Beckham milestone gives Real impetus

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The Independent Online

David Beckham said yesterday that becoming only the third player to make 100 appearances in the Champions' League is an "honour".

The former England captain came on as a second-half substitute in Real Madrid's 4-1 defeat of Steaua Bucharest in Romania on Tuesday. Beckham, who has matched the feat achieved by his Real team-mates Roberto Carlos and Raul, said: "To be on the list with Roberto Carlos and Raul is an honour. They are two great players who have done everything in the game. The Champions' League is the biggest club competition in the world, and to reach 100 appearances with Real Madrid after playing so many games with Manchester United is an honour."

Beckham praised his team-mates for a vastly improved display as Real bounced back from the 1-0 defeat at Getafe at the weekend. "[Against Steaua] the attitude has been right and there is more commitment," Beckham said. "The meeting after the game against Getafe was used for this. We are very happy because we have done what we had to do."

It was also a special night for another former Manchester United player, Ruud van Nistelrooy, who reached 50 Champions' League goals when he scored Real's fourth 14 minutes from time.

"Everything has improved," Van Nistelrooy said. "All of the game against Getafe was very bad and after the match we spoke so that this would never happen again. Our intention was to demonstrate here that we are Real Madrid. We have a lot of quality and now the important thing is to continue in this way."

The nine-times European champions produced an irresistible display against Steaua and remain on course for qualification for the knock-out phase of the tournament. "We showed that when we want to we can play as a team," Carlos said. "We showed personality and enthusiasm and were able to pressure our opponents. Those were things that were missing."

The Real coach, Fabio Capello, said that the victory had served to erase the painful memories of the 1-0 Getafe defeat.

"This time we saw a team with quality and spirit out there and that is what counts," Capello said. "Now I'm happy. I said we had to forget the performance against Getafe because we can't play like that ever again. Instead we saw a Real Madrid that placed with pace and skill.

"I was pleased with the football we played because it isn't easy to come here and win by such a margin," Capello emphasised.

A determined and disciplined Real made a positive start in Bucharest, taking an early grip when the right- back Sergio Ramos headed home from a corner in the ninth minute. Raul doubled the lead with a trademark opportunist strike before half-time and the lively Robinho made it 3-0 with a great finish early in the second half.

Although Steaua pulled one back eight minutes later through Valentin Badea, Van Nistelrooy wrapped up an emphatic win with a classy fourth, dinking the ball over the stranded home goalkeeper Carlos Fernandes 14 minutes from time.

"It was a complete change from the Getafe match," said the Real keeper, Iker Casillas. "After such a terrible display we moved on and played a great game just three days later. We won and took a great stride forward in the Champions' League."

Real have pulled three points clear of Steaua in second place in Group E, three behind the leaders Lyon, who continued their perfect campaign with a 3-0 win away to Dynamo Kiev.

There will be little time, however, for Real to rest on their laurels as they host their arch-rivals Barcelona at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

"The one against Barcelona will be a very important match because it is against the best team in Spain and Europe," Beckham said.

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