Cech quiet on anti-Rafa chants

Dundee United booked their ticket for Monday’s Scottish Cup

semi-final draw with a deserved 2-1 victory over Dundee at Dens

Park.

The home side, 15 points adrift at the bottom of the SPL, could

not recover from the concession of two soft first-half goals,

despite Jim McAlister offering a brief glimmer of hope.

United took the lead when Brian McLean (11) was given the

freedom of the penalty area to glance home a header from Barry

Douglas’s inswinging free-kick.

Dundee levelled as John Baird helped the ball into the path of

McAlister (19), who drilled a low first-time strike into the corner

from 15 yards.

The equaliser heralded the best spell of the match for the Dark

Blues as Baird headed over before the home striker saw his low shot

saved by the feet of Radoslaw Cierzniak.

United were promptly back in front as Stuart Armstrong teed up

the lively Gary Mackay-Steven (35) with a shrewd pass and the

midfielder did not have to break stride before drilling in a

snap-shot from 18 yards.

Michael Gardyne worked Rab Douglas at his near post while Lewis

Toshney’s risible free-kick from 30 yards underlined the hosts’

growing frustration.

A flurry of Dundee corners yielded nought until Davide Grassi

made some space eight yards out but his header was tame.

Jon Daly was inches away from poking home a third goal for

United, but it was not to matter, the final stages pockmarked only

by a flurry of needless yellow cards.

The Glasgow giants headed into the break at Ibrox trailing to an

Andrew Stirling strike and in danger of suffering an upset as they

edge closer to the Scottish Third Division title.

McCulloch felt too many players were trying to steal the

headlines for themselves and the skipper let his feelings be known

in the dressing room.

Rangers then hit back through a McCulloch goal and a double from

Andy Little to secure the points in the second half.

The Gers captain said: “In the first half it was a team of

individuals but I thought in the second half we played as a team

better.

“That showed in the result and the performance. The boys were

having a wee go at each other at half-time, which was needed. We

knew it wasn’t good enough.

“After having a chat with each other, it showed in the second

half, when we came out to play some good stuff at times.”

He added: “I think the most important thing is team performance.

In the first half, I think there were a couple of individuals

trying to make the headlines with shots from the byline and stuff

like that instead of playing as a team and wanting to win as a

team.

“It’s not an individual game and I think that annoyed a couple

of people. In the second half, we played as team.”

The visit of the Shire was McCulloch’s first outing since early

January after being sidelined with an ankle problem.

He said: “It felt great to be back. I was a bit nervous before

the game.

“I was out for about seven weeks and only had two days training

so I felt a bit tired with 10 minutes to go but I really enjoyed

it.”

The victory followed an eventful week for Rangers, which saw

them found guilty of breaching Scottish Premier League rules over

non-disclosure of payments to players between 2000-2011, with the

oldco fined ?250,000.

But they were celebrating after the independent commission ruled

no sporting advantage was gained, meaning the Light Blues avoided

the ultimate sanction of being stripped of up to five titles.

McCulloch says a win was important to cap an important few days

for Rangers – but claimed taking a step closer to wrapping up the

championship was the main motivating factor.

He said: “I’m sure it’s been a good week for the fans and it’s

been a good week for the players and the staff and everybody.

“But the most important thing was keeping this title charge

going and looking to win the league.”

Shire boss John Coughlin had nothing but praise for his players

despite the defeat.

He said: “I thought we were excellent.

“We knew there was a storm coming in the second half because the

Rangers fans would not be happy being a goal down to the Shire.

“But I thought we enjoyed the game and passed it about

well.”

Much of the focus was on Benitez after the Spaniard had hit out

at his title of ‘interim manager’ and criticised the fans for using

their energies to insult him, rather than support the team, in

mid-week.

However, on Saturday there were messages for him on banners,

chants for his predecessors Roberto Di Matteo and Jose Mourinho and

vitriol hurled in the Spaniard’s direction.

“I’m so focused on the game that I hardly understand what the

people sing or shout or what they do,” Cech told Chelsea TV.

“The main point is the people were here, the stadium was full,

they were behind us, they supported the team and we won the

game.

“We had a good performance and everyone seemed to leave the

stadium happy.”

Demba Ba’s 28th-minute strike was the difference, but Chelsea,

and Oscar in particular, spurned a number of other chances to make

the game safe before a late rally from the Baggies.

Cech made strong saves from long-range shots by Steven Reid and

Peter Odemwingie, but his most instinctive block came when a corner

deflected goalwards off Chelsea right-back Cesar Azpilicueta.

Cech added: “Their chances came at the end because they threw

everything at us and we hadn’t killed them off. This was the story

of the season a little bit. We had so many chances and Ben Foster

had a great game.

“They survived until the 80th minute and then they waited

patiently for their chances up front, they had to.

“But overall our performance was very good. Everybody was

focused, everybody was concentrated until the last whistle.”

Ba scored his fourth Chelsea goal – and first against a side

other than Southampton – to end a seven-match scoreless streak.

He praised David Luiz for having the skill and intelligence to

head Oscar’s cross back into the six-yard box, rather than go for

goal himself.

Ba told Chelsea TV: “He (Luiz) put the ball exactly where he

wanted to and I was there.”

Luiz was playing at centre back, rather than the central

midfield role in which Benitez has deployed him of late, due to the

decision to rotate John Terry and Gary Cahill.

Terry continues to be used sparingly on his return from injury,

while Cahill missed the midweek FA Cup win at Middlesbrough with a

virus. Both were unused substitutes.

After a fraught week, Benitez was boosted by the victory.

He said on Chelsea TV: “I’m quite positive. I knew it could be

more or less difficult, but the main thing is the team.

“I could see we needed the fans behind the team. That is the

reason I said I will not stay beyond the end of the season.”

The result would have been more comfortable had it not been for

Foster, who recently declared himself available for England once

more and stopped Chelsea on numerous occasions.

The watching England boss Roy Hodgson would have been impressed

ahead of this month’s matches with San Marino and Montenegro.

Foster was unaware former Baggies boss Hodgson and England

goalkeeper coach Dave Watson, whom he worked with at Birmingham,

were at Stamford Bridge.

The 29-year-old goalkeeper – who has won five caps for England,

the last in November 2010 before he announced his retirement in May

2011 – said on West Brom’s official website: “It was good to put on

a good performance.

“I spoke to Roy last week about England and he was very happy

with it. I also spoke to the goalkeeper coach Dave Watson. I’m very

happy with the decision.

“The main reason I’ve made the decision is my body really has

improved a lot over the last few years – they’re the best I’ve

had.

“The kids are getting on for four and five now and starting

school so I won’t see them as much. That was the main reason behind

it.

“Roy also knows what I’m about. He worked with me for a year at

West Brom and he knows what he’s going to get from me.

“He said ‘there are a lot of good goalkeepers out there so go

out there and show me you can get into the team’.

“You don’t expect to walk straight back into the team but I’ll

take every game as it comes and go out there and look to do as well

as I can for West Brom.”