Kahn the fall guy again as Beckham survives cold war

Jeff Powell

Last updated at 00:00 25 February 2004

OLIVER KAHN, the archetypal German goalkeeper, froze on the night when Bayern Munich were hoping Real Madrid would go adrift in the Bavarian blizzards.

Once again on the big occasion Kahn was undone by a Brazilian, just as he was in the 2002 World Cup Final. Only this time it was a Roberto Carlos free-kick which he let slip, not a Ronaldo shot, for a goal as embarrassing as it is potentially catastrophic for Bayern. So ended an Arctic evening which had begun with David Beckham as the essential - if not exactly quintessential Englishman at the core of Real's snowbound mission to Munich.

On the wintry night after Ruud van Nistelrooy confessed how much Manchester United were missing their talismanic No 7, Beckham was required to set the example by which his sunshine boys from Spain might survive the latest battle in European football's bitterest cold war.

The relationship between Bayern and Real has become distinctly frosty down the years and the German champions were hoping Real would struggle in the cold. Manager Ottmar Hitzfeld said: 'The southerners do not like these conditions.' Now Beckham hails from the south of England but there are not many softies to be found in East London.

While he may not qualify for the old school tie - not with his ponytail, earrings and sarong - there is rarely much questioning his dedication to a cause and he is the most accustomed of Madrid's all-stars to the rigours of February in northern Europe.

No midwinter break in the Premiership he has left.

At least not yet.

So Real were looking to their Englishman on the frozen moonscape of the Olympic Stadium. He did his best but he was commissioned for an uphill task.

While the Spanish conquistadors had lost all seven of their previous European games here, Beckham's penultimate visit was as captain for England's 5-1 World Cup massacre of Germany.

However, landing on ice in Munich is a haunting experience for those old enough to remember the United plane crash in 1958. But, while Beckham, after his many seasons at Old Trafford, will be well-versed in the history of that disaster, he was born long after Duncan Edwards, Tommy Taylor and the others perished on that chill, dark night.

Nor had he been involved in the history of these confrontations, which Bayern were leading by nine wins to four. So it was without fear that England's global celebrity took his place in the showcase tie of the last 16.

Madrid kicked off as favourites to win club football's supreme prize, let alone reach the quarterfinal.

Munich's president, the legendary Franz Beckenbauer, assessed his club's chances of aggregate win at 'no better than 30 per cent.' Beckham's task was given an extra degree of difficulty by Bayern's tactic of flooding the midfield with five men, including his fellow England cast member Owen Hargreaves.

Real suspected Bayern were bluffing about being underdogs. They were right.

A first half of powerful running and intensifying pressure saw Claudio Pizarro miss the best two chances and Hargreaves force Iker Casillas to dive low to save his 20-yard shot.

As Bayern threatened to run riot in the second half, Roy Makaay missing a sitter, Pizarro and Michael Ballack both going close - Beckham became involved in another dustup with an Argentine opponent. This time it was Martin Demichelis who was cautioned, which was just as well since a booking would have ruled Beckham out of the return leg.

Makaay's header from Pizarro's cross put Bayern within 15 minutes of yet another home victory over Real. But then disaster befell Kahn, who went down for a Roberto Carlos freekick from fully 30 yards, only to let the ball spill out of his hands and over the line.

Beckham rejoiced but the best news for his old manager Sir Alex Ferguson, as well as Arsenal and Chelsea, is that the most vulnerable Real team for many a season is likely now to eliminate Bayern' s redoubtable competitors as this elite tournament emerges from hibernation.