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Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 22:46 GMT
Beckham off in Man Utd epic
Man Utd 1-1 Necaxa
Manchester United showed all their famous diehard spirit as they fought back from losing David Beckham in a controversial dismissal to snatch a draw with Mexican side Necaxa in their World Club Championship opener.
United were already trailing 1-0, after a Cristian Montecinos free kick had put the Mexicans ahead in the 15th minute.
The sending off, not one but two saved penalties, and a late equaliser from United were all packed into an astonishing 90 minutes.
The British side battled their way back into the game despite being a man down to keep their tournament hopes alive.
Ecuador international Alex Aguinaga and Dwight Yorke both had penalties saved before the United striker grabbed a deserved equaliser ten minutes from time.
It is difficult to imagine a more controversial or action-filled match.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson spent the build up to this tournament fielding questions about the organisation and value of the World Club Championships.
And though Ferguson will not have enjoyed his side's controversial debut in the tournament, the match sparked what had until now been a lacklustre event, into life.
The game started slowly - instead of showing the tiny Rio crowd their treble-winning class, Ferguson's men appeared nervous and disjointed.
While United appeared to be waiting for the sun to sink out of sight and cool the 90 degree heat before hitting their full stride, Necaxa came haring out of the blocks.
Jaap Stam, normally such a rock in defence was a particularly slow starter and it was a mistake by him in the 15th minute which allowed Necaxa to take a shock early lead.
Midfield playmaker Alex Aguinaga won a free-kick on the edge of the box and from the resulting set-play, Cristian Montecinos stepped out of a gang of three to curl a left-footed shot past the rooted Mark Bosnich.
The goal rocked the English side and, as the shadows finally engulfed the pitch at the Maracana Stadium, they finally injected the missing urgency into their game.
The 8,000 crowd did not know it then but that was to be merely the first surprise turn in a rollercoaster ride of a match.
With the clock showing three minutes before the interval, the game sparked into life in the most ugly fashion.
Beckham, who along with most of the United players had been booed by the largely Brazilian crowd, raised his studs in a waist high challenge on Jose Milian.
The Necaxa players were incensed by the tackle - and the apparent bad-tempered follow-through - and Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo waited only to consult briefly with his assistant before showing Beckham the red card.
The dismissal revived the doubts raised over Beckham's temper when he was sent off when playing for England in the 1998 World Cup - and once again left his team-mates a man short.
United had struggled to create more than a fleeting chance - squandered by Dwight Yorke - in the first-half and were now facing a huge uphill task in the final 45 minutes.
From the restart, Nexaca surged forward.
In the space of three minutes they created havoc in the European champions' box.
And just when skipper Roy Keane appeared to have steadied his side, French defender Silvestre gave Necaxa the chance to inflict the killer blow.
His slip allowed Montecinos a clear run on goal and though he recovered his ground to make a challenge, referee Elizondo once again penalised Man United and awarded a 56th minute penalty.
Aguinaga could have put the game beyond the European champions reach but Bosnich produced a flying save to keep his side's hopes alive.
Further controversy was to follow as Ferguson was apparently ordered from the touchline by the Kuwaiti fourth official.
With 20 minutes to go, a defiant Ferguson who had remained in the dugout, made the decisive changes.
He threw three men up front - replacing Andy Cole and Denis Irwin with European Cup heroes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Teddy Sheringham - and swapped the hardworking Nicky Butt for Phil Neville.
Sheringham curled a close-range shot just high on 77 minutes and Yorke missed a glorious chance when his nondescript penalty, awarded for a clear handball, was saved by 38-year-old Pineda.
But just as he did in Barcelona. Solskjaer proved his side's saviour - his 82nd minute mis-hit shot providing Yorke with a perfectly weighted cross which he side-footed home from inside six yards.
But the heat and the numerical disadvantage had taken their toll and a last-minute winner for once proved beyond Ferguson's men.
Man Utd: Bosnich, G. Neville, Irwin, Silvestre, Stam, Butt, Keane, Beckham, Giggs, Cole, Yorke.
Subs: Rachubka, Van Der Gouw, Higginbottom, Sheringham, P. Neville, Cruyff, Greening, Wilson, Solskjaer, Wallwork, Berg, Fortune.
Necaxa: Pineda, Cabrera, Almaguer, Aguinaga, Perez, Delgado, Lopez, Vigna, Milian, Montecinos, Higareda.
Subs: Alvarez, Guadarrama, Ambriz, Scotti, Acosta, Terres, Ochoa, Velazquez, Becerril, Hernandez, Oliva, Vazquez.
Referee: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina)
Links to other World Club Championship stories are at the foot of the page.
Links to more World Club Championship stories
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