Queiroz believes Beckham can improve after goal on home debut

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The Independent Online

David Beckham capped off a fine day all round with his first competitive goal for Real Madrid on his first appearance at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Wednesday.

It had earlier been revealed that the Football Association will not need to invoke the four-day rule to ensure England captain Beckham's release for international duty next week.

Real Madrid have brought their Primera Liga match against Villareal forward 24 hours to Tuesday, ending a potential club-versus-country conflict involving the England captain.

Real's second League match was originally scheduled to take place on Wednesday - just 24 hours before England are due to fly out to Macedonia for their crucial Euro 2004 qualifier on Thursday.

Although he had a simple task to knock home Ronaldo's 72nd-minute cross, the significance of the moment was lost on nobody as the Spanish champions' 3-0 win over Copa del Rey winners Real Mallorca gave them the Spanish Super Cup on a aggregate score of 4-2.

"I've said playing out there was going to be a special occasion and a special feeling but it can't get any better than that for a debut," said Beckham.

"I felt comfortable as soon as I walked on to the pitch. The crowd were great with me and the players are great as well. It's nice to be accepted and welcomed as well as I have been. Joining this team with a great team spirit showed it out there.

"To get a headed-in goal is special for me, I don't know when I last scored one."

The midfielder, whose first goal for his new club came in the pre-season friendly with FC Tokyo, added that he thought playing abroad would be a great benefit in his future developments.

"I hope I'll become a better player. You know in this team, in Spain - it's up there with the best, if not the best," he said, emphasising his belief he has stepped up a grade from the Premiership.

Beckham also benefited from a change in system by the coach Carlos Queiroz. "The coach decided to move things around and to do something different, but the fact I've played on the right before helps," Beckham said.

Queiroz, while pleased with Beckham's performance, believes he still has room for improvement. "The players are human beings, they are not machines," he said. "I have had the fortune to work outside of my own country and I know what it's like to play in a different country and a different league.

"People have to understand it's not easy to change your surroundings and to give your best, but Beckham played a good game and he can do even better," Queiroz said.

Even the Spanish newspapers, who had been critical of Beckham's early performances for Madrid, were full of positives yesterday. The Madrid-based sports papers wrote "Beckham enjoys himself" and "Happy Beckham", displaying photos of his ecstatic celebrations.

The leading sports daily, Marca, headed its editorial with "That's why Beckham signed for Madrid", adding "Beckham had his dream start at the Bernabeu, with a goal included. Now he won't be suffering."

Another sports paper, As, described the win as "the night that Beckham and Queiroz needed".

Madrid's win also made the front page of the national El Mundo, with its headline running "Debut, first goal and title for David Beckham with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu". It added in its match report: "Toward the end, Beckham showed his smile with his first real goal for Madrid." But El Mundo still believed that Madrid had not played especially well and had owed victory to goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

The leading national El Pais also said that Madrid had been fortunate to gain an emphatic victory. "Queiroz's team won the title over Mallorca, but showed certain deficiencies in several positions" it said.

The newspaper also said "Madrid's first official game at the Bernabeu was a dream match for David Beckham, who has the luck of the chosen ones".

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