Soccer: Beckham's Galaxy thumps Phoenix

By Harris Choy

David Beckham gave one of New Zealand's biggest soccer crowds their money's worth even though he didn't produce one of his specials here tonight.

Drawing 31,800 at the capacity 35,000 Westpac Stadium, which even the country's flagship sporting team, the All Blacks, had struggled to do this season, the world's most famous footballer entertained them with solid rather than sparkling performance from the heart of LA Galaxy's game.

He thundered in his team's fourth goal from a penalty in the 76th minute for their 4-1 win over Wellington Phoenix even though they lived a few anxious moments from some breathtaking attempts from the home team.

Beckham's long and accurate ball from the right enabled striker Clint Mathis to tie the game 1-1 in the 17th minute after captain Ross Aloisi had nudged the home side ahead in the 12th minute.

The crowd's favourite undoubtedly was the home team, but they cheered every time Beckham had the ball.

There was more anticipation from the fans in the second half when Beckham took at least three of his team's corner kicks and broke through once but couldn't finish it.

Then came the penalty when replacement Carlos Pavon stumbled in the box between two defenders and Beckham received a huge applause as he stepped up to take the kick.

He rifled it past Mark Paston into the roof of the goal to the delight of crowd.

But Paston will hardly be disappointed to tell his grandchildren one day of the night he was beaten by a Beckham thunderbolt. Beckham too looked impressed.

Beckham entertained the Sydney crowd with his "bend it" special freekick in Sydney when they lost 3-5 and the Wellington crowd sort of expected one too.

The crowd held its breath when the final whistle went as Beckham walked around while his teammates exchanged shirts with the Phoenix players.

He finally stripped when he met Aloisi, who had been subbed off, and the two captains exchanged tops to screams and whistles from the women fans mainly.

Beckham, 32, then walked around shirtless and gestured his gratitude to the crowd amidst more whistles and screams.

LA Galaxy 4 (Clint Mathis, Landon Donovan, Carlos Pavon, David Beckham) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Ross Aloisi). Halftime: 2-1.

- NZPA

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