Beckham scores but Galaxy fall to Sydney FC
SYDNEY, Australia -- David Beckham gave a crowd of 80,295 just what it came to see: some drama and a goal from a trademark, curling free kick.
Having limped around for almost 20 minutes after injuring his left ankle, the former England captain scored the Los Angeles Galaxy's only first-half goal in an exhibition against Sydney FC on Tuesday.
The Galaxy scored two more goals in the second half, but lost 5-3 to Sydney.
Beckham, trailed by paparazzi and constantly under the media gaze at a series of celebrity and sponsor events since arriving Sunday, fulfilled his playing obligations in Sydney.
"It was an entertaining match for the 80,000 fans. That's what they wanted, to see some goals and to see a bit of an exhibition -- they got that," he said.
With his team trailing 3-0, Beckham lined up a free kick from 24 yards out just before halftime. He then sent his trademark bending kick over the defensive wall and into the top-left corner of the net.
He raised his arms to celebrate and then swapped high-fives with teammate Kevin Harmse before walking off for halftime, giving Sydney's Brazilian import Juninho a hug on the way to the tunnel.
"I was really happy to score tonight because of the amount of fans and the attention that there has been on myself and this game," Beckham said. "It's nice once again to get a free kick -- people expect you to do it every time from that position. I practice it enough."
The Beckham-led Galaxy match is the team's first exhibition outside North America and was televised internationally.
The tour Down Under went ahead on the condition that Beckham played a decent part in matches against A-League clubs Sydney and Wellington Phoenix.
Beckham is scheduled to appear at a sponsor event Wednesday before leaving for New Zealand and Saturday's match against the Phoenix.
His first game in Australia could have been over after 27 minutes with the Galaxy behind 2-0, when Beckham lost his footing and was knocked over in a collision with Sydney midfielder Brendon Santalab.
Santalab slipped as he covered Beckham, knocking over the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder and creating a hush over Sydney's Olympic stadium.
Beckham was clutching his left ankle, but got up and continued.
"I was worried at first because I thought I'd twisted my ankle again and done the same injury as I'd done on the last day of the season with Real Madrid, but thankfully it wasn't as bad," he said.
Sydney FC did not take it easy on Beckham in the second half, either. Robbie Middleby was cautioned for a body check on the Galaxy captain in the 49th minute -- but Beckham got even in the 64th.
He slid in under Middleby, then got up, flashed a smile and hugged the Sydney player as referee Mark Shield produced a yellow card.
"It's part of the game -- you get kicked but you carry on," Beckham said. "I knew he'd done it on purpose, so I bided my time and gave him a friendly one back. We laughed and joked about it after and it was all in good fun."
The match had a heavy marketing angle. The Galaxy reportedly sold 20,000 jerseys in Australia. Sydney, which attracts an average of 15,200 for its A-League matches, sold a record number of seats for a club soccer match in Australia.
The Galaxy's lack of practice showed, and players from both sides misdirected passes that gave the first 20 minutes the look of a practice session.
Beckham's first scoring chance came off a free kick in the 19th minute, juggled by goalkeeper Clint Bolton, seconds before Sydney counter attacked and scored the first of its three first-half goals.
Striker Alex Brosque scored in the 20th and 26th minutes and Ruben Zadkovich fired a right-foot shot from the top edge of the area past Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon in the 30th.
The Galaxy cut the margin to 3-2 when Edson Buddle scored in the 49th off a turnover from Sydney, but Middleby restored the two-goal lead with a shot into an open goal 6 minutes later.
Beckham mixed with celebrities at a harborside function Monday night, including an appearance from entertainer Elton John and actor Anthony LaPaglia, who stars in the CBS show "Without a Trace" and is a part-owner of Sydney FC.
Next stop is Westpac Stadium in Wellington, where 28,000 of the 35,000 seats have already been sold for Saturday's match.