Blackburn Rovers. . .2
Shearer 38, 64
THE aftermath of this match summed up the afternoon. Alan Shearer said something to Dave Bassett and the Sheffield United manager had to be hauled away by his coaching staff. Presumably, Shearer's words had not been on the lines of 'bad luck, well played'.
It was an appropriate climax to a bad-tempered affair that was memorable for its ugliness rather than any beauty in its play. United's Alan Cork and Carl Bradshaw were sent off for two bookable offences while three other players were cautioned.
At least two other players, Dane Whitehouse and Tim Sherwood, could also have been dismissed after a brawl on the touchline that culminated in a free-for-all involving several of their team-mates. Surprisingly, the referee, Peter Foakes, took no action on that occasion other than to award a free-kick for the visitors.
Asked to comment on the officiating, Kenny Dalglish, the Blackburn manager, replied: 'I have my thoughts but I'd rather buy my kids a present than pay a fine. I'd better plead the Fifth Amendment. All I can say is that people will look at the sendings-off and get the wrong impression. It was a hard match but nothing more.'
Even so, it was difficult to query either sending-off. Cork appeared to use his elbows in a challenge with Colin Hendry after he had earlier been booked for fouling David Batty, while Bradshaw launched himself at Shearer with little regard for the ball or the England striker's health. 'He deserved to be sent off and deserves to be banned,' the latter said. 'If I'd not jumped out of the way I'd be on the way to hospital now.'
The two dismissals crowned a wholly unhappy day for United, who, for much of the game, had belied their League position by outplaying their opponents. Andy Scott put them ahead after 17 minutes, albeit via a deflection off Hendry, and for much of the first half, it was difficult to understand how Blackburn could spend all their money and produce so little.
Shearer provided the answer with two goals that underlined his worth, if not everyone else's, in a blue-and-white shirt. The first was a quicksilver turn and shot from the right of the area that flew past Alan Kelly into the far corner of the goal, and the second was a tap-in on the goal-line that increased his haul this season to 23.
It was the striker's art at its most minimalist but Bassett, for one, did not want to applaud the England player, forgoing his habit of talking no matter the result via a message delivered by an official. 'I'm not saying anything,' it said, 'because of the heated nature of the game.'
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