Fri, Nov 19, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Racist taunts ruin Madrid soccer feast

UNFRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL What was to be a great game turned into a shame, as racist Spanish fans taunted England's black players, causing an outrage in Britain

AGENCIES , MADRI, RIO DE JANEIRO AND HONG KONG

Greek referee Georges Kasnaferis, second right, and England's captain David Beckham, third left, hold back Spain's goalkeeper Iker Casillas, right, after his fight with England's Wayne Rooney, left, during their football friendly international.

PHOTO: AFP

Spain could afford the luxury of a missed penalty as they made England look distinctly ordinary in a 1-0 international friendly settled on Wednesday by an early Asier del Horno goal at the Bernabeu stadium.

The loss ensured that England's Real Madrid pair David Beckham and Michael Owen, who both received a warm reception from both sets of fans, failed to put one over their adopted country

In fact the tale of the shots on target told its own story as Spain managed seven while England managed none and only two off-target as the visitors went down to their eighth defeat in 48 matches under Sven-Goran Eriksson's charge.

On England's previous visit to Real's cauldron in 1987, Gary Lineker, then of Barcelona, scored all four goals in a 4-2 win for a side with Bobby Robson at the helm.

But there was to be no repeat as, with Beckham and Owen largely anonymous, Eriksson's men allowed Spain to stamp their authority on a match which showed the hosts to be technically a cut above their counterparts.

The same could not be said of the home crowd, who roundly booed England's black contingent, fomenting still further a racism row dating back to recent disparaging comments by Spain coach Luis Aragones about Arsenal's French star Thierry Henry.

England started brightly enough, Wayne Rooney forcing home keeper Iker Casillas to make an alert stop as the Manchester United teen and star of Euro 2004 bore down on him.

But Spain were soon into their stride and the early goal promptly came.

A Xavi Hernandez corner from left drifted through to Athletic Bilbao wingback Del Horno, who nodded past keeper Paul Robinson.

It was somehow appropriate that a man whose name translates as "oven" should have turned up the heat on pallid visitors.

On 24 minutes the hosts should have gone two goals to the good after Robinson clattered into the marauding Raul.

The Real striker, 40 goals to his credit in the Spanish national side, stepped up to take the spotkick but Robinson redeemed himself by plunging to his left to block the effort.

England were not helped by Rooney chopping down the fleet-footed Joaquin Sanchez dreadfully late and then pushing at Casillas as the latter shepherded a loose ball out.

Four minutes before the break, Rooney received a standing ovation -- of the jeering kind -- as he gave way to Alan Smith before Greek referee Georges Kasnaferis could replace the yellow card shown to the tempestuous teen for the altercation with Casillas with a red one.

Rooney blotted his copybook further by throwing away the black armband which the team was wearing in honor of the memory of former England captain Emlyn Hughes, who was buried on Wednesday.

Despite the anti-racist messages placed pitchside before the start the cool Madrid air was punctuated by racist chanting directed at Arsenal fullback Ashley Cole.

It would grow only worse.

Beckham and Owen have experienced highs and lows in the white of Real this season -- the former scoring two early matchwinning goals before spending a month on the sidelines through injury and Owen hitting his stride with five goals in all competitions.

But in the white of England neither clicked on the night against a side bulldozed 3-0 in the countries' last meeting at Villa Park in 2001 for what was Eriksson's first match in charge.

Only Beckham, Owen, Rio Ferdinand and Nicky Butt remain from that squad.

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