Vol. 5 Num 1118 Mon. July 23, 2007  

Beckham Makes Debut
Chelsea down Galaxy

David Beckham kicked off his US football career in low-key fashion here Saturday, making a 12-minute cameo appearance for Los Angeles Galaxy in a 1-0 defeat by English giants Chelsea.

The 32-year-old England star, who has been nursing an injured left ankle, came on as a second-half substitute in the 78th minute to roars and an explosion of flashbulbs from a 27,000 sell-out crowd at the Home Depot Center.

Beckham, who has not played since helping former club Real Madrid clinch the Spanish title 35 days ago, appeared to be moving gingerly and saw the ball only eight times while on the field.

Yet his every touch was greeted by squeals of delight from fans crammed into the ground to witness the star's first game in a Galaxy jersey, which saw Chelsea win thanks to a 49th-minute John Terry strike.

A relieved Beckham said afterwards he was pleased to have got his first game out of the way after months of hype and anticipation.

"I was pleased to get out there," Beckham said. "I haven't trained since I've been here so it was just nice to get out there, even for 15 minutes."

Beckham, who could earn up to 250 million dollars over the course of his five-year deal, said he was delighted by the rapturous reception he had received from the crowd.

"The crowd was incredible. That's what we want to achieve -- we want to be filling stadiums and seeing the atmosphere like it was today," said Beckham, whose arrival in Los Angeles has already helped boost the profile of football in the United States.

There was a late scare for Beckham fans however when the midfielder was brought down heavily by a clumsy challenge from Chelsea substitute Steve Sidwell, before rising to his feet and shrugging off the pain.

Beckham said afterwards his ankle still ached.

"It's sore," he said. "It's not going to go away for a week or two. But it's good, I'm happy to be here."

Earlier, Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas defended the decision to restrict Beckham's debut to less than 15 minutes.

"It is a long-term process, and we want to make sure David is 100 percent fit," Lalas told ESPN.

"We have games next week, next month and over the next five years. There will will be plenty of chances to see David Beckham play here and across the country."

Despite the fleeting nature of Beckham's appearance, the match was the hottest ticket in town on Saturday, with a bevy of stars from the entertainment world among the audience.

Beckham's pop-star wife Victoria was joined in the VIP section by "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, along with actress Katie Holmes and California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Tickets for what was being billed as a landmark moment in the history of US soccer were reportedly being sold on the black market for up to 2,000 US dollars beforehand.

But a drab match saw Beckham's successor as England captain Terry prove the difference between the two sides.

Terry swept home a low shot from the edge of the area early in the second half after teammate Joe Cole's shot ricocheted into his path.

Chelsea controlled possession throughout the game and had tested Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon regularly in the first half.

Portuguese international Paulo Ferreira swung an inviting ball to the far post, and Chelsea's new signing Florent Malouda forced Cannon into a fine save, turning around the former Lyon star's side-footed volley.

But despite Chelsea's early dominance their opponents proved difficult to break down, and ironically had the two best chances of the opening 45 minutes.

Midfielder Kyle Martino spurned a glorious opportunity to put the Galaxy into an improbable lead, steering a diving header wide of the post after fine work down the right by US international Cobi Jones on 19 minutes.

Six minutes before half-time Chelsea keeper Petr Cech had to be at his athletic best to turn round Abel Xavier's powerful header from a teasing free-kick by Galaxy skipper Landon Donovan.

Chelsea captain John Terry (R) claps England teammate and new Galaxy recruit David Beckham on the back during their friendly game at the sold out Home Depot Centre in California on Saturday. PHOTO: AFP