NEW YORK: French national and former English Premier League star Thierry Henry scored a goal in his American football debut but it wasn’t enough to get his New York Red Bulls past Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday.
Robbie Keane and Gareth Bale scored as Hotspur rallied with two second half goals to beat the Red Bulls 2-1 in an international friendly between Henry’s Major League Soccer side and the English Premier League club at the Red Bull Arena.
"I would say that the reception was tremendous every time I touched the ball," Henry said.
Henry scored in the 24th minute of the first half for the Red Bulls. He made a near-post run past Verdan Corluka and then dove feet first in the box to deflect a cross from Estonian national team player Joel Lindpere past goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini.
Keane equaled in the 62nd minute, tapping the ball into an open net after Andros Townsend’s corner kick was misjudged by ‘keeper Greg Sutton. Bale scored 10 minutes later.
"He was a tough player over there," Keane said of Henry. "I’m sure he’ll be a tough player over here, as well."
Henry’s arrival in the USA follows his release from Spanish club Barcelona and coincided with Henry’s confirmation that he has retired from international football after making 123 appearances and scoring a record 51 goals for France.
Henry, who turns 33 next month, signed a four and a half year deal with the Red Bulls. He is the latest in a list of aging veteran football stars lured to American soil with a chance to extend their careers and the promise of a lucrative contract.
Henry, a former World Cup and European champion with France, is the highest-profile player to join MLS since David Beckham signed with Los Angeles three years ago.
"He’ll be a massive hit here in New York I’m sure," Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said. "He’s a world-class player still. He could play on any team in the Premier League in England. He’s still good enough."
Playing his first match since France was eliminated from the World Cup with a loss to South Africa on June 22, Henry was received a loud ovation when introduced in front of the crowd of 20,312.
The newest Red Bull member clapped his hands above his head to salute the crowd.
It didn’t take long for Henry to impress. He had some deft exchanges with Lindpere and executed a freeing backheel pass and a bicycle kick that went wide.
Some fans also like the fact Henry took public transportation to the game.
"I was on the PATH train with my friends and with all the fans," Henry said. "For me, it was the quickest way to come to the game, and that’s how I came. It was cool."
In Spurs, Henry was facing an old rival. He starred for Arsenal from 1999-07 and said last week he doesn’t like to even say the name of Tottenham.
Henry will have to wait to see what he can do with new teammate Juan Pablo Angel, New Yorks’ top player. Angel missed the match because of an ankle injury.
Thursday’s friendly was part of an exhibition tournament dubbed the New York Challenge.
In other matches in the friendly competition, Manchester City play Sporting Lisbon on Friday, while on Sunday Man City plays Red Bulls and Spurs face Sporting.