Galaxy win in NZ, Beckham excels

Los Angeles Galaxy beat Wellington Phoenix 4-1 in an exhibition game in Wellington on Saturday.

updated: December 02, 2007 07:49 IST
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David Beckham observed the showbiz maxim of "always leave 'em wanting more" by scoring a penalty and creating three goals as the Los Angeles Galaxy beat Wellington Phoenix 4-1 in an exhibition game in Wellington on Saturday.

The Galaxy completed its tour of Australia and New Zealand before a sellout crowd of 35,000; the largest ever for a soccer match in New Zealand.

Beckham sent them home happy with a virtuoso display of midfield play.

He delivered the cross which led to the Galaxy's first goal, laid on the long ball that led to the second, set up the third and drilled a 76th-minute penalty to put his own name on the scoresheet.

He stayed on the field for all 90 minutes, supplementing star power with value for money. Wellington which plays in the Australian A-League threatened to upstage the visitors when it took the lead in the seventh minute.

A Phoenix corner was relayed from the far post by Steven Old to captain Ross Aloisi, whose shot beat the keeper.

Beckham teed up the equalizer in the 16th minute. His cross to the far post found U.S. international Landon Donovan, and Donovan's low pass was driven home by his American teammate Clint Mathis.

Donovan put the Galaxy ahead a minute before halftime with a sweet, left-foot shot from 10 meters after Beckham had played a prescient long ball from one flank to the other.

The Galaxy lead was extended less then two minutes into the second half. Beckham had his back to goal when he received a pass, drew and turned two defenders outside the box, and laid the ball off for Honduran international Carlos Pravon - a halftime substitute to crash the ball home.

The crowd may have been hoping to see one of the trademark free kicks from which Beckham scored in the Galaxy's 5-3 loss to Sydney FC in Australia four days ago.

The chance didn't arise but when Pravon stumbled in the area in the 76th minute, Beckham converted from the spot, driving in a low, right-foot shot.

Galaxy's newly-appointed coach Ruud Gullitt the former Milan and Holland superstar said Beckham's contribution to the team was exceptional.

"He's one of the guys. Of course he has something extra," Gullitt said.

"We take advantage of that and hopefully the guys can learn something from him. It may all add up to something in the new year," he said.

"It's been a great occasion, great for soccer. A great stadium, a great crowd, a great match...what more can you ask for," said the coach.

Soccer has been a minor sport in New Zealand. The country is fanatical about rugby, at which it has excelled for more than 100 years, winning almost 80 percent of its international matches.

Beckham managed in a few days to give soccer a profile it has never previously enjoyed.

Thousands turned out to welcome him at Wellington airport on Thursday and 18,000 people mainly school children watched his train with the Galaxy at Westpac Stadium on Thursday.

The English star heads back to Los Angeles with the Galaxy on Sunday.