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Bundesliga: Schalke sack coach Stevens

Bundesliga soccer club Schalke have parted company with head coach Huub Stevens. The move follows the club’s 3-1 defeat at home to Freiburg on Saturday.

In a statement posted on its official website, Schalke said the club's management had informed the Dutch coach of the decision in person on Sunday morning. It cited the soccer team's disappointing results in the first half of the season as the reason for the decision.

Following their 3-1 defeat by Freiburg on Saturday, Schalke went into the winter break in seventh place in the Bundesliga, with just 25 points from 17 games. Saturday's defeat marked Schalke's sixth consecutive match without a win.

Schalke have named their under-17 coach, Jens Keller, as Stevens' successor.

Stevens, 59, whose contract ran until the end of this season, had also previously coached the club from 1996 to 2002.

The statement on the Schalke website decribed the decision to fire Stevens as a difficult one, due to his long and distinguished service at the club. In his first spell in charge of the Gelsenkirchen-based club, Schalke won the UEFA Cup in 1997, as well as the domestic DFB Cup in 2001 and 2002. In 2001, Schalke narrrowly missed winning the Bundesliga title, finishing second to Bayern Munich in a season that was decided in injury time on the final day of the campaign.

He returned to Schalke in September, 2011, after previous coach Ralf Rangnick stepped down due to health issues. Stevens then led the team to third place in the Bundesliga - and direct qualification for the Champions League.

Stevens is the third coach to be sacked this season, after Felix Magath was show the door at Wolfsburg, and Markus Babbel was given the boot in Hoffenheim.

Jens Keller's first match in charge of Schalke will come on Tuesday, when Schalke face Mainz in the round of 16 of the DFB Cup.

pfd/hc (dpa, SID)