Beckham's free-kick helps to appease fans after loss of Camacho

Real Madrid 1 - Osasuna 0
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The Independent Online

David Beckham marked his return to the Real Madrid starting line-up by scoring the only goal in his side's 1-0 win over a subdued Osasuna with a sweetly struck free-kick at the Bernabeu last night.

David Beckham marked his return to the Real Madrid starting line-up by scoring the only goal in his side's 1-0 win over a subdued Osasuna with a sweetly struck free-kick at the Bernabeu last night.

It was the second time this season that Beckham has scored from a set piece in front of his home crowd and the goal went some way to appeasing the disgruntled fans who had vented their anger on the team for much of the match, blaming the players for the decision of the club's coach, Jose Antonio Camacho, decision to resign from his post on Monday.

Lining up alongside Roberto Carlos, who shaped up as if to take one of his thunderbolt specials, Beckham spun the ball over the wall from 25 metres out and it sailed into the corner of the net beyond the outstretched goalkeeper Ricardo Sanzol.

The England captain said before the match that the players had not been to blame for Camacho's decision to quit, but a half-full Bernabeu took a very different view as home supporters greeted the Real line-up with a chorus of jeers and whistles at the start of the match.

The noise reached a crescendo as the names of Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo, Luis Figo and David Beckham were read out on the public-address system. "We've had enough," read one of the banners held up by Real's radical Ultra Sur supporters.

It was Roberto Carlos, the player who had been most vocal in his disagreement with Camacho's sergeant-major tactics, who was singled out for the most hostile treatment and was jeered and booed every time he touched the ball.

It was not the ideal atmosphere to bring the best out of the players and, to make matters worse, the home side's Argentinian midfielder Santiago Solari was carried off with a knee injury after just 11 minutes to be replaced by the striker Fernando Morientes.

But even allowing for the fact that they were missing injured midfielder Zinedine Zidane and the defensive pairing of Michel Salgado and Walter Samuel, who were suspended after being sent off in Saturday's shambolic 1-0 defeat at Espanyol, this was a deeply disappointing performance.

Real barely managed to put together a single attacking move in the first half-hour as they missed passes, resorted to speculative hoofs up-field and lost possession with worrying frequency.

They eventually came to life in the final 15 minutes of the half, Raul hitting the bar with a curler from the edge of the box and Albert Celades denied seconds later after his stinging 20-metre drive was turned round the post by the keeper.

Ronaldo missed two close-range chances at the start of the second half, but the Brazilian striker, who was another target of the Real fans' ire, looked shorn of confidence and was replaced by Michael Owen nine minutes from time to the delight of the supporters.

Beckham's free-kick apart, Real created few chances and it was Osasuna who could have stolen a draw when Australian international John Aloisi forced a fine full-stretch save from Iker Casillas with a rasping drive just before the final whistle.

"It's hard to come on when you are 1-0 up and want to impress and score goals, when what the team really want you to do is run the ball into the corners," Owen said.

Real Madrid (4-2-2-2): Casillas; Mejia, Raul Bravo, Helguera, Roberto Carlos; Celades, Beckham; Figo, Solari (Morientes, 12); Raul (Jotha, 88); Ronaldo (Owen, 81).

Osasuna (5-2-3): Sanzol; Cuellar, Josetxo, Corrales, Exposito, Garcia, Punal (Ortiz, 68), Valdo (Munoz, 61); Aloisi, Moha (Delporte, 72), Milosevic.

Referee: R Ramirez Dominguez.

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