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Updated Monday June 5, 2000
Malta Assault. Shearer accused of elbowing
By Nigel Clarke

England are involved in an embarrassing pre-Euro 2000 row, with captain Alan Shearer accused of deliberately elbowing a Malta defender and breaking his nose.

Shearer's clash with Darren Debono ended with the Maltese player going off after 33 minutes of Saturday's friendly in Valletta with a blood-stained shirt and shorts. He later needed stitches and the injury was confirmed as a clean break.

Debono said: 'Shearer caught me with his elbow as I got ahead of him to challenge for the ball. It was a deliberate foul and the worst one I have ever received in my career. He hit me so hard that I was still stunned as I walked off.

'He apologised later but it was too late, the damage was done. There were no excuses for what he did and I was surprised that an England captain should behave like that.

'I thought the Italian referee should have sent Shearer off. At the very least he should have received a yellow card.'

It is another embarrassing incident for Shearer, who did not have a good game in the 2-1 victory.

He was sent off for a similar offence on Aston Villa's Colin Calderwood on the first day of last season and before the 1998 World Cup, threatened to resign the England captaincy if the Football Association pursued an incident involving Leicester's Neil Lennon that threatened to embroil him in disciplinary proceedings.

Debono left the Malta dressing-room on Saturday with a large strip of plaster over his nose and both nostrils plugged, his face so swollen and bloodied that his small son burst into tears when he saw him.

Shearer, who went off himself to have an icepack pressed on his left knee, said: 'I think I did catch their centre half but there was no intention on my part. We were both going for the ball. I caught him but I apologised afterwards.'

The 29-year-old striker, who will retire from international football after Euro 2000, also failed to add to the 28 goals he has scored for his country and has now gone six games without hitting the back of the net for England.

Malta right back Brian Said, a committed England fan who cheered Shearer on during Euro 96, said: 'I thought he was going to be a big problem but I found him fairly easy to deal with. He was moaning a lot, complaining that the crosses weren't coming in. England did not look that dangerous to me.'

Shearer conceded that England coach Kevin Keegan was unhappy with the performance, saying: 'He made his feelings known afterwards.

'We created a lot of chances but didn't put them away. We were disappointed because we gave them five good chances. There were some positive things but a lot of negatives.

'I went off as a precaution as soon as I went down. There is no danger of me missing the Portugal match next Monday.'

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