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By ESPN Staff

Beckham hailed as Capello's savior

MADRID, Spain -- David Beckham's goal in his first full match for Real Madrid since Dec. 20 may have helped coach Fabio Capello keep his job.

Capello, who said last month that Beckham would never again play for the Spanish powerhouse, was rewarded for his U-turn when the midfielder scored on a free kick in the 37th minute to help Madrid beat Real Sociedad 2-1 in the Spanish league on Saturday.

Madrid's victory ended a run of two straight defeats and gave the beleaguered Italian coach some breathing space. Madrid was eliminated from the Copa del Rey in Beckham's absence.

"Capello, you owe him one," ran the headline of sports daily Marca, adding Beckham had "saved the coach with a free kick 34 days after he was condemned."

The newspaper As said in its editorial that "Beckham punishes Capello's haughtiness," and praised the former England captain for the way he celebrated his goal.

"It was a healthy celebration, without revenge or gestures. (Beckham is) a gentleman to whom Capello perhaps owes his survival," it added.

Capello said he was "pleased" with the midfielder's display.

"He's an intelligent person. He has had three very good weeks training with the rest of the team," Capello was quoted as saying by El Pais. "He scored an important goal, from a free kick, although up to now he hadn't scored many."

Beckham annoyed Capello by announcing on Jan. 11 that he would leave for the Los Angeles Galaxy when his contract expires in June. Madrid had offered the midfielder a two-year extension.