MADRID (Sunday, February 18, 2006) -- David Beckham's return to the Real Madrid lineup comtinues to make headlines.
A week after Beckham marked his reinstatement by scoring a first-half equalizer in an eventual 2-1 triumph over Real Sociedad, the erstwhile England captain followed that yesterday by being ejected in the final minute of a 0-0 draw at home with Real Betis.
Meanwhile, England's Football Association quickly denied a newspaper story that said coach Steve McLaren was considering recalling Beckham to the national team.
After signing a huge five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer a month ago, Madrid coach Fabio Capello announced he had no further use for the notorious midfielder, removing him from the game-day roster. After the club, engaged in a battle for the Primera División, went 2-2-2 in Beckham's absence, Madrid players and fans clamored for his return with Capello bowing to the pressure.
Banished to the locker-room yesterday, Beckham was able to avoid the hostile reaction from the fans at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu -- a chorus of whistles -- after Madrid was held scoreless by Betis, its third blanking in four outings.
Madrid (13-7-3, 42 points) is in third place, trailing Barcelona (13-2-7, 46) and FC Sevilla (13-5-4. 43), who both own a game in hand. Betis is in a three-way tie for 14th place at 6-9-8 with 26 points.
Beckham did his part for Madrid, which controlled the action against Betis, but managed little in the way of scoring chances. In the 63rd minute, Beckham created his team's best opportunity, sending a low cross to Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but the Dutch striker's shot skimmed off the top of the crossbar.
In stoppage time, Beckham was stripped on the edge of the Betis penalty area by Gomez Isidoro. Frustrated, believing he had been fouled, Beckham chased Isidoro and lunged at him from behind, the foul bringing on his banishment.
Madrid sporting manager Predrag Mijatovic was equally frustrated by the red card. "The sending-off of Beckham was a clear passage of play," he told the media. "We received a clear foul and it turned into a sending-off for our player. . . I don't know what has happened, but I have the feeling the referees are against us. There were plays and cards that I did not understand, nor does anybody. We are not going to complain, but it is necessary to highlight it. We have always remained quiet but the time has come to say something."
Last Saturday, Beckham used the occasion of his first start since December 20 to bend a low free kick past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo from just above the box into the net to tie Sociedad in the 37th minute.
Though Capello had said Beckham would not play again for Madrid, he continued to train with the team with his contract running to June 30. "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."
Some in the Spanish media speculated Beckham, who also was issued a yellow card in the second half, had saved Capello's job. Madrid's two-match losing streak was ended when van Nistlerooy headed home the decisive tally in the 48th minute.
Despite McLaren saying Wednesday he had no intention of summoning Beckham, one newspaper reported McLaren had consulted veteran team members about bringing the former captain back for a crucial March 24 Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel.
"I have spoken to Steve McClaren regarding this story and he is categoric that there is no truth whatsoever in this," FA director of communications Adrian Bevington told Agence France-Presse.
Beckham stepped down as captain July 2 following England´s exit from the World Cup. On August 11, McClaren dropped him from the team prior to a friendly against Greece, his first match as manager.
Rijkaard denies resignation rumors
BARCELONA -- Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard denied reports that he will leave the European and Spanish champion at the end of the season.
Media reports in Spain said in-fighting at Barcelona, which currently leads the Primera División, had led Rijkaard to consider a career change.
'I have looked into the future. . . and it says, 'Yes,' " Rijkaard joked at a press conference about his remaining with Barcelona. "I have never said I was going to leave. I am happy here and it is an honor to work here. But it is a bit much to say that I will be here many years."
Rijkaard had a public spat with striker Samuel Eto'o, who criticized his coach, as well as star Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho, last weekend. Eto'o was upset after Rijkaard revealed the Cameroonian refused to come on as a substitute in last Sunday's 2-0 victory over Racing Santander.
Eto'o request to be left off the squad for today's match at Valencia was granted, Rijkaard said.
Eto'o has beem sidelined since he ruptured the meniscus in his right knee September 27 in a European Champions League match against Werder Bremen.
Liverpool players reported in rows
LIVERPOOL, England -- Liverpool has refused comment on newspaper reports this morning that its striker Craig Bellamy had beaten his teammate John Arne Riise with a golf club Friday night.
The News of the World reported allegations that Bellamy, a Wales national, clashed with Riise following a dispute during a night out in Portugal at the Algarve resort of Vale do Lobo. Liverpool is training in Portugal to prepare for the upcoming Champions League game with Barcelona.
The News reported that the dispute started when Bellamy tried to get Riise to participate in a karaoke competition at a bar, something the reserved Norwegian left-flank defender and midfielder wanted no part of. The situation seemed to calm down, but later escalated with Bellamy grabbing a club and going after Riise, hacking at his legs.
The paper reported about 20 players were present at the bar, including England standouts Steven Gerrard and Peter Crouch.
Meanwhile, The People and the Mail publications wrote that other Liverpool players were involved in a separate drunken fracas. The Mail reported that Robbie Fowler, Jermaine Pennant and Jerzy Dudke were present and a item in the Portugese media said one Reds players was handcuffed after attempting to head-butt a police officer.
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