Beckham returns as Owen scores again in Real romp

Real Madrid 6 - Albacete 1

Michael Owen gave a quick answer to being dropped from Real Madrid's starting line-up against lowly Albacete when he slotted in his sixth goal in his last seven games for the club after being brough on as a substitute just before the hour mark. But the night belonged to Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick and seems to be returning to his formidable best.

Michael Owen gave a quick answer to being dropped from Real Madrid's starting line-up against lowly Albacete when he slotted in his sixth goal in his last seven games for the club after being brough on as a substitute just before the hour mark. But the night belonged to Ronaldo, who scored a hat-trick and seems to be returning to his formidable best.

Owen's England team-mate David Beckham was restored to the starting line-up after over a month on the sidelines because of a rib injury. Owen's goal came as he burst on to an inviting Ronaldo pass to score Real's fifth with a minute to go.

Owen had made a strong claim for a place in the starting line-up at Real, scoring five goals in six games, including the winners against Dynamo Kiev and Valencia. But the Real coach, Mariano Garcia Remon, opted to field his preferred combination of Ronaldo and Raul up front, while slotting Beckham into the centre of midfield alongside Spanish international Guti.

Ronaldo, who has been uncharacteristically off form this season, took just two minutes to reassert his position at Real when he headed in unopposed at the far post after Raul had flicked on a well-struck Zinedine Zidane corner.

Real were a little too quick to ease up, however, and immediately handed the initiative to the visitors who took full advantage by swamping midfield. It came as little surprise, then, when Albacete got back on level terms in the 15th minute after some neat play on the fringe of the area. Francisco slotted home at the second attempt after he had darted in between the Real centre-backs Walter Samuel and Ivan Helguera to latch on to a sharp pass from Uruguayan forward Antonio Pacheco.

Albacete were made to pay for their fightback, however. The goal only served to awaken Real from their slumber and they hit back with two goals either side of the half-hour.

Zidane supplied the first with a cracking 20-yard drive that flew past Albacete keeper Ronaldo Gasperic and fizzed into the far corner after Luis Figo had slipped the ball to him on the left of the area.

Three minutes later the Frenchman lit up the Bernabeu with another moment of magic when he provided the cross for Raul to grab Real's third. Skipping down the left flank to the byline, he flighted in a perfect cross to the centre of the area, leaving Raul to do the rest with a powerful close-range header.

Real could even have made it 4-1 after Figo was put clear on the stroke of half-time. The Portuguese midfielder appeared to have done everything right as he beat Gasperic with a chip only to see the ball hit the post and then watch Zidane lash his follow-up over the bar.

Samuel made amends for the error that led to Albacete's goal by firing home Real's fourth just after the break. That killed the game off, and with Real in exhibition mode, Owen came on for Figo just before the hour. He grabbed his goal with a minute remaining before Ronaldo lashed in the sixth in injury time.

Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Salgado, Helguera (Mejia, 20), Samuel, R Carlos; Beckham, Guti, Zidane, Figo (Owen, 57); Raul (Solari, 74), Ronaldo.

Albacete (4-4-2): Gaspercic; Oscar Montiel, Gaspar, Pena, Buades; Jaime, Alvaro Rubio, Redondo, Mark González (Momo, 55); Pacheco (Ruben Castro, 55), Francisco (Ivan Diaz, 63).

Referee: M Delgado (Barcelona).

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