Football: Shearer a class apart

Blackburn Rovers 3

Shearer 17, pen 60, Wilcox 43

Everton 0

Attendance: 26,538

IF IT was supposed to be a fresh beginning for Everton at Ewood Park yesterday they are in deep trouble. Two new signings, a sleek Nigerian striker and a defender returning to Merseyside, did little to dispel the notion that the School of Science is in for another long, gloomy winter.

Science has given way to something altogether less precise and there may need to be many more experiments conducted yet before the winning formula is rediscovered. For Blackburn these were easy pickings. They were accurate and clinical when and where it mattered and they also benefited hugely once more from having the best striker in England.

Alan Shearer appears not to have stretches of poor form - 'Business as usual,' as the Blackburn central defender Colin Hendry put it later. Two goals for England in midweek had made him no less hungry and no less rampant. True, he might have bagged a hat-trick, even four goals here, but the misses proved only that he his fallible. They did not disprove that he is utterly outstanding.

His first goal, in the 17th minute, came out of nothing and was perfectly executed. Daniel Amokachi, Everton's new Nigerian signing, might have learned something by watching it. Shearer pounced on a clearance from goalkeeper Tim Flowers some 35 yards from goal, trapped the ball, controlled it and made sure he had stolen a march on defender David Unsworth. He then rifled a shot wide of Neville Southall who could only push it into the bottom left-hand corner.

Southall went on to have one of his better days behind a defence which was frequently pulled this way and that. It was also turned too readily and not only Shearer might have had more goals for Blackburn. Their second came just before half- time with the England striker again involved, this time as delicate provider. His well-judged cross from the right found Jason Wilcox lurking free of markers beyond the far post. He wasted no time in striking the ball home first time with his left foot.

Shearer then actually missed a couple of chances, allowing Unsworth to put in a blocking tackle as he bore down on goal and failing to get enough power into a header just four yards out. He made it three, however, from the penalty spot 15 minutes into the second-half after his striking partner, Chris Sutton, had his legs taken from under him in a goalmouth melee. As Amokachi remarked later, Shearer's was a thoroughly impressive demonstration.

'I had heard of him,' he said, 'but I didn't know much about him. From where I was standing, he looked very good.'

Blackburn are obviously serious contenders for honours again this season and their manager, Kenny Dalglish, in his austere way, was pleased. There were just 10 minutes remaining in the second-half when the side lacked concentration, he said. But they soon found it again. Dalglish said it was a powerful performance full of good things and not only from his leading striker.

Everton were simply not good enough to push them hard. As the match went on they surrendered any semblance of control in midfield where Tim Sherwood and the Australian international Robbie Slater looked prominent for Rovers. They are still too prone to give away unlikely goals - Shearer's first being an example - and if this unfortunate trait continues so will their position in the table.

Mike Walker, the Everton manager, was appropriately downbeat afterwards: 'We've got a lot of things to work on and we know that,' he said. 'They're a very good side and when you give them a start it's extremely difficult to get back into it.' He was right on both counts.

(Photograph omitted)

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