Real Sociedad
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Deportivo La Coruña
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By ESPN Staff

Beckham scores in return to starting lineup

MADRID, Spain -- David Beckham scored on his trademark bending free kick in his first start since Dec. 20, helping Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 2-1 Saturday in the Spanish league.

The star midfielder, who is bound for the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, tied the score in the 37th minute with a low shot from outside the penalty area that 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 power, reportedly would have been fired if his team had lost again.

Beckham received a yellow card in the 75th minute for a late challenge on Sociedad forward Savio Bortolini.

Beckham displeased Capello by announcing on Jan. 11 that he would leave for the 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 headed in Madrid's winning goal in the 48th minute when he beat Bravo to Miguel Torres' cross from the left. The victory ended a run of two straight defeats.

Sociedad took the lead in the eighth minute after a mistake by Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas allowed Mikel Aranburu to head the ball into the net.

LONDON -- Premier League leader Manchester United beat relegation-threatened Charlton 2-0 Saturday on goals by Park Ji-sung and Darren Fletcher.

United, aiming for its first title since 2003, is six points ahead of Chelsea. The defending champions defeated visiting Middlesbrough 3-0.

United has 66 points from 27 games. Chelsea is next with 60 points, 10 more than third-place Liverpool, which lost at Newcastle 2-1.

United took the lead in the 24th minute when Park headed in a deflected cross by Patrice Evra. With eight minutes remaining, Wayne Rooney and Henrik Larsson exchanged passes on the edge of the penalty area and Fletcher scored.

Charlton stayed in the three-team relegation zone with 20 points, the same as 18th-place West Ham.

Chelsea, which started captain John Terry for the first time in two months after he recovered from back and calf injuries, took the lead when Didier Drogba scored his 16th league goal of the season. The Ivory Coast striker hit a low free kick past visiting goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer in first-half injury time.

The champions went ahead 2-0 in the 66th when Boro defender Abel Xavier deflected Arjen Robben's cross past Schwarzer for an own-goal and Drogba completed the scoring with another free kick, this time deflected off the defensive wall.

Steve Sidwell scored twice to back U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, leading Reading past Aston Villa 2-0. Reading, in its first season in England's top league, stayed in sixth place.

Sidwell scored in the 16th minute, heading in a corner from Stephen Hunt. During injury time, Sidwell scored from about 12 yards. Hahnemann preserved the shutout by blocking a rebound attempt from Gabriel Agbonlahor after a shot by Ashley Young hit the post.

Reading has 43 points, one fewer than fifth-place Bolton, which hosts Fulham on Sunday.

VICENZA, Italy -- Juventus conceded two goals in six minutes, dropping into a tie for first place in the Serie B after a 2-2 tie with Vicenza.

Italian soccer resumed Saturday, more than a week after being suspended for fan violence. All Serie A games are being played Sunday.

Raffaele Palladino gave Juventus the lead in the sixth minute and Alessandro Del Piero added the second in the 60th. Pavel Nedved set up both goals.

Evangelos Nastos and Gabriele Paonessa then scored for Vicenza in the 73rd and 78th minutes to even the score.

Juventus, which was demoted and docked nine points in the Italian game-fixing scandal, has 40 points and is tied for first with Napoli, which beat Piacenza 1-0. Vicenza has 22 points.

BERLIN -- Schalke took a step toward its first Bundesliga title since 1958, beating Hertha Berlin 2-0 to move six points ahead in the standings.

Kevin Kuranyi scored in the 64th minute and Peter Loevenkrands added another 11 minutes later as Schalke won its sixth straight. Second-placed Werder Bremen was trounced 4-1 by VfB Stuttgart.

Schalke, which twice came close to winning titles in recent years, was again able to rely on the most productive forward pair since the winter break.

Kuranyi dived to score on a header off a corner kick, giving him three goals and three assists in three games since the winter break. His pass to Loevenkrands allowed the Dane to put back his own blocked shot.

Schalke has 48 points, Bremen has 42 and Stuttgart 41. Bayern Munich is fourth with 34 points and plays Sunday against Arminia Bielefeld.

PARIS -- Paris Saint-Germain snapped a 12-game winless streak, beating Monaco 4-2 in the French league.

Amara Diane, Marcello Gallardo and Cristian Rodriguez all scored for PSG, while Monaco goalkeeper Flavio Roma added an own-goal.

French leader Lyon won for the first time in six games, beating Lorient 1-0 on a goal from Fred.