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Football: BECKHAM PROVES A REAL HERO ON DEBUT.

Byline: Ian GILMOUR

DRAGON TEAM 0

REAL MADRID 4

COOL David Beckham looked every inch the superstar as he stepped in to the Real Madrid dream team with ease yesterday.

The England skipper turned in an impressively nerveless display as the Spanish giants thumped China Dragons.

Beckham showed exactly what he will bring to Real's exceptional line- up on his debut with pinpoint passing and trademark dead-ball accuracy - defying the myth that he and Luis Figo can't play in the same team.

The Pounds 25million signing played 73 minutes in his side's Bejing stroll and twice threatened to bulge the net with free- kicks.

Figo claimed a double to add to Fernando Morientes' strike and another from young hitman Javier Portillo.

And although it was was Becks who grabbed the limelight, the 28-year- old was quick to praise his new team-mates.

He said: "I enjoyed it and felt comfortable considering it was my first competitive game.

"The players who have done everything they could to make me feel part of the set- up since the first day of pre-season training."

Becks was besieged by Chinese girls offering bouquets of flowers before kick- off and rewarded the large crowd with a performance that promises much for the future. The same couldn't be said for Ronaldo who wasted a brace of good chances early on.

The Brazilian blazed over when unmarked from a low centre by countryman Roberto Carlos and fired into the side netting after Carlos' long- range shot hit the post.

Beckham's first chance to open his Real account came inside 20 minutes when he curled a dead ball too close to Sun Gang.

Ronaldo misfired again in the 28th minute as his downward header from Zinedine Zidane's cross was saved by keeper Gang.

Beckham tested his range once more with a free-kick that breached the Chinese wall but drifted narrowly wide.

However, the opener Real had threatened arrived just before the break as Ronaldo slid the ball into the path of Figo who found the corner with a well-placed effort.

Tireless Beckham carved out Real's first opportunity of the second period in 54 minutes, spotting a forward run by Ronaldo.

The midfielder played a superb pass from right to left but the weary- looking forward fluffed a shot.

Becks then crossed from the right for Figo only for the winger to untypically miscue a bicycle kick.

Battling Dragons came within a whisker of equalising after 62 minutes as Qi Hongswung's free- kick eluded Casillas but came back off the keeper's left-hand upright.

Another excellent Beckham pass released Santiago Solari seconds later and he cut the ball back to Raul whose shot was gathered.

Carlos then attempted to volley in a Beckham corner but it was too ambitious and it was the new man's last contribution as he was subbed for Albert Celades. A minute later Real doubled their lead as Morientes dispatched home despite looking offside.

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 allowed him a clear sight of goal.

Dragons seemed to have given up hope of troubling their elite opponents and Portillo added a fourth, although again an offside flag should have been raised.

The Beckham pre-season roadshow now moves on to Tokyo before further matches against the Chinese national side and Thailand.

Busy Becks has

heat up to 73

THIS is how Beckham fared in his debut match before being taken off in the 73rd minute.

First minute: early touch of the ball in neat passing triangle with Zidane and Figo. 19 mins: on- target free kick swatted away. 32 mins: free kick swings wide. 40 mins: concedes free kick.

50 mins: trademark whipped cross is cleared. 54 mins: superb pass to Ronaldo is wasted when the Brazilian drags the shot wide.

66 mins: crossfield pass finds Santiago Solari but Raul's eventual shot is straight at the keeper. 68 mins: corner from the right is volleyed well wide by Roberto Carlos.

73 mins: Substituted for Albert Celades.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 3, 2003
Words:685
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