned for a third stint as coach of CSKA in March but was unable to produce an improvement.

"I was released, this was the desire of the club's management," the 55-year-old crowd favourite, who won four league titles and two national cups as a CSKA player in the early 1980s, said.

In July, the Reds were lambasted by the local media after they were beaten over two legs by Slovenia's Mura 05 on the away goals rule after a 1-1 draw on aggregate in the Europa League's second qualifying round.

"We could have released Mladenov after we were knocked out by Mura but we decided to give him a second chance," Zhivkov said.

In his first spell as CSKA coach, Mladenov won the league title in 2003. His second stab at the job was also successful as he led the team to another title in 2008 but left soon after that with The Reds running into financial difficulties.

Mladenov is known as "The executioner of Liverpool" in the Balkan country as his two goals helped the team to a 2-0 win over the English club in the European Cup in 1982 and a place in the tournament's semi-finals.

He also coached Litex Lovech in the Bulgarian top flight as well as clubs in Portugal, Greece, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Zhivkov added that CSKA were negotiating with two coaches - a Bulgarian and a foreigner, to succeed Mladenov but refused to reveal their names.

Local media, however, reported that Serbian Miodrag Jesic, who managed the club between 2004 and 2006 and won the league title in 2005, is the favourite for the post alongside Milen Radukanov - another former CSKA coach.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Alan Baldwin and John Mehaffey)

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