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Milan draws in Beckham's debut

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.

Beckham lined up 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," Milan coach Carlo 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."

In other games on Sunday, it was: Juventus 1, Siena 0; Napoli 1, Catania 0; Lecce 2, Fiorentina 1; Lazio 3, Reggina 2; Bologna 1, Chievo Verona 1; Palermo 3, Atalanta 2; and Udinese 1, Sampdoria 1.

Juventus is second with 39 points, four behind Inter Milan. AC Milan is third with 34 points.

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'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, but his kick was headed away by Roma.

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.


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