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FOOTBALL

Own goal gives England great start

story.beckham.afp.gi.jpg
Beckham's long-range free-kick produced an early own goal.

FRANKFURT, Germany -- England made a superb start to their opening World Cup finals Group B game when they took a third minute lead against Paraguay in Frankfurt.

David Beckham curled in a 40-yard free-kick from the left and Paraguayan captain Carlos Gamarra rose in an attempt to head clear but merely deflected the ball past goalkeeper Justo Villar.

Paraguay's problems worsened four minutes later when Villar had to limp off injured and Aldo Bonadilla came on in the fastest substituion of a goalkeeper in World Cup history.

Paraguay coach Anibal Ruiz gambled by choosing to start striker Roque Santa Cruz but the Bayern Munich player, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, was a peripheral figure as England's central midfield duo of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard seized control of the midfield.

Gerrard, who had been struggling with a hip injury in the build-up to the game, was booked for a heavy tackle on Cristian Riveros, while Paraguay's Nelson Valdez also went into the book for a lunge on Beckham.

Riveros and Valdez, on the stroke of half-time, had Paraguay's only meaningful efforts of the first half while at the other end Michael Owen and Peter Crouch kept Paraguay's defence occupied.

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