Blackburn Rovers. . .3
GAMES like this could give English football a good name abroad again. The BBC World Service made the right decision to tune in for a second half of escalating drama as Alan Shearer completed a fine hat-trick - his first for Blackburn - before Leeds regrouped to reach parity with two goals in the final eight minutes.
An Elland Road crowd of 37,827 - Leeds' largest of the season - was kept enthralled throughout, thanks to Kenny Dalglish's visitors. Rovers operated in a 4-2-4 formation with Stuart Ripley and Kevin Gallacher heading for the byline while Shearer and Mike Newell aimed for the goal-line.
Ripley's incursions down the right brought Shearer his first two goals, both straightforward finishes. In the 25th minute, Ripley toyed with Tony Dorigo, confusing the England left-back, before floating over a cross which Newell headed goalwards. Mark Beeney athletically palmed the ball away but Shearer materialised at the end of a line of white shirts to force in his sixth goal of the season.
His seventh of a truncated term arrived early in the second period when Ripley's right-wing cross curled behind Leeds' defence for Shearer to score at the far post.
'We gave away goals like it was Harrods' sale,' Howard Wilkinson, the Leeds manager, said. Unfortunately for him Dalglish and his patron, Jack Walker, buy their players at the footballing equivalents of Harrods, and Shearer would have been a match for anyone yesterday. 'There's more to come from him as well,' Dalglish said.
The tireless Gary McAllister halved the deficit by punishing David May's foul on Brian Deane with a well-struck penalty, but the final curtain had still not fallen on the Shearer show.
The England international's third, 15 minutes from time, was a delight, from the quick-thinking Newell's early free-kick to Shearer's low drive from 20 yards.
The Lancashire masses swayed in homage to Shearer, but their genuflections were ruined in an edge-of-seat climax. Jon Newsome made it 3-2 with a shot Shearer would have admired before Leeds extended their unbeaten Premiership record to seven matches when McAllister's cut-back from the right deflected in off Tim Sherwood.