Despite describing the first leg against Arsenal FC as "a night when everything went wrong", David Beckham is confident Real Madrid CF can overturn a one-goal deficit at Highbury to reach the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
Thierry Henry's brilliant solo strike separated the teams at the Santiago Bernabéu two weeks ago and, while acknowledging the exceptional display of Arsène Wenger's young Arsenal side, Beckham believes Madrid under-performed significantly. "Arsenal didn't surprise us, they certainly didn't surprise me as they're a great team with great players," he told uefa.com. "With players like [José Antonio] Reyes, Henry and [Cesc] Fabregas, they're going to create chances and they did that in Madrid. Arsenal deserved to win, we didn't perform and they did. Everything was missing from us, everything - hard work, getting players in the box, creating chances. We were lacking all over the pitch, everything went wrong for us."
Although disappointed to have finished on the losing side in his first encounter with a club from his homeland since joining Madrid from Manchester United FC in 2003, the England captain was generous in defeat, praising opponents who fielded a team in which five of the starting lineup were 22 or younger. "Credit to Arsenal and their young players - to perform like that in such a big game shows they've got huge potential," he said. "Arsenal were never going to come to Madrid and just defend, that's not how they play. Wenger's one of the best managers around and he plays an attacking game all the time, he sends his team out to win. They came to Spain with a young team but full of confidence and produced a great performance."
Surprisingly, the midfielder had perhaps Madrid's two clearest opportunities in the Bernabéu, heading a left-wing cross wide of the post having cut in from his usual position on the right, then dispossessing Philippe Senderos and sprinting clear on to Ronaldo's return pass only to be foiled by the legs of Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. "Maybe I should have done better there, but it wasn't to be," Beckham said. "It's unusual for me to have our two best chances and maybe the fact I did just sums up our performance."
There was one bright spot from the first leg for the London-born Beckham, as he managed to avoid the booking that would have ruled him out of the trip to Highbury through suspension. "I'm relieved I didn't get booked, that's about the only plus point from the first leg," he said. "I've been looking forward to going to London since the draw was made. I've been keen to play in England again since I left, I just wish it was under happier circumstances."
Grounds for optimism
Despite Madrid's below-par showing a fortnight ago, the 30-year-old believes the tie is far from over. Arsenal may have become the first English club to win at the Bernabéu in UEFA competition, yet they spurned a number of openings to increase their advantage and Beckham hopes Madrid can make them pay for their profligacy tonight. "We're not out of it by any means. Although we didn't perform in the first leg, it's only 1-0 and with the players we've got, we're well capable of turning that around."
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