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Game review
Sunday 11. February 2007 - 11:46

Beckham scores to lead Real Madrid

David Beckham marked his return with a goal to ease the pressure on under-fire manager Fabio Capello and move Real Madrid within two points of Primera Liga leaders Barcelona thanks to a narrow victory over Real Sociedad.

The previously exiled 31-year-old, making his first appearance for six games following his decision to join the LA Galaxy, fired a 37th-minute free-kick around the Sociedad wall which crept under Claudio Bravo and into the bottom-left corner to level the scores after Mikel Aranburu had given the home side the lead at the Estadio Anoeta.

Ruud van Nistelrooy earned the three points early in the second half to end a run of back-to-back defeats which had led to speculation surrounding Capello's future at the Bernabeu.

The hosts kicked off with easily the worst scoring record in the division - just 12 goals from their 21 matches.

But they took just eight minutes to break the deadlock when Iker Casillas inexplicably parried a hanging cross from the right, to leave the unmarked Mikel Aranburu with the simplest of finishes, nodding the ball into the bottom-left corner from inside the six-yard box.

The home side, who had failed to net in five of their previous six matches, almost doubled their lead in the 15th minute when Darko Kovacevic's 20-yard drive was heading for the bottom-right corner, but Casillas made amends for his earlier error pushing the ball to safety.

The Real goalmouth came under continual pressure with former Madrid winger Savio's wicked corners twice scrambled clear, first by Fernando Gago and then by Emerson as Miguel Angel Lotina's side pressed for a second.

But Beckham had other ideas, hauling his side level with a trademark set-piece, although Bravo should have done better.

The former England skipper saw as much of the ball as anyone in the first half and seemed to be enjoying himself on his return to Capello's first team.

And Beckham, who scored Madrid's second goal in a 2-0 win over Sociedad earlier in the season, was involved in again in Van Nistelrooy's 48th-minute winner.

The former Manchester United midfielder found Guti, who slid in Gomez Miguel Torres down the left flank before his inviting cross was met by Van Nistelrooy at the near post after the striker stole in ahead of Bravo.

Beckham's set-pieces were causing the Basque side all sorts of problems and they were lucky to escape when his outswinging corner from the left was hooked away by Gutierrez Robles Juanito.

But the away side always looked capable of a goal on the counter-attack and were only rescued midway through the second half by a last-ditch block from Ivan Helguera.

Real's rearguard looked more comfortable dealing with Xabi Prieto's corners, with the assured Fabio Cannavaro commanding his troops.

The last quarter of an hour failed to deliver much in the way of action with Beckham booked for a reckless tackle on Savio.

Struggling Sociedad were unable to make the breakthrough, however, leaving them eight points adrift of safety as Beckham stole the headlines.

Sevilla's challenge for the Primera Liga title looks to be running out of steam as they dropped more points in the city derby with Real Betis.

Juande Ramos are finding 2007 to be a tough year after a magnificent 2006 when they finished the year on top of the Primera Liga and won the UEFA Cup and European Super Cup.

Neither side ever dominated the match between city neighbours but it was Betis who spurned the best opportunity when Robert Pinho blasted an early penalty over the Sevilla crossbar.

Sevilla therefore missed the chance to go ahead of Barcelona at the top of the table but while they are still in the leading group they must be worried about a Primera Liga run in 2007 that has seen them record only one win in six games.

Betis made a fine start at their home stadium, the Manuel Ruiz de Lopera.

First to try his luck was Robert who drilled wide from 12 yards.

And after 11 minutes they had a golden chance to take the lead when Fernando Fernandez tumbled in the box under the challenge of Daniel Alves.

The contact appeared to be minimal but a penalty was awarded.

Robert stepped up to take it but drilled it over the bar to the dismay of the home supporters and coach Luis Fernandez.

Sevilla goalkeeper Andres Palop then did well to deny Branko Ilic with Betis well in charge of the opening stages.

At the other end Adriano Correa fired wide as did Luis Fabiano from another good position for Sevilla.

Frederic Kanoute then fed Jesus Navas who was wayward with his shot but just before the break Palop did very well to save a free-kick from dead ball specialist Marcos Assuncao.

In the second half Sevilla came close to taking the lead through Christian Poulsen but the Dane rattled the woodwork.

However, Betis were looking dangerous and just as likely to get a goal that would ease their plight and further damage Sevilla's title tilt.

A mistake by Dani Alves allowed Robert the chance to clinch the game after 79 minutes and he bore down on the Sevilla goal.

But Andres Palop stood firm and blocked the shot to keep the score goalless.

Sevilla were still bearing down on goal and Jose Luis Marti was narrowly wide with another effort.

Substitute Juan Pablo Caff and Poulsen for Sevilla both fired shots over but neither side was able to find the winner to settle an Andalusian derby that has a bitter history.

Sevilla would have by now established a commanding lead in the Primera Liga if they had managed to maintain their 2006 form into 2007.

But with the other leading teams also in inconsistent form they are still well in the chase and could yet manage to make this a memorable year.

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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