Sun, Jun 03, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Beckham stars as England draw

PITCH PROBLEMS Each tackle seemed to create a new divot after heavy rain and three games in three days last weekend left the new pitch in poor condition

AP , WEMBLEY, ENGLAND

England's David Beckham, left, takes a free kick as he plays against Brazil in a friendly game at Wembley Stadium, London, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

David Beckham returned for England and did just about everything but score.

Beckham marked his first appearance in the lineup since resigning as captain at last year's World Cup by setting up the team's goal in a 1-1 friendly draw with Brazil on Friday.

Although Steven Gerrard was named man of the match in the first international at rebuilt Wembley Stadium, it was Beckham who drew the loudest cheers from a crowd of 88,745.

Back wearing the No. 7 shirt after 10 months out of the side, Beckham was one of the best performers against the five-time world champions and provided the 68th-minute free kick that captain John Terry headed to put England ahead.

Only an injury-time goal by Brazilian substitute Diego denied England victory.

"Football's a cruel game and sometimes you don't get what you deserve -- and we didn't deserve that," England coach Steve McClaren said. "We deserved to win the game."

McClaren was using the game as preparation for Wednesday's European Championship qualifier against Estonia, and is now sure to include Beckham for a match England must win to boost their hopes of reaching next year's tournament.

The Real Madrid midfielder's famous deliveries were as accurate as ever, he tackled fiercely but fairly and covered ground on the right of midfield to stymie Brazil's attacks and set up England's.

"He was good and he took advantage of his best feature -- the dead balls," Brazil coach Dunga said.

Beckham was slower than at his peak five years ago, but he set up Michael Owen for three chances, and put a curling free kick just wide in the first half.

The crowd at the stadium, which was hosting England for the first time since September 2000, cheered each time he touched the ball and gave him a standing ovation when he was substituted in the 77th minute.

"I brought him back because he was playing well," McClaren said. "David Beckham is a player who, when he's playing well, there is no better right-sided player in the world. He showed that tonight."

Terry's goal and Beckham's performance roused the crowd after an uneventful first half in which neither goalkeeper had to make a save.

England benefited from the 63rd-minute introduction of substitutes Kieron Dyer and Stewart Downing and improved on their recent performances, but were still disjointed.

"We couldn't get through the middle of them and we tried to move it wide," Terry said. "We did that a bit better in the second half."

But even a Brazil side containing Ronaldinho and Kaka struggled to put together passing moves on a pitch that broke up from the start.

Gilberto Silva scored in the 20th minute but had his header ruled out for offside by two other players.

"The players need to have more physical training," Dunga said. "They are a little bit tired but we still had six chances for goals and we only trained 30 minutes."

Each tackle and stumble seemed to create a new divot in the turf. Heavy rain last month and three games in three days last weekend for the English league playoffs left the new pitch in poor condition.

That meant defenders could slide into tackles and Gerrard made a crucial one on the edge of the area to deny a chance for Kaka, who won the Champions League last week with AC Milan.

Ronaldinho drew the game's first save from Paul Robinson five minutes into the second half with a shot that deflected off defender Ledley King.

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