Injured Fowler to miss start of season

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The Independent Football

Robbie Fowler looks certain to miss the start of the Premiership season after injuring an ankle in Liverpool's 4-0 friendly victory over Glentoran in Belfast last night.

Robbie Fowler looks certain to miss the start of the Premiership season after injuring an ankle in Liverpool's 4-0 friendly victory over Glentoran in Belfast last night.

Fowler started only eight games for Liverpool last season in a miserable, injury-wrecked campaign during which he was forced to undergo knee and ankle operations. It is estimated his latest injury will keep him out for around three weeks.

The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, said: "Robbie is very unlucky, and I sympathise with him after what he has been through. He has worked so hard in the summer and in training camp to get fit. This is a big blow."

Fowler was looking sharp and had opened his side's scoring early in the match, but injured his ankle in a collision with the Glentoran goalkeeper, Alan Gough, just after the half-hour mark.

Despite that, Liverpool dominated the match. The Irish side struggled to contain a flowing attack in which Bernard Diomede looked sharp on the left, while Nick Barmby, Emile Heskey and Fowler produced intelligent running and movement.

Fowler's opener came from a low shot after eight minutes. Despite a series of chances it was not until the 44th minute when Liverpool extended their lead, Patrik Berger firing home from 20 yards. Seconds later, Fowler's replacement, Vladimir Smicer, rounded the keeper to tap home the third.

Liverpool hit the bar again after 47 minutes following a delicate Berger chip, and chances continued to be missed until the 60th minute, when Danny Murphy bundled in a low cross from Barmby.

At the Amsterdam ArenA last night, Arsenal supporters reserved a less than rapturous welcome for their former Highbury heroes Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit, who both made their Barcelona debuts against the Gunners in the Amsterdam Centenary Tournament. The players had the last laugh over their old club, however, as blunders from the England pair David Seaman and Martin Keown led to a 2-1 defeat.

Overmars again rejected suggestions before the match that he engineered his own exit from Highbury to the Nou Camp by signing a pre-contract with the Spanish club. "I have to say again that this is just not true," he said. "I heard the rumours of course but the first thing I really knew about the transfer was when Arsenal said I could talk to Barcelona."

Overmars suffered the boos of the Arsenal fans, but it was minor stuff compared to the catcalls launched at Petit when he replaced Overmars at half time, the winger's early promise having faded after a crunching challenge by Lee Dixon. The pony-tailed midfielder, operating as a defender in a reshuffled Barcelona line-up, was jeered mercilessly every time he touched the ball.

Arsenal were behind after three minutes. Keown recklessly bowled over Dani Garcia in the area and Josep Guardiola emphatically beat Seaman from the penalty spot.

But after the 22-year-old Lithuanian trialist Tomas Danilvicius hit a splendid equaliser in the 32nd minute, Seaman was badly at fault when Barcelona regained the lead six minutes later. He failed to deal with a corner and Philip Cocu headed into an empty net.

The Arsenal manager, Arsÿne Wenger, later played down reports linking the Gunners with a move for Cocu. "We talked about [a move], but he wants to stay at Barça, that situation is quite clear," he said.

Robbie Keane made a solid start to his Internazionale career last night, his second-half cross setting up the only goal for Ivan Zamorano in a shortened game at Bari last night. Keane, who joined the Milan club in a £13m move from Coventry last weekend, hardly put a foot wrong on his Inter debut.

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