Owen sets up win on debut to join ranks of 'galacticos'

Real Mallorca 0 - Real Madrid 1
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The Independent Online

"Football is a funny game. There are injuries, suspensions and so on and you've just got to take your chance when you get it," was Michael Owen's response last week when asked about how he felt about the prospect of beginning his career at Real Madrid as a galactico supersub.

"Football is a funny game. There are injuries, suspensions and so on and you've just got to take your chance when you get it," was Michael Owen's response last week when asked about how he felt about the prospect of beginning his career at Real Madrid as a galactico supersub.

Prescient words from the England man, who looked to be shaping up for a lengthy spell on the bench behind lead strikers Ronaldo, Raul and Fernando Morientes, but who had to wait just 25 minutes before pulling on the famous all-white shirt after skipper Raul hobbled off with a thigh injury in his team's opening La Liga match at Real Mallorca.

When he made his League debut for Liverpool seven years ago, Owen took all of 17 minutes to open his account. This time he came within a whisker of smashing that record when he got ahead of two defenders and headed into the side netting just 10 minutes after coming on.

But he more than compensated for that early miss when he set up the only goal of a delicately balanced match at Son Moix six minutes into the second half. Picking up the ball on the right, Owen checked in past two defenders, darted into the area and floated a chipover to the far post where the waiting Ronaldo had little more to do than chest the ball into the empty net.

After dedicating his goal to his girlfriend Daniella Cicarelli, Ronaldo strutted over to embrace his new team-mate and was joined in an instant by a beaming David Beckham.

"We were all sorry when Raul had to go off," said Ronaldo, "but Owen showed that he's a quality player with loads of pace and that's he's perfectly ready to step into the team."

Owen wasn't, however, able to complete a dream debut with a goal and ended up squandering two good chances in the second half. Beckham set up the first with a perfect through-ball to his England colleague's feet, but Owen only succeeded in scuffing his shot into the hands of the goalkeeper.

The former European Footballer of the Year looked lively throughout and two minutes from time he had a final chance to get off the mark, but this time his ambitious volley ended up flying high and wide after Luis Figo had crossed from the right.

"I didn't expect to play so soon, but with Raul picking up an injury I got my chance," Owen said. "Of course, the ideal thing is to score, but if you can't then it's good to set someone else up and that's what I did today."

Mallorca had almost twice as many shots on target as Real and if African Player of the Year, Samuel Eto'o, had not moved to Barcelona in the summer, they would surely have been close to turning over their illustrious opponents.

In the Barcelona game, Eto'o had an outstanding debut for the Catalan team in a 2-0 win over Racing Santander, as did their four other debutants: Ludovic Giuly, Juliano Belletti, Deco and the former Celtic star Henrik Larsson.

Giuly converted a cross from Belletti for the first after 68 minutes and Eto'o converted a penalty won by Xavier Hernandez seven minutes later. Frank Rijkaard's side should have scored more, but good goalkeeping from Dudu Aouate kept them at bay.

For Owen and Madrid, though, the fact that Camacho turned first to him rather than fellow substitute Morientes when Raul got injured is an important indication that he may be spending far less time on the bench than even he would have predicted when he arrived at the Bernabeu.

Goal: Ronaldo (51) 0-1.

Real Mallorca (4-5-1): Moya; Cortes (Ballesteros, 73), Mueller, Nino, Poli; Arango, Marcos (Delibasic, 58), Pereyra, Vales, Campano; Luis Garcia (Lopez, 58).

Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Salgado, Pavon, Bravo, Roberto Carlos; Figo, Beckham, Helguera, Zidane (Guti, 81); Raul (Owen, 25), Ronaldo (Morientes, 87).

Referee: J Turienzo Alvarez.

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