Black day for Le Saux

Blackburn Rovers 1 Shearer 42 Middlesbrough 0 Attendance: 27 ,996
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The Independent Online
GRAEME LE SAUX'S hopes of appearing for England in next year's European Championship finals were dealt a blow yesterday when the Blackburn Rovers left-back suffered a suspected broken leg in a challenge with, of all people, the 5ft 5in Brazilian Juninho.

The incident occurred 10 minutes into the second half when, with Middlesbrough trailing 1-0, Juninho burst over the halfway line and Le Saux sped in to intercept him. It was very much a 50-50 ball, which Le Saux won well, but stretching to do so he twisted over on his right leg and never got up.

The seriousness of the injury was immediately apparent from the way players from both teams gestured to the touchline for a stretcher to be brought on, and it required five minutes of treatment on the pitch before Le Saux could be carried off.

The loss of Le Saux marred what was otherwise another accomplished home performance by Blackburn, for whom Alan Shearer, almost inevitably, scored the winning goal, a shot from the edge of the area four minutes before half-time after Mike Newell had laid the ball back to him. Therein lie two of the mysteries of the season. How can Blackburn, with seven Premiership wins out of nine at home this season, be so good at Ewood Park and so poor elsewhere? And how can Shearer, for whom this was his 23rd goal of the season, find the net so easily at club level but with such difficulty for England?

Coming after the 5-0 defeat at Coventry the previous week, it was just the response from his players that the manager Ray Harford was looking for, and on a day when a bitter wind blew straight down the ground Blackburn's robustness always looked like proving decisive.

Although Boro came into the game more after Le Saux's departure, their challenge looked spent long before Derek Whyte, their central defender, was sent off two minutes from time for a second bookable offence - a punishment that prompted Boro manager Bryan Robson to wonder whether "we want to turn football into a game in which no one is allowed to touch anyone else." Boro missed the drive in midfield of Jamie Pollock, who was out with a knee infection. And eager though Juninho was, the frequency with which he was over-run did little to allay the suspicion felt when he arrived at Boro that when the weather turned and he was confronted with the more physical side of the English game he might not be such a potent force.

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