Beckham plays 89 minutes in AC Milan debut
ROME -- David Beckham was plesantly surprised by his unexpected start.
Beckham started in his AC Milan debut Sunday, playing 89 minutes in a solid if not outstanding performance in a 2-2 draw against AS Roma.
The star English midfielder was replaced by Mathieu Flamini in the 89th minute with the score tied. He exited mostly to boos from the Roma crowd.
"I felt good in the game, very strong and I enjoyed it," Beckham said. "I enjoyed playing with these players and in this city."
Beckham joined Milan on a two-month loan from the Los Angeles Galaxy of Major League Soccer, hoping to stay sharp so he can earn a spot on the English national team.
"I don't want to have regrets in my career," Beckham said. "I am very lucky to have this chance with this great club and I want to enjoy it."
Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said Saturday it would be "difficult" to start the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player because he had been inactive for two months. However, Beckham lined up in his traditional spot on the right wing, leaving Flamini and Massimo Ambrosini on the bench at the start.
"I never expected to play from the beginning of the game," Beckham said. "I've been working on my fitness and I felt good during the match. The manager told me before the match [that I would be starting]."
Wearing No. 32, Beckham was positioned alongside Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf in midfield, with Kaka, Ronaldinho and Pato up front in attack.
"He showed what he showed in training, that he is disciplined and plays the ball simply," Ancelotti said. "Beckham is a Milan player; he will play with us for two months."
Beckham rejected speculation that he plans to remain with Milan beyond the loan period.
"My contract runs through March 8," he said. "After that I have to go back to the Galaxy."
The 80,000-seat Stadio Olimpico was nearly full. Although there was no sign of England coach Fabio Capello, Italy coach Marcello Lippi did attend.
"[My aim] is to play as many games as possible, work on my fitness and to be a part of this Milan team," Beckham said. "I am happy to be playing with such a great club and these great players."
Beckham began the game in a largely defensive role. He came forward for Milan's first free kick five minutes in, but Ronaldinho took it instead and banged the ball into Roma's wall. Beckham's first significant contribution came in the 13th minute when he set up Kaka with a long pass that curled around a defender, although Kaka quickly lost possession.
In the 20th, Beckham stole the ball from Mirko Vucinic and again sent Milan forward to no avail. Two minutes later, Vucinic took a pass from John Arne Riise and scored from within the area as Milan defenders Giuseppe Favalli and Marek Jankulovski looked on.
Beckham took his first free kick in the 41st from the right of Roma's area, near the sideline -- a perfect position for his famous right foot -- but his kick was headed away by Roma. A minute later, Beckham came across to take a corner from the left, and his low attempt was again headed away by Roma.
Beckham has played in three of Europe's top leagues, following the Premier League and the Spanish league.
"There is a more tactical level in Italy, but I think I adapted pretty well," he said, adding that he had little trouble communicating with his teammates because "most of them speak good English."
Beckham came back out for the second half and Milan tied it in the 48th, with Pato tapping in a cross from Kaka as Roma waited for an offside call that never came.
Beckham took another corner from the left in the 51st and put the ball on Ronaldinho's foot by the far post but the Brazilian volleyed high.
Pato put Milan ahead in the 53rd, dribbling past Roma's defense and chipping over goalkeeper Alexander Doni. Beckham took another corner in the 66th, and passed a short ball to Seedorf, who then gave it back to the Englishman. Beckham put a shot toward the goal that Doni had little trouble handling.
Ambrosini came on for Ronaldinho in the 70th and Vucinic scored again a minute later, heading in a bouncing ball inside the penalty area.