David Beckham made a surprising start in his AC Milan debut Sunday, playing 89 minutes in a solid if not outstanding performance in a 2-2 draw against AS Roma.
The star English midfielder was replaced by Mathieu Flamini in
the 89th minute with the score tied. He exited mostly to boos from
the Roma crowd.
"I felt good in the game, very strong and I enjoyed it,"
Beckham said. "I enjoyed playing with these players and in this
Beckham joined Milan on a two-month loan from the Los Angeles
Galaxy of Major League Soccer, hoping to stay sharp so he can earn
a spot on the English national team.
"I don't want to have regrets in my career," Beckham said. "I
am very lucky to have this chance with this great club and I want
to enjoy it."
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said Saturday it would be
"difficult" to start the former Manchester United and Real Madrid
player because he had been inactive for two months. However,
Beckham lined up in his traditional spot on the right wing, leaving
Flamini and Massimo Ambrosini on the bench at the start.
Beckham said the manager told him before the game he would
start. Wearing No. 32, Beckham was positioned alongside Andrea
Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf in midfield, with Kaka, Ronaldinho and
Pato up front in attack.
"He showed what he showed in training, that he is disciplined
and plays the ball simply," Ancelotti said. "Beckham is a Milan
player; he will play with us for two months."
The 80,000-seat Stadio Olimpico was nearly full. Although there
was no sign of England coach Fabio Capello, Italy coach Marcello
Lippi did attend.
Beckham began the game in a largely defensive role. He came
forward for Milan's first free kick five minutes in, but Ronaldinho
took it instead and banged the ball into Roma's wall. Beckham's
first significant contribution came in the 13th minute when he set
up Kaka with a long pass that curled around a defender, although
Kaka quickly lost possession.
In the 20th, Beckham stole the ball from Mirko Vucinic and again
sent Milan forward to no avail. Two minutes later, Vucinic took a
pass from John Arne Riise and scored from within the area as Milan
defenders Giuseppe Favalli and Marek Jankulovski looked on.
Beckham took his first free kick in the 41st from the right of
Roma's area, near the sideline - a perfect position for his famous
right foot - but his kick was headed away by Roma. A minute later,
Beckham came across to take a corner from the left, and his low
attempt was again headed away by Roma.
Beckham came back out for the second half and Milan tied it in
the 48th, with Pato tapping in a cross from Kaka as Roma waited for
an offside call that never came.
Beckham took another corner from the left in the 51st and put
the ball on Ronaldinho's foot by the far post but the Brazilian
Pato put Milan ahead in the 53rd, dribbling past Roma's defense
and chipping over goalkeeper Alexander Doni. Beckham took another
corner in the 66th, and passed a short ball to Seedorf, who then
gave it back to the Englishman. Beckham put a shot toward the goal
that Doni had little trouble handling.
Ambrosini came on for Ronaldinho in the 70th and Vucinic scored
again a minute later, heading in a bouncing ball inside the penalty
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