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Keane makes Liverpool debut in friendly draw

Robbie Keane made his Liverpool debut in a 0-0 friendly draw at Villarreal on Wednesday night following a 20 million-pound (40 million-dollar) transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.

The forward's future had been in the balance since the end of last season with Spurs initially reluctant to let the Irishman leave and lodging a formal complaint when Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez admitted his interest in the player before finally being persuaded to sell by the size of Liverpool's offer.

The deal went through on the same day Benitez and his squad flew out to Spain for this game, the latest stage of the Premier League club's pre-season build-up. Having pursued the striker for so long, the Reds' boss wasted no time unveiling his new signing.

And the sight of Keane – a self-confessed boyhood Liverpool fan – finally parading in a Liverpool shirt will have brought at least some satisfaction to Benitez who had earlier in the day suffered another setback in his effort to bring in 18 million pounds-rated Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

Villa issued a statement declaring the deal to be off, but Benitez will have taken heart from Keane's impressive energy on his first appearance of pre-season.

But for the home fans, the big thrill was the sight of Liverpool's quartet of Euro 2008 winners – Fernando Torres, Xabi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Alvaro Arbeloa – parading the European Championship trophy with their Spain international team-mates Marcus Senna, Santi Cazorla and Joan Capdevila.

Spanish boss Benitez intends to pair Keane with Torres when the season begins on August 16 but against Villarreal he paired the forward with another new striker – David Ngog, signed for 1.5 million pounds from Paris St Germain.

The duo linked effectively early on and a Keane snapshot from the edge of the penalty area looked set to produce a debut goal before flying over.

Earlier Ariel Ibagaza had was denied twice in quick succession by Liverpool keeper Daniel Cavalieri and Steven Darby while Yossi Benayoun's clever pass almost set up Ngog for an 11th minute opener.

Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard came through the first half unscathed on only his second pre-season appearance before both managers introduced a host of replacements at the break.

And after Dani Pacheco had come close to putting Liverpool ahead, Benitez sent on Alonso, Torres and Arbeloa in the 70th minute before Reina appeared at his former club in the final minute.

Thu 31 Jul, 2008
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