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Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008

Sekizuka to return

Kawasaki Frontale will bring back Takashi Sekizuka as their coach for next season since the 48-year-old, who resigned the post in April for health reasons, is ready to take the helm again, the J. League first-division club said Tuesday.

Kawasaki also said it has decided not to renew the contracts of five players for next season, including former Japan striker Kazuki Ganaha.

Kawasaki is currently third with 57 points, behind holders Kashima Antlers (60) and Nagoya Grampus (58), having a chance to win the J. League title with one match left for each.

Sekizuka will be given a one-year contract from February, the club said.

Sekizuka helped Kawasaki earn promotion to the top flight in his first year in charge in 2004. He also steered his Kawasaki side to second place in the league in 2006, the quarterfinals of the Asian Champions League in 2007 and beaten finalists in the Nabisco Cup also in 2007.

Hammers hold Reds

LIVERPOOL , England (AP) Liverpool was booed off the field by frustrated fans after being held 0-0 by West Ham on Monday, squandering a chance to pull away from Chelsea atop the Premier League.

The Reds now lead the standings by one point, but missed a host of chances as they failed to exploit Chelsea's surprise loss to Arsenal on Sunday and allowed West Ham to earn its first point at Anfield in nine years.

"The crowd is disappointed after a draw at home, but they will see the newspapers that say we are top of the league and that is important," manager Rafa Benitez said. "We played much better than before so that is positive and if we can keep winning games the other teams have to keep winning."

Sami Hyypia and Dirk Kuyt came close with first-half headers, while West Ham's Craig Bellamy twice threatened to inflict damage to his former club's title ambitions.

"I would love to see Liverpool win every game for the rest of the season apart from when we play them," Bellamy said. "We tried to make it frustrating for them and also had decent opportunities. It's very difficult to get a result here because they have great players."

The third 0-0 draw of the season at Anfield came in freezing conditions against the stubborn Hammers, just nine days after Liverpool was held to the same result by Fulham.

"We clearly deserved to win. From the beginning to the end we tried to win and that's why they had one or two counter attacks in the second half," Benitez said. "We didn't play well against Fulham, but . . . we had plenty of . . . chances."

Owen not in plans

LIVERPOOL , England (AP) Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez has ruled out attempting to bring Michael Owen back to the club as a solution to his striking problems.

With Owen's Newcastle contract expiring at the end of the season, he could leave in the January transfer window for a cut-price fee.

The need for a fresh option up front was emphasized when Liverpool was held 0-0 by West Ham on Monday, sorely missing Fernando Torres who is battling a hamstring injury.

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