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Football: BECKHAM A REAL HIT WITH FANS.

DAVID BECKHAM thanked his Real Madrid team-mates for making his debut for the Spanish giants a 'comfortable and enjoyable' experience.

The England captain demonstrated his full range of passing and dead-ball brilliance as Real saw off the Dragons at the Workers' Stadium in Beijing.

Beckham was a lively contributor for 73 minutes, twice coming close with free-kicks as goals from Luis Figo, two from Fernando Morientes and one from young striker Javier Portillo proved enough for a straightforward triumph.

The club's new pounds 25m signing could not have been happier with his bow for his new club and told the Press Association: 'I enjoyed myself and felt very comfortable considering it was my first competitive game.

'This is due to the other Real Madrid players who have done everything they could to make me feel part of the set-up since the day we joined up for pre-season training.'

Beckham was besieged by Chinese girls offering bouquets of flowers before kick-off and rewarded the 60,000 crowd with a performance which promises much for the future.

Ronaldo missed two good chances early on, first blazing over when unmarked from a low centre by compatriot Roberto Carlos and then firing into the side-netting after Roberto Carlos' long-range left-foot shot came back off the post.

Beckham's first chance to open his Real account came inside 20 minutes when he curled a trademark free-kick over the wall, but too close to Dragons goalkeeper Sun Gang, who swatted the ball away.

Ronaldo squandered another opportunity in the 28th minute as his downward header from Zinedine Zidane's deep cross was pushed out by Sun Gang.

The Dragons went close within a minute at the other end as Li Yi tried to lob Iker Casillas, who had advanced way out of his goal.

Beckham tested his range with another free-kick which breached the Chinese wall, but this time the shot drifted narrowly wide of the goalkeeper's left-hand post.

The goal Real sought arrived just before the break as for once the Dragons were undermanned at the back and Ronaldo slid the ball into the path of Figo, who found the corner with a well-placed shot.

Beckham carved out Real's first opportunity of the second period in the 54th minute as he spotted a forward run by Ronaldo.

The England skipper picked him out with a superb pass sprayed from right to left but the weary-looking Brazilian fluffed his shot.

He then crossed from the right for Figo, but he miscued a bicycle kick.

The Dragons came within a whisker of equalising after 62 minutes as Qi Hong swung in a free-kick from wide on the left which eluded Casillas.

But just as the crowd half-rose to its feet to salute a home goal, the ball came back off the goalkeeper's left-hand upright.

Another excellent Beckham pass released Santiago Solari down the left three minutes later and he cut the ball back to Raul, whose shot was too close to the goalkeeper.

Roberto Carlos then attempted to volley in a Beckham corner from the right, but it was an ambitious effort even for him.

It was Beckham's last real contribution as he was substituted in the 73rd minute for Albert Celades.

A minute later Real doubled their lead as Roberto Carlos' shot was parried by substitute goalkeeper Jiang Jin, but only into the path of Morientes, who took one touch before dispatching the ball home with a suspicion of offside about the goal.

Morientes, expected to be little more than a bit-part player at the Bernabeu this season, grabbed his second with three minutes to go as a clever dummy fooled his marker and Jiang, and allowed him a clear sight of goal.

The Dragons seemed to have lost the fire in their belly and substitute Portillo added a fourth, although again an offside flag should have been forthcoming.

The Beckham pre-season roadshow now moves on to Tokyo, before further matches against the Chinese national side and Thailand.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 3, 2003
Words:660
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