Real Madrid CF look certain to have booked their place in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with a 1-0 victory over FK Partizan at the Santiago Bernabéu in Group F.
Madrid secured the three points in the 38th minute when a David Beckham corner was headed goalwards by Luís Figo and Raúl González made sure by nodding into an unguarded net. The three points were just reward for Carlos Queiroz's side who, despite never being at their most fluent, were always in the ascendancy and should have had more to show than just the solitary strike.
The home side dominated possession from the outset, and they were soon camped in the Partizan half as Roberto Carlos surged forward and peppered the visitors' goal with shots. His first came after just four minutes - a trademark effort from the Brazilian that tested the handling of Partizan goalkeeper Djordje Pantic.
Show off skills
The visitors were struggling to get hold of the ball and Zinedine Zidane and Beckham were enjoying the chance to show off their skills, albeit without really threatening to unlock the Partizan defence. After eleven minutes Beckham picked out Roberto Carlos with a clever, deep free-kick from the right, but the full-back blasted his volley high over the crossbar from a good position.
The Madrid superstars were all getting in on the act and Raúl headed wide before Figo curled a shot with the outside of his right foot just past Pantic's right-hand post. Lothar Matthäus's side simply could not get out of their own half. Whenever they did get possession they invariably gave the ball straight back to the home team and invited another attack.
After Beckham went close with a free-kick Ronaldo should have opened the scoring, but after being played through by Zidane's sumptuous through-ball he fired at the legs of Pantic, who was keeping his side in the game. Seven minutes before half-time Madrid finally secured the breakthrough, with Figo heading Beckham's left-wing corner towards goal and Raúl flicking the ball into the net.
Partizan came out after the break a much-improved side and Ivica Iliev and substitute Milan Stojanoski both gave Madrid a scare with efforts that went close. Ten minutes after the interval Ljubinko Drulovic had a golden chance to level matters, but his goal-bound volley was brilliantly blocked six metres out by Beckham.
Stamp their authority
The nine-times winners of the tournament soon began to stamp their authority on proceedings, with Figo curling another shot from the edge of the penalty area over and Beckham seeing Pantic make a brilliant save from point-blank range after Ronaldo had unselfishly passed.
As Madrid pushed hard for the goal that would have put the result beyond doubt, Ronaldo and Beckham got in each other's way with the goal at their mercy, and the Brazilian striker then sent a shot agonisingly wide of Pantic's left-hand post with the goalkeeper beaten. Beckham was at the heart of everything Madrid had to offer, and more good build-up play from the England captain resulted in Figo seeing Pantic pull off yet another stunning reflex stop.
The last ten minutes became a stroll for the Spanish side, with Partizan continuing to defend deep to protect their goal and Madrid keeping possession of the ball to seal victory and three more valuable points.