Football: Venables lauds front-line pairing

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The Independent Online
TERRY VENABLES, the England coach, could not praise Alan Shearer highly enough after a game in which he scored both goals, suggesting that the best may be yet to come from Blackburn's predatory striker. 'He was excellent,' Venables said. 'His all-round game was first class. His receiving, his movement and particularly the width and depth he provided us with. He's a top-class striker and he's still a young guy.'

Venables was also delighted with the understanding that Shearer and Tottenham's Teddy Sheringham showed as a pair in an area of the English game where competition could not be keener; as if to remind us of that fact, Venables replaced the pair of them with Ian Wright and Les Ferdinand for the closing minutes.

Inevitably, however, Venables kept coming back to Shearer: 'His second goal was particularly exceptional. The ball was slightly behind him and he did well to get the power.' Boro Milutinovic, the American coach, was in agreement: 'Extraordinary - from its inception to execution.'

However, Milutinovic seemed to suggest that the England team which they defeated in Foxboro 15 months ago caused them far more difficulty than this one. 'I could make excuses for our performance but that's not proper,' he said. 'I'm happy with the effort my team put in.'

Venables also offered congratulations to John Barnes on his return to the international fold and Barry Venison, the debutant, standing in for the injured Paul Ince. 'I think Barnes won over the fans,' he said. 'He's got very fit and he worked terribly hard for us. I thought he got better as the game wore on.'

Of Venison he said the Newcastle captain played as if he had been fulfilling his particular role for quite some time. 'He gives the ball early - that's what I like about him,' Venables said. 'I also thought the midfield worked very hard to stop them getting at us.'

Venables denied that the Americans were not worthy opposition: 'They're a very fit team. He's (Milutinovic) a very good coach and organises defenders well. They play on the counter-attack all the time and I would say that they made us work hard for our win.'

Venables conceded, however, that the 'big one' was yet to come: at home to Romania on 12 October.