FC Barcelona edges Galaxy

It figures that a former Real Madrid player would find a way to score against FC Barcelona.

David Beckham, seeking a way on Saturday night to silence a near-sellout soccer crowd of 93,137 at the Rose Bowl that booed every time he touched the ball, did so briefly with a trademark goal off a free kick.

That was enough to send the Galaxy into the locker room at halftime of an entertaining match against the reigning European and Spanish champions with the teams tied at 1-1.

Barcelona, playing an entirely different lineup in the second half, managed to score the game-winner, however, and thus begun its three-game West Coast tour -- a warmup for the upcoming European season -- with a deserved 2-1 victory.


Barcelona, with its multitude of stars, was clearly the superior team, but the Galaxy played a spirited match and was in no way embarrassed by the result.

Beckham had talked beforehand of scoring against the team that is, almost without question, the best in the world at the moment.

“One of my best memories is beating them,” Beckham said. “I think as a Madrid player it doesn’t get any better than that, when you beat Barcelona.”

The English midfielder also mentioned that he had “scored one for Manchester United against Barcelona, on a free kick.”


That’s where his goal came from Saturday. It was scored in the final minute of the first half after Barcelona had taken the lead in the 11th minute.

Landon Donovan created the tying goal with a surging lateral run across the edge of the penalty area before being fouled by Adriano Enrique.

The ball was perfectly positioned for Beckham, just outside the arc at the top of the penalty area. Ignoring the boos -- as much from Barcelona fans as disillusioned Galaxy fans -- Beckham glanced up and then curled a free kick past goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto.

Beckham was immediately mobbed by Galaxy players, and when the halftime whistle sounded seconds later he stripped off his Galaxy jersey and exchanged it with Barcelona’s Brazilian international defender Dani Alves.

It had taken Barcelona less than 11 minutes to unlock the Galaxy defense and take the lead.

The move started with a long diagonal pass across the field to forward Pedro Rodriguez, who danced past defender Todd Dunivant and fired a low shot on target.

Goalkeeper Josh Saunders, filling in for injured starter Donovan Ricketts, made a sprawling save, but the ball rolled free and Lionel Messi pounced on it. His shot was blocked on the line by A.J. DeLaGarza, but Rodriguez fired in the rebound.

Barcelona Coach Josep “Pep” Guardiola opted to split his squad in two, playing such starters as Rafael Marquez, Alves and Messi in the first half and other starters such as Carlos Puyol, Xavi and Thierry Henry in the second half.


Barcelona’s winning goal came in the 67th minute when a through ball from Sergi Busquets to Jeffren Suarez saw Suarez slotting a low shot past Saunders and into the net.

Beckham was taken out of the match in the 87th minute, but when the final whistle sounded he strolled back onto the field and once again exchanged shirts, this time with 1998 French World Cup winner Henry.

By this time, the boos had largely melted away. Perhaps the road ahead will be smoother now for the Galaxy and its wandering midfielder.

“Beckham’s goal was fantastic,” Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said afterward. “I think it was a great evening of soccer. Barcelona is a terrific team. For us, the definition of speed of play definitely came into play tonight. It’s good to have the opportunity to step on the field with one of the great club teams in the world.”