David Beckham scored on his return on Saturday, helping Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 2-1 in the Spanish league.
Beckham, making his first start since Dec. 20, equalized in the 37th minute with a low, bending free kick from outside the area which beat diving goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
Beckham's goal at Anoeta stadium in San Sebastian may have saved Madrid coach Fabio Capello's job. The Italian coach, who had said that the former England captain would never again play for the Spanish powerhouse, reportedly would have been fired if his team had lost again.
Beckham annoyed Capello by announcing on Jan. 11 that he would leave for the Los Angeles Galaxy when his contract expires in June.
"I picked him because he has been good in training for three weeks," Capello said. "I'm pleased he scored with a free kick because he hasn't scored many this season. He played really well."
Ruud van Nistelrooy scored Madrid's winning goal in the 48th minute when he beat Bravo to Miguel Torres' cross from the left and headed in. The victory ended a run of two straight defeats.
Beckham received a yellow card in the 75th minute for a late challenge on Sociedad forward Savio Bortolini.
In Saturday's late game, Sevilla drew 0-0 at crosstown rival Real Betis and climbed into a share of the league lead on points with FC Barcelona, which hosted Racing Santander yesterday.
Defending champion Barcelona has 43 points, ahead of Sevilla on goal difference. Madrid rose to third place with 41 points.
Sociedad took the lead in the eighth minute after a mistake by Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who pushed Xabi Prieto's cross up into the air, allowing Mikel Aranburu to nod the ball into the net from close range.
The goal was the Basque team's first in five games, although the defeat left it in 19th place and threatened by the prospect of playing second-division soccer for the first time since 1967.
Sevilla's draw in a highly-charged match left it with one win in six matches, jeopardizing chances of its first league title since 1946.
The game at Betis' Manuel Ruiz de Lopera Stadium was briefly halted in the fourth minute after bottles were thrown at Sevilla keeper Andres Palop from behind the goal.
However, more debris hit the field during after play resumed and throughout the game, while Betis fans ignited flares and fireworks in contravention of Spanish league rules.
Betis wasted its best chance in the 11th minute when Brazilian striker Robert missed a penalty, awarded after Daniel Alves pulled Fernando Fernandez's shirt.
Robert also wasted the best opportunity in the second half, shooting into Palop after a missed clearance attempt Alves in the 78th minute allowed the Brazilian to break in on goal alone.
The game was the second between the teams in 10 days and the second 0-0 draw -- having failed to score in the the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals at Sevilla on Feb. 1.
The second leg is set for end of the month.