| Real Madrid’s Luis Figo is congratulated by teammates (from left Zinedine Zidane, Ivan Helguera and Raul) after scoring against Real Mallorca in Palma de Mallorca on Sunday. (Reuters)
Palma de Mallorca: David Beckham made his first meaningful contribution to the Real Madrid cause with a trademark assist, but could not prevent his side losing 1-2 to Real Mallorca in the Super Cup’s first leg on Sunday.
Beckham’s swerving corner set up Luis Figo for the opening goal of the Spanish season’s curtain-raiser after 19 minutes, but Mallorca hit back with goals from Arnold Bruggink and Samuel Eto’o in three minutes either side of half-time.
Beckham was substituted after just 55 minutes, as new Real coach Carlos Queiroz chose to beef up his midfield by recalling French international Claude Makelele from the bench.
The England captain left the field with a look of quiet resignation, but could at least be satisfied with a marked improvement on his terrible showing in a pre-season friendly against Valencia last weekend.
With Makelele back in the team — the pay protest that saw him boycott training after the club’s pre-season tour of Asia apparently over — Real took a greater hold in midfield but created few clear chances over the remainder of the game.
Leo Franco did well to tip over a long-range blast from Robert Carlos with 73 minutes gone but, despite a couple of late scares, the King’s Cup holders held on to earn a slim advantage to take back to the Bernabeu for Wednesday’s second leg.
Beckham’s perfectly struck corner was the only bright moment for Real Madrid in a poor first-half performance.
The Englishman, making his competitive debut following a 35 million euros ($38.08 million) move from Manchester United, deceived Franco in the flight with his delivery from the left and picked out Figo unmarked at the far post.
Beckham turned to a crowd packed with holidaying English fans with his arms raised in celebration before running off to take the congratulations of his teammates.
He had spent much of the game against Valencia stuck out wide on the right, but Queiroz gave him a more central role on Sunday. The early signs were good, with Beckham setting up Ronaldo for a goal-scoring chance just past the half-hour and hooking up well with the rest of the midfield.
Mallorca, who knocked Real out of last season’s Kings Cup and also beat them 5-1 in the league at the Bernabeu, gradually took control of the game, though, and equalised in first-half injury-time.
Eto’o stole the ball from Zidane on the edge of the box and passed to Ariel Ibagaza. He threaded a pass through the legs of centre-back Francisco Pavon and Mallorca’s new Dutch signing Bruggink pounced to score his first goal for the club.
Mallorca took the lead within three minutes of the re-start, Eto’o setting off on a powerful run and finding Alejandro Campano. He took the ball on and picked out Eto’o to crash his shot past Iker Casillas.
The introduction of Makelele in place of Beckham served to stem the tide of Mallorca attacks, but Queiroz may well have been looking back on his decision with regret when Ronaldo won a free-kick five metres outside the area.
From perfect Beckham territory, Zidane could only fire weakly at the wall. Later, Queiroz said he was forced to “sacrifice” Beckham on his competitive debut for the Spanish club. The Englishman was taken off after 55 minutes when Real Mallorca were leading 2-1.