David Beckham lived up to his star billing today with a sparkling individual performance but could not prevent LA Galaxy slumping to their second friendly defeat in Australia. The ex-England captain narrowly missed with a free-kick and twice from open play, and had a hand in Galaxy's opener before former A-League champions Newcastle Jets fought their way to a 2-1 win.
The result was at least an improvement on Galaxy's 5-3 drubbing by Sydney FC in 2007, when Beckham tempered the loss with a trademark free-kick goal in front of 80,000 fans. The packed crowd at Newcastle's 26,500-capacity stadium was expectant when Beckham stepped up for an early free-kick, but the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star curled it over from 22 yards.
"Some go in, some don't," he shrugged. "It didn't tonight but maybe it will in other games."
However, Beckham was instrumental in Galaxy's opener when he fed the ball right for the cross to American striker Landon Donovan, who chested in at close range on six minutes. Brazilian midfielder Juninho should have made it two when his right-footed shot ricocheted off the bar and over the line, but the incident was missed by the officials.
At the other end, Sasho Petrovski twice went close with his head before levelling on 39 minutes as he darted in front of his marker to hook Ali Abbas's cross past Galaxy 'keeper Donovan Ricketts. Right on half-time, Beckham spurned a golden chance to restore Galaxy's lead when put through by Donovan, as his shot sailed across goal and wide of the right post.
Labinot Haliti pounced on a defensive howler to put the Jets 2-1 up on 52 minutes, tucking away a straightforward chance when Kasey Wehrman's high ball forward landed invitingly at his feet.
As Galaxy laboured to create chances from open play, Beckham's dead-ball skills created their most threatening moments of the second half, forcing a goal-line clearance and a close header from Gregg Berhalter. And Beckham nearly levelled it at the death with an audacious lob that clipped the top netting, as he completed the entire 90 minutes despite occasionally showing signs of a back problem.
Beckham is reportedly the biggest player to visit Newcastle, a coal port north of Sydney, since 1967 when Bobby Charlton and George Best played for Manchester United against Northern NSW at No.1 Sportsground. His visit is seen as a boost for Australia's embattled A-League, whose poor attendances have hit club finances, and also for the country's bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup™.