Beckham plays 89 minutes in AC Milan debut

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> David Beckham was given a surprising starting nod in his official AC Milan debut against AS Roma on Sunday and played 89 minutes.

Updated: January 12, 2009 07:38 IST
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David Beckham was given a surprising starting nod in his official AC Milan debut against AS Roma on Sunday and played 89 minutes, contributing with a solid - if not outstanding - performance in a 2-2 draw.

"I felt good in the game, very strong and I enjoyed it," Beckham said. "I enjoyed playing with these players and in this city. We played some good football and I enjoyed playing Roma."

The night, however, belonged to Mirko Vucinic and Alexandre Pato, who each scored twice _ Vucinic for Roma and Pato for Milan.

Beckham joined Milan on a two-month loan spell from the Los Angeles Galaxy, hoping to maintain his form and be called to England's national team by coach Fabio Capello.

Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said Saturday that it would be "difficult" to start the former Manchester United and Real Madrid player because he had been inactive for two months. However, he lined him up nonetheless in his traditional spot on the right wing, leaving Mathieu 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)."

Flamini replaced Beckham one minute from the end.

"The match went well for him," Ancelotti said. "He showed what he showed in training, that he is disciplined and plays the ball simply. 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."

Wearing No. 32, Beckham was positioned alongside Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf in midfield _ with Kaka, Ronaldinho and Pato up front in attack.

The 80,000-seat Stadio Olimpico was nearly full. Although there was no sign of 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.

"If other players feel like they can score on a free kick, I'll let them do it," Beckham said. "I'll get a chance."

Beckham's first significant contribution came in the 13th, 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 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 helplessly.

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.

"We need (Marco) Borriello for Beckham's crosses," Ancelotti said. "But for the moment we have to be happy for Pato. With Ronaldinho I have asked him to play in a more central position."

Beckham has now 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 equalized 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 on a counterattack and chipping the ball over goalkeeper Alexander Doni for his eighth score of the season.

Beckham took another corner in the 66th, and passed a short ball to Seedorf, who then gave it back to the Englishman and Beckham put a shot toward the target that Doni had little trouble handling in front of the post.

Ambrosini came on for Ronaldinho in the 70th and Vucinic scored again a minute later, heading in a bouncing ball inside the area.

Beckham exited mostly to boos from the Roma crowd.

"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."

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