Goalscorers: Mark Bright 37, Stuart Ripley 42, Gareth Southgate 63, Alan Shearer 66, 81, Simon Osborn 90
Crystal Palace: Nigel Martyn, Chris Coleman (Simon Osborn 81), John Humphrey, Richard Shaw, Gareth Southgate, Andy Thorn, Eric Young, Eddie McGoldrick, John Salako (Simon Rodger 73), Geoff Thomas, Mark Bright
Blackburn Rovers: Bobby Mimms, Tony Dobson, Colin Hendry, David May, Kevin Moran, Alan Wright (Chris Price 28), Mark Atkins, Tim Sherwood, Stuart Ripley, Mike Newell, Alan Shearer
Referee: Roger Milford, Attendance: 17,086
On the very first day of FA Premier League football, there was plenty of attention on an expensively assembled Blackburn Rovers squad as they made the trip to south London to take on Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Blackburn were fielding the most expensive player in British football as 22-year old Alan Shearer made his club debut after his summer switch from Southampton. He wouldn’t disappoint and nor would the match itself on day one of the new era.
Played in bright, blazing sunshine, it did take both teams a while to get to grips with the humid conditions and only sporadic half-chances were created in the first 35 minutes. Eight minutes before the interval though, Crystal Palace took the lead. Young full-back Richard Shaw produced a great cross and Mark Bright was in the right place with a downward header to beat Bobby Mimms in the Blackburn goal. It was one of Bright’s final contributions in a Crystal Palace shirt. He would be sold to Sheffield Wednesday a few weeks later.
Newly-promoted Blackburn were level though just five minutes later. Shearer, who had experienced a quiet first half, provided a cross which drifted over the penalty box but was rescued by his new strike partner, Mike Newell. Newell’s cross was spot-on and an unmarked Stuart Ripley scored a rare header on his Rovers debut to level the score at half-time.
After a cagey first 45 minutes, the second half was more open and entertaining. Ripley, a summer arrival for £1.3 million from Middlesbrough, was a menace all afternoon and the winger nearly got his second of the game early in the second half, launching a shot just over the crossbar after one of his trademark runs from out wide. Steve Coppell’s Eagles, who had finished 10th in the last season of the old First Division also had their moments. John Salako produced a fierce drive which Mimms did well to tip over the crossbar. However, the Blackburn goalkeeper was culpable for Palace’s second goal. His weak punch out from a corner was returned in spectacular fashion by 21-year-old Gareth Southgate. His volley from the edge of the penalty area found the back of the net for his first goal in senior football.
Then, Shearer made his first major repayment on the transfer fee Blackburn had forked out for him. From a long punt up the park on 66 minutes, Newell’s flick-on found Shearer and he demonstrated his qualities with a dipping, swerving volley over the top of Nigel Martyn for a spectacular equaliser. Blackburn’s first top-flight match in 26 years was turning into a gripping contest and with nine minutes to go, Kenny Dalglish’s side went infront for the first time with another marvellous goal from Britain’s new record signing. Chasing a hopeful ball from Tony Dobson, Shearer cut inside from the left-hand side and hit another special shot that once again gave Martyn no chance of saving.
However, Crystal Palace kept battling on and in truth deserved a point as they played a major role in how the match unfolded. With virtually the last action in the contest, Eddie McGoldrick won a free-kick and substitutes Simon Rodger and Simon Osborn combined to earn the home side an equaliser. Rodger’s free-kick was guided into the net by Osborn’s late header. Roger Milford blew the full-time whistle virtually straight after the restart of play to highlight how late this goal was.
It was a season of contrasting fortunes for these teams. Blackburn coped well with the expectation and finished fourth but Crystal Palace were relegated on the final day and Coppell resigned shortly after the season concluded.