Clap-happy Beckham sees red card rescinded as Real appeal succeeds

Beckham yesterday won his appeal against the red card that he was shown during Real Madrid's 2-1 defeat by Valencia. The decision means he is free to play against Deportivo La Coruña in La Liga tonight.

Sven Goran Eriksson was also typically quick to jump to Beckham's defence. "I don't have any problem with Beckham as captain," Eriksson said. "He is going to be captain in Germany."

Beckham was sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee after he was booked for dissent as Real lost to Valencia in La Liga at the Bernabeu. But Real appealed against the red card saying that video evidence and photographs showed that Beckham's clapping was "neither scornful nor sarcastic".

The Competitions Committee decided that Beckham's clapping formed part of his initial protest. "Although the action is worthy of reproach it was not done in direct confrontation and is seen as part of his original protest."

The 30-year-old was also sent off in England's World Cup qualifier against Austria this month, making him the first England player to be sent off twice.

"I have not spoken to him about the dismissal," Eriksson said. "I don't know what happened but you do get sent off in football. These things happen in football."

Eriksson believes England, who finished top of their qualifying group, have a good chance of winning the World Cup "if we do not have serious injuries and the players are not too tired at the end of May".

The Swede, who took over as coach in 2001, also said that if England had failed to qualify, he would no longer be in the job. "If we were not in the play-offs I would not have been here, that is for sure. If I leave the job it will be on England results and not what the press says."

Eriksson came under intense media pressure following poor recent performances, including a defeat by Northern Ireland, a scrappy win over Wales and a 4-1 friendly drubbing in Denmark. His private life has also hit the headlines, while his lucrative contract with the Football Association has often come under media scrutiny.

"The only problem with being manager of England is you have to win every game, even friendlies," he said. "You have to earn only a little money and you have to be a saint."

Eriksson has looked past Beckham's latest indiscretion and Wanderley Luxembergo, his coach at Real, will be pleased the Spanish FA has done the same as he is missing a host of players for tonight's match at La Coruña. Luxembergo is without his French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who has a groin injury that may see Ivan Helguera move into midfield, giving Jonathan Woodgate another chance in central defence.

Real, who are trying to overhaul surprise league leaders Getafe but have not won at the Riazor for 13 years, are also missing Ronaldo, Julio Baptista and Michel Salgado, who are all unavailable through injury, while Thomas Gravesen is suspended. Getafe lead the table by a point from Celta Vigo and have lost just one game this season.

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