Beckham finds his free-kick form

Real Madrid 1 - Numancia 0
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The Independent Football

More than a year after joining Real Madrid, David Beckham finally scored his first goal from a free-kick at the Bernabeu to secure his side a narrow 1-0 win against newly promoted Numancia on Saturday.

More than a year after joining Real Madrid, David Beckham finally scored his first goal from a free-kick at the Bernabeu to secure his side a narrow 1-0 win against newly promoted Numancia on Saturday. Awarded a free-kick in a central position 25 metres out from goal, the England captain swept the ball high over the defensive wall and then watched as it dipped sharply and sailed into the corner beyond the reach of the despairing goalkeeper.

It was only the fifth time in 50 matches as a Real Madrid player that the former Manchester United midfielder had managed to find the net from a free-kick, a poor record for a renowned dead-ball expert, and his relief was evident as he was swamped by his team mates.

"I was delighted to score my first free kick at the Bernabeu," he said after the game. "It was a very important goal for me as I'd gone a long time without scoring. But hopefully it will be the first of many."

The victory made it two out of two for Real this term and helped banish the memory of last season's débâcle, when they ended a humiliating campaign with four successive defeats in front of their own fans. But Beckham's goal apart, Real provided little evidence that they have managed to eradicate the problems that led to such embarrassments.

Tipped by most to make a rapid return to the second division, Numancia's total budget is over 50 times smaller than that of Real. They spent not a single euro on recruiting new players to prepare for their second spell in the top flight, while Real splashed out €57m (£39m) on centre-backs Walter Samuel and Jonathan Woodgate - neither of whom played because of injury - and Michael Owen, who made a fleeting appearance as a second-half substitute.

But the gulf in resources was barely reflected on the pitch. Yes, Zinedine Zidane showcased his exquisite ball skills before the break, Ronaldo gave a fleeting glimpse of his dazzling footwork on a couple of occasions and a grimly determined Luis Figo shone with some impressive, darting runs into the area, but otherwise the Galacticos gave a distinctly down-to-earth performance.

Raul continued his miserable form as he tripped over his own feet when he was set up with a gilt-edged chance by Ronaldo in the first half, and then scuffed the turf when he tried to connect with a Figo cross in the second. The Real skipper left the field to a sympathetic round of applause 20 minutes from the end as he made way for Owen. But the England striker failed to take advantage of his chance and fluffed two great chances to open his account for his new club.

Put in the clear by a wonderful through-ball from Figo, he sliced the ball wide of the post, although the referee had whistled for a non-existent offside. Minutes later he drilled the ball straight at the keeper when he was presented with an even better opportunity to get on the scoresheet.

"I did everything I wanted to, kept it low and went for near the keeper's feet but he managed to save it," he said after the match. "It would have been nice to have scored, but I was just happy to make my league debut here at the Bernabeu."

While Real left the pitch to a some half-hearted jeering, the club's arch-rivals, Barcelona, left their fans purring with delight as they strolled their way to an impressive, at times brilliant 2-0 victory over a well-drilled Seville side at a rain-drenched Nou Camp.

The former Monaco midfielder Ludovic Giuly grabbed his second goal in two games, when he poked home 10 minutes before the break after a delightful through-pass from Xavi, and the former Celtic idol Henrik Larsson opened his account for the Catalans with a sharp volley in the second half.

Still without the injured Ronaldinho, Frank Rijkaard's men have already shown the sort of form that will have set the alarm bells ringing at the Bernabeu.

The champions Valencia, meanwhile, got out of jail after the substitute Miguel Angel Angulo sparked a second-half comeback that saw them make their way back into the game from two goals down to earn a 2-2 draw away to Athletic Bilbao.

The midfielder, who was close to a move to Arsenal at the end of last month, set up Marco Di Vaio for the first and then scored the second to spare the team from Claudio Ranieri's ire.

Goal: Beckham (17) 1-0.

Real Madrid: Casillas; Salgado, Pavon (Guti 54), Bravo, Roberto Carlos; Figo, Beckham, Helguera, Zidane; Raul (Owen 69), Ronaldo (Morientes 80)

Numancia: Nuñez; Piñol, Ochoa, Molina, Graff; Palacios (Merino 77), Ros, Kiassos (Lee Soo-chun 54), Velasco (Nuñez 66); Pineda, Tevenet

Attendance: 65,000

Referee: A Perez Burrull

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