Beckham relishes return to the right as Real leave it late

Real Madrid 3 Real Mallorca 1

Real Madrid kept alive their hopes of reeling in the leaders Barcelona after late strikes from Argentinian duo Walter Samuel and Santiago Solari earned them 3-1 win over 10-man Real Mallorca at the Bernabeu last night.

Real Madrid kept alive their hopes of reeling in the leaders Barcelona after late strikes from Argentinian duo Walter Samuel and Santiago Solari earned them 3-1 win over 10-man Real Mallorca at the Bernabeu last night.

Real took the lead late in the first half when Luis Figo smashed home from the penalty spot, but the La Liga strugglers hit back with a sweetly struck free kick from midfielder Alejandro Campano just before the break. It was not until the centre-back Samuel popped up 10 minutes from time to stab home from close range that Real looked sure of the win - the substitute midfielder Solari provided the icing on the cake with a stunning solo effort in injury time.

A move back to the right side of midfield brought the best out of David Beckham as the England captain turned in one of his most effective performances of the season, after Real coach Wanderley Luxemburgo opted to try out a new diamond formation in the middle. There was no room, however, for Michael Owen, despite the fact that he notched up his 10th goal of the season in Real's embarrassing Cup exit against Valladolid in midweek.

Owen, who came on for the last 15 minutes in place of Thomas Gravesen, must be wondering what he has to do to earn himself a place amongst the galacticos and the signing of the Brazilian forward Robinho, which is expected to be announced later this week, will make his task all the harder.

Beckham, however, looked happier in his old berth on the right, sweeping two fine curling crosses into the area in the first five minutes and relishing the greater room for manoeuvre on the wing. He created Real's first chance in the 10th minute when he sped down the right and slipped the ball inside to Ronaldo. The Brazilian unleashed a 20-metre shot that Mallorca keeper Miguel Moya did well to stop.

"That was possibly my best performance of the season and the best since I've been in Spain," said Beckham. "I enjoyed the position and playing that match. I am working hard to rediscover the form that everyone is talking about."

True to form for a Hector Cuper side, Mallorca were content to defend deep and hand the initiative to Real. But despite monopolising the possession, Luxemburgo's side struggled to create any clear opportunities.

Mallorca were on the ropes from midway through the second half, however, when former Juventus defender Mark Iuliano was dismissed on his debut after barging into his old sparring partner Ronaldo as he jinked his way towards the area.

Goals: Figo pen (36) 1-0; Campano (42) 1-1; Samuel 80; Solari 90+2.

Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Salgado (Guti, 68), Helguera, Samuel, Roberto Carlos; Beckham, Gravesen (Owen, 75), Figo, Zidane; Raul, Ronaldo (Solari, 82). Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Pavon, Bravo, Portillo.

Real Mallorca (4-4-2): Moya; Campano, Ballesteros, Iuliano, Poli; Lopez (Nadal, 71), Pereyra, De los Santos, Arango; Romeo (Okubo, 64), Luis Garcia (Farinos, 80). Substitutes not used: Alberto (gk), Campos, Tuni, Perera, Delibasic.

Referee: A Dauden Ibanez.

Sent off: Iuliano (65).

Man of the match: Figo.

Attendance: 50,000.

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