David Beckham assured himself a place in the Real Madrid record books on Wednesday by scoring the club's 600th goal in the European Cup with a trademark free-kick in his side's 2-1 victory over Marseilles.
The England captain, who received his OBE at Buckingham Palace yesterday, swept the ball over the wall and into the top corner in the 35th minute at the Stade Velodrome to score his first Champions' League goal for Real. "I knew it was the 600th", he said, "and it's an honour to become part of Real Madrid's history by scoring it."
Marseilles pulled level in the second half when Mido headed past Iker Casillas, but Real secured the win thanks to a brilliantly crafted goal 17 minutes from time. Beckham tackled back to win the ball deep in his own half and clipped it up the right wing to Luis Figo. After a swift exchange of passes between Zinedine Zidane and Raul, Ronaldo was on hand to slot home the winner.
The win effectively guarantees Real first place in the group ahead of their fellow qualifiers, Porto, who beat Partizan Belgrade 2-1. As long as Real do not lose by more than two goals against the Portuguese side they will win the group.
The Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez, says he will continue his policy of signing a world-class footballer each year and is already in talks with the leading player he expects to bring to the club next season.
"This year we will again be trying to sign the best player in the world," he said. "He has already been in contact with us." Perez refused to reveal the name of the player, but in response to the suggestion Real might look towards Barcelona he replied with a smile: "Don't worry it is not Ronaldinho".
England's Michael Owen, the Dutch striker Ruud van Nistelrooy and the French international Thierry Henry have all been suggested as possible targets. "I don't think we will be doing anything in December," Perez added. "It would be a sign of weakness."
Elsewhere, the holders, Milan, qualified for the second round with a 1-0 win away to Ajax. Last season, Carlo Ancelotti's side produced some spectacular football in the early stages of the Champions' League, but in Amsterdam on Wednesday more traditional Italian qualities were on display.
"It was vital to win this match and secure qualification without having to go into the final game needing to win at all costs," said Ancelotti. "We didn't produce the beautiful football that we showed last season but we were very solid." A second-half strike from Andriy Shevchenko secured the win for Milan's neat passing football .
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