Shearer's praise

Monday 19 November 2001

Alan Shearer acknowledged the huge progress made by his one-time protege Louis Saha after the Frenchman helped deepen Newcastle's capital woes with a wonder strike on Saturday.

Saha, 23, hit a peach of a goal - a 25-yard left-foot curler that would have made even David Beckham green with envy - to start United's decline towards their 27th consecutive match in London without victory.

The Magpies' vocal 1600 strong travelling army must surely be tiring of the 600-mile round-trip down the A1, especially when the man of the match is a young striker who flopped during a six-month loan at St James' Park two-and-a-half years ago.

Saha came back to haunt Newcastle with a stunning 20th-minute goal after a smart one-two with Sylvain Legwinski - who drove home the second 10 minutes later - and Shearer was struck by the ability of Saha, who had not scored in the league for three months.

"Saha has definitely improved since he was at Newcastle - without doubt," said Shearer, who also missed a late penalty. "He's quick, confident on the ball and can score goals. He did very well yesterday and looked a very good player. "He was a lot younger and less experienced at Newcastle. You could see he had talent and ability, but it might not have been the right time for him at Newcastle because of the players we already had. "He went back to France and has now gone to Fulham and done very well. The way Fulham play suits him as they don't often kick it long and are a good passing side.

"When we swopped shirts afterwards, I said he'd scored a great goal and good luck to him."

After scoring twice in the opening-day defeat at Manchester United, Saha has endured a barren spell and was understandably happy with his performance.

"I was delighted with the goal and it meant a lot to score against them," he said. "It was very special to score and it was one of my favourite goals. It might go just behind the ones I got against Manchester United. "It was a pleasure playing alongside Shearer a few times and his shirt is for my father, as he is a big fan of his. I had a good time at Newcastle but I have to forget that as I'm playing for Fulham now."

"It was a very disappointed dressing room," Shearer added. "We don't do anything different for away games in London than for any other away games. I really don't know why we find it so difficult. "Our thoughts were not to go to Fulham and put on a show because it's Bobby Robson's old club, but to win because there were three points at stake to get us further up the league. "We're very disappointed with the goals we gave away - they were sloppy. We got back into it at 2-1, but we gave away another sloppy goal. Their third goal was a killer goal."

Shearer was surprised by the award of a spot-kick after Alain Goma's challenge on Laurent Robert, but felt Goma fouled him after Edwin van der Sar saved his shot and the United captain attempted to tuck home the rebound.

"The penalty was a great save but I'm obviously very disappointed," he said. "I last missed a penalty against Sunderland last year. Yesterday, I didn't actually think it was a penalty in the first place, although the second one (Goma's tackle) certainly was.

"Van der Sar is a good goalkeeper, he has a big presence and coped well with our crossing into the box. There's no doubt he's quality."