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Given hits the ground running at Aston Villa


Shay Given's Aston Villa career got off to a winning start but his debut was spoiled somewhat by conceding a late goal in their 3-1 friendly victory against Walsall last night.

Alex McLeish's side, who had Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland in the starting XI, made light work of the pre-season test until George Bowerman pulled one back with a towering header for Walsall 10 minutes from time.

Given otherwise gave an assured performance between the posts.

Darren Bent scored the first goal of the McLeish era after only eight minutes before Dunne set up the striker for his second goal in the 36th minute. Emile Heskey added the third two minutes later.

Fulham kept their European dream alive with a comprehensive victory over Crusaders in the Europa League second qualifying round at Craven Cottage last night.

The Londoners' 4-0 second leg win came after a comfortable 3-1 success at Seaview and sets up a trip to Croatian side RNK Split next week.

Fulham were frustrated in the first half and Andrew Johnson's neat finish to a team move was the only goal to show for their barrage of attacks.

However, goals were much easier to come by after the restart as Damien Duff, Bobby Zamora and Steve Sidwell all netted to send the majority of the 15,767 supporters home happy.

Meanwhile, Barcelona signed Chile forward Alexis Sanchez from Udinese for £26 million yesterday, becoming the European champions' first major signing during the offseason transfer market.

The three-time defending Spanish champion said that the 22-year-old Sanchez has agreed to a five-year contract. He becomes the first Chilean player to join Barcelona.

Sanchez scored 12 goals in 31 Serie A games for Udinese last season after joining from River Plate in 2008. He also previously played for Colo Colo and helped Chile reached the quarter-finals of the Copa America in Argentina this month.

Irish Independent