Football: Shearer adds to Arsenal's bad vibrations

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Blackburn Rovers. .1

Arsenal. . . . . . 0

THE FAMOUS old ground was heaving, the occasion richly promising, and although much of the football failed to do it justice, Alan Shearer gave them the result they wanted. All except the cardboard cut-outs that is.

Shearer, who scored twice on his debut as England's costliest footballer, came up with a stunning late strike to welcome the Premier League to Ewood Park with a notable win last night.

Three goals in two games: much more of this and that pounds 3.6m fee will look like peanuts.

Hard to please as he is, even Kenny Dalglish must be satisfied with four points from Blackburn's first two games back in the Big League.

Satisfied was the last word to describe George Graham. Apoplectic after Arsenal's 4-2 defeat at home to Norwich City on Saturday, he was scathing last night about a performance he found lacking in enthusiasm and application. Without a point after two games and bottom of the League, they are looking anything but Championship favourites.

For a long time, two millionaire teams gave us a tuppenny-ha'penny game, the first half expiring without a goal attempt on target. The setting deserved better.

For those of us in need of reassurance that football is not suddenly about dancing girls and fireworks, there is no better place than salt-of-the-earth Blackburn to find it. The old mill towns are the last bastions against the marketing 'fancy dans' and their transatlantic intrusions. At Ewood Park, the product is still all Bovril and 'get stuck in', not diet Coke and 'have a nice day'.

The public address was traditional enough to treat us to hits from the last time Rovers dined at the top table - 'Good Vibrations' and 'Bus Stop' from 1966. In those days, Jack Walker's support took the form of 10 bob at the turnstiles rather than pounds 10m at the bank.

Fears that Blackburn's mega- rich patron might have more money than sense are probably unfounded on the evidence of his decision not to fund the pounds 3m recruitment of Geoff Thomas. After watching Thomas on Saturday, Walker is said to have suggested that there were better ways of spending his money - on Chelsea's Andy Townsend, for example.

Stuart Ripley, a snip by Rovers' standards at a mere pounds 1.3m, was quick to earn the approval of his new home crowd. The games best moments, such as they were, all featured the winger from Middlesbrough. Apart from supplying the path for Shearer's decisive strike, he showed impressive pace and dexterity on either flank, threatened to bring down David Seaman's crossbar with a 20-yarder, and was desperately close with a deft curler from similar range.

The first half was of such grinding poverty that the first incident of consquence was delayed until the 47th minute when Kevin Campbell, put through by Anders Limpar's penetrative pass, fell over Bobby Mimms in attempting to round the goalkeeper. Nobody was fooled by his appeal for a penalty.

Almost immediately, Mike Newell beat Seaman close in. His celebrations were curtailed by an offside flag, but something was stirring out there, at last.

Despite the welcome improvement, a goalless draw was odds on with six minutes left when Shearer produced a roar that might have been heard back in Southampton. Fastening on to Ripley's pass, he shouldered Jimmy Carter aside and advanced with pace and determination before beating Seaman with a 20-yard shot which was assisted by a late deflection off Tony Adams.

'I thought get your head down, go for goal and shoot,' Shearer said. That sort of uncluttered thinking brought him a hat-trick against Arsenal as a 17-year-old debutant and will keep him in the England team, as Gary Lineker's heir apparent.

Blackburn Rovers: Mimms; May, Dobson, Sherwood, Hendry, Moran, Ripley, Atkins, Shearer, Newell, Wilcox. Substitutes not used: Price, Wegerle, Dickins (gk).

Arsenal: Seaman; Dixon, Winterburn, Hillier, Bould, Adams, Jensen (Pates, 77), Smith, Campbell, Carter, Limpar (Groves, 83). Substitute not used: Will (gk).

Referee: J Worrall (Warrington).

(Photograph omitted)