• Kyodo News


Hidetoshi Nakata played in a match in Japan on Wednesday for the first time since his retirement nearly two years ago as he warmed up for an exhibition game next month.

Nakata set up both goals for his “Japan Stars” squad in a 3-2 defeat to a Tokyo Verdy reserve team in a practice match held ahead of the June 7 exhibition game against a “World Stars” side in Yokohama.

Nakata, 31, retired after the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany, where Japan’s campaign ended after three first-round defeats.

Becks shines in loss

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) David Beckham put on a show Tuesday, but it wasn’t enough for Los Angeles as the Vancouver Whitecaps won their friendly match 2-1 Tuesday.

In the 43rd minute, Beckham sent a cross-field pass that Alan Gordon headed past Serbian goalie Srdjan Djekanovic to tie the game at 1-1.

The former Manchester United and Real Madrid star also took a 27-meter free kick that just missed the near post as camera flashes flickered among the crowd of 37,104 at Commonwealth Stadium.

“Having a hand in the goal today helped,” Beckham said. “I played a few nice passes. Overall it was enjoyable.”

Reds need to spend

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) Steven Gerrard admits Liverpool will only challenge for the Premier League title next season if manager Rafa Benitez spends big money.

Gerrard is desperate to make up for another disappointing domestic campaign after Benitez’s side slipped out of the title race by Christmas and finished nine points behind champion Manchester United.

Gerrard knows that gap won’t be closed unless Benitez is given substantial backing from the Anfield board to bring in several world-class players.

Benitez has already met Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks to draw up a transfer battle plan, with Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry and Borussia Dortmund defender Philip Degn on his wanted list, but Gerrard wants more investment from the Anfield hierarchy.

“Obviously I have to be careful that I don’t send expectations through the roof again, but for me I am desperate for it.

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