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Football: Becks cops blame for Real's disaster; Absent star faces Spanish inquisition.

Byline: PAUL GIBLIN

DAVID BECKHAM is being blasted by Spanish journalists for Real Madrid's Champions League exit -even though he didn't play in the 3- 1 defeat by Monaco.

Beckham picked up a booking,and a suspension,in the first leg in Madrid against the French outfit,for what appeared to be a needless trip in midfield deep into injury time.

Madrid won 4-2 and the tie seemed over, because nobody expected Monaco to beat them by two goals in the return leg.

Now as the post-mortem commences on Madrid's shock quarter-final exit to Monaco on the away-goal rule, that booking has to be seen in a different light.

On Tuesday night, Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz's makeshift midfield pairing of Guti and Borja Fernandez was simply not good enough to compete at the highest level, and Beckham's absence was a key factor in the disastrous result for the Spanish champions.

Some writers have even suggested Beckham had wanted a booking in order to be sure he would play in the semi-final against Arsenal or Chelsea.

Marca columnist Juan Ignacio Gallardo wrote: ``In the 91st minute of the first leg, Beckham forced the booking to have a clean slate for the semi-finals.

``Clearly the Englishman (or whoever advised him to provoke the suspension) took it for granted Monaco were out.

``This detail makes you think they underestimated Monaco, who lead the French league.''

Marca's front cover says it all -a picture of club captain Raul with his face in the turf with the simple caption written in English -The End.

While Marc a focus on the players,Diario AS, a paper closer to club president Florentino Perez, also let rip at Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz.

He must now be remembering that his predecessor Vicente del Bosque led Madrid to the Spanish league title,got them to the Champions League semi-finals,but was still released last summer.

Papers based in the city of arch-rivals Barcelona focused on the influence of Monaco's Fernando Morientes, who was virtually forced out of Madrid by Perez's transfer policy of blending young homegrown players with superstars such as Zinedine Zidane.

Morientes was crucial in helping steer Monaco to victory after a goal on Tuesday night added to a first-leg score in the Bernabeu.

He had lost his starting place at Real to Ronaldo when the Brazilian joined from Inter Milan.

Both Morientes and Chelsea's Claude Makelele are in the semi-finals with their respective clubs after being allowed to leave, although Queiroz reportedly wanted to keep them on board.

One final dart was fired at Beckham, who was pictured on a skiing holiday in Switzerland with his family while he serves his suspension.

``By the look of this,he didn't seem very worried about his team-mates,''El Mundo Deportivo said.

CAPTION(S):

On-loanMonaco striker Fernando Morientes (second right) returned to haunt club Real Madrid in their shock Champions League exit; David Beckham
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 8, 2004
Words:485
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