Creative Hive - projects
By: Adam Higgins
A DUBIOUS equaliser spared the blushes of an abject Rangers as heroic Albion Rovers held on for a richly deserved draw in their Scottish Cup quarter-final tie at Ibrox.
The struggling League Two outfit produced a remarkable backs-to-the-wall performance to earn a lucrative money-spinning replay, to be played at Hamilton’s New Douglas Park on March 18.
Ciaran Donnelly gave the Wee Rovers a shock lead inside 13 minutes and they remained defiant, with goalkeeper Neil Parry preserving their lead on several occasions.
But the Gers controversially levelled in the final quarter of an hour when Parry appeared to have been fouled by Bilel Mohsni, who competed for David Templeton’s cross.
Rangers were unchanged from their last-gasp 1-0 win over East Fife at New Bayfield last weekend as vice-captain Lee Wallace overcame fatigue which forced the 26-year-old to miss two training sessions at Auchenhowie this week to start at left-back.
Chris Hegarty, Kyle Hutton, Nicky Clark and Ross Perry were still unable to return to the matchday squad after long-term injury while Lewis MacLeod was again nursing a virus.
The Wee Rovers were unchanged from the side that saw off Stenhousemuir and Motherwell in the previous two rounds as Marc McGuigan and Gary Phillips supported frontman Chris Dallas in a rigid 4-5-1 set-up.
Albion almost had the start of their wildest dreams inside 58 seconds when a half-hearted tackle from Bilel Mohsni allowed Chris Dallas to cut back for Liam Cusack, who guided his right-foot shot inches wide of the post from 20 yards.
The Gers, who dominated possession, did not take long to impose their superiority by laying siege to the Rovers goal.
Jon Daly, with seven goals in his previous seven Scottish Cup ties, glanced a David Templeton centre off target in the tenth minute.
But Albion held firm to withstand the onslaught, restricting the Gers to few opportunities in the opening exchanges.
And daring to the dream, the League Two outfit stunned Ibrox into silence by taking the lead on 13 minutes.
McGuigan’s corner was steered dangerously across his own goalmouth by Gers captain Lee McCulloch and Ciaran Donnelly was in the right place at the right time to stab home from close range.
The defender, on his 312th appearance for the club over a nine-year stay, peeled away in celebration towards the 1,100 travelling supporters from Coatbridge.
It was the first goal the Light Blues had conceded in the competition as one of the biggest upsets of the season was firmly on the cards.
Rangers inevitably responded with waves of attacking pressure but with no quality or penetration in the final third, the visitors were able to comfortably repel the danger.
Templeton’s 10 yard header from a Shiels delivery dropped harmlessly onto the roof of the net before Wee Rovers keeper Neil Parry smothered a miscued Nicky Law effort.
Albion’s hopes of holding onto the lead took a blow as striker Dallas could not recover from the after-effects of an aerial challenge with Ian Black and was replaced by former Hibernian trainee David Crawford, who made his first appearance since returning from a groin strain.
Parry, who faced the Gers four times last term with Queen’s Park, was an assured presence between the sticks for Albion as he aided the defence by commanding his penalty area superbly.
The East Kilbride-based stopper made a fine reflex save to thwart a powerful Daly header but the former Dundee United striker was flagged offside from an excellent centre by Law.
Ward watched on pensively in the technical area but Albion, the first fourth-tier side to reach this stage of the competition since Peterhead in 2001, grew in confidence as the tension around the stadium increased.
Russell and Donnelly picked up yellow cards in the space of two minutes to halt any Gers momentum during a scrappy spell.
Parry made a crucial intervention at the feet of Law from an inviting cross by Richard Foster down the right hand side and Templeton crashed a 25-yard shot narrowly over the crossbar.
In a frantic ending to the first half, Shiels was denied by the extended frame of part-time taxman Parry and Templeton had another effort blocked courageously by Ross Dunlop.
Yet the Wee Rovers, who have claimed just two wins on the road this term with the last coming in September, bravely held their own to lead at half-time.
The Gers upped the ante from the outset in the second period with McCulloch, twice a Scottish Cup winner and the only survivor of their 2009 triumph, going close with a curler in the box from Mohsni’s knockdown and Black pinged a 20-yarder into Parry’s midriff in the opening two minutes.
Daly lashed hopelessly off target when presented with a clear sighting of the Albion goal, which lived an extremely charmed life.
The hosts racked up the chances with Parry denying Daly again from Wallace’s cutback before Alan Reid scrambled the danger clear as the embattled League Two side, under immense and relentless pressure, were determined to hold on.
With the traffic flowing in one direction, Templeton checked inside of Reid to bend a swerving effort inches wide and Fraser Aird headed off target.
The home faithful began to grow restless as passes went astray and openings were wasted to the frustration of Ally McCoist.
The Light Blues boss introduced Andy Little, without a goal in his previous 16 appearances, for his Northern Ireland team-mate Shiels after 63 minutes.
Templeton met Aird’s delivery to hook a volley against the top of the crossbar as the equaliser appeared to be getting closer just as the Glasgow rain began to pour.
The visitors were given an almighty let-off when Michael Dunlop poked the ball inches past his own post from a threatening Aird delivery.
Albion’s Liam Cusack flashed a 25-yard effort wide of the target after a mistake from Moshni but sustained cramp in the process and was soon replaced by Dominic Kennedy – a recent signing from English non-league side Workington Town.
Russell also came off suffering from tiredness as supermarket worker Josh Flood entered the fray while Daly was surprisingly withdrawn for the arrival of right-back Sebastian Faure.
Parry was again up to the task to tip over a 30-yard ranger from centre-back Mohsni, who moved up front, as Rangers continued to toil.
But to their relief, they found an equaliser 13 minutes from time albeit with swathes of controversy as the valiant Albion rearguard were finally breached.
Templeton’s deep cross was attacked by Mohsni with Parry also challenging to claim the ball, which ended up in the net.
The Wee Rovers players appealed vehemently for a foul on the keeper to referee John Beaton, who allowed the goal to stand, while fourth official Stephen Finnie was on the receiving end of boss Ward’s complaints in the dugout.
Rangers, who have scored 20 times in the final ten minutes of matches this term, committed more men forward in search of a winner with Aird slicing horribly off target from 18 yards and Mohsni diving to head a Templeton cross wide at the back stick.
McCulloch and Templeton brought comfortable saves from Parry and Mohsni nodded over in their persistent pursuit of a late recovery operation.
But after a breathless five minutes of stoppage time, Albion clung on to avoid defeat against the Gers for the first time since 1935.
The Rangers FC (4-4-1-1): 1 Bell, 2 Foster, 3 Mohsni, 6 McCulloch (C), 5 Wallace, 4 Aird, 8 Black, 11 Law, 7 Templeton, 10 Shiels (Little 63), 9 Daly (Faure 75).
Subs not used: 16 Simonsen (GK), 19 Emilson Cribari, 18 Smith, 14 Peralta, 15 Crawford.
Booked: Black (37)
Goals: Mohsni (78)
Albion Rovers (4-5-1): 1 Parry, 2 Reid, 3 Ross Dunlop, 6 Michael Dunlop, 5 Donnelly, 9 McGuigan, 4 Russell (Flood 75), 8 Chaplain (C), 7 Cusack (Kennedy 69), 11 Phillips, 10 Dallas (Crawford 21).
Subs not used: 17 McGinley (GK), 15 Walker, 16 Innes, 19 Tiffney.
Booked: Russell (34), Donnelly (36), Parry (83), Flood (89)
Goals: Donnelly (13)
Referee: John Beaton (Scotland) – 7/10
By: Adam Higgins
Jordan Rhodes struck for the first time since New Year’s Day to give Rovers a first-half lead before hitting the post early after the break.
The Clarets seized control thereafter with captain Jason Shackell heading home an equaliser from substitute Ross Wallace’s free-kick.
And with eleven minutes remaining, top scorer Danny Ings rattled home his 20th league goal of the campaign to secure their first victory over Rovers since April 1979.
Sean Dyche’s men are now eight points clear of third-placed Derby, who were surprisingly beaten by Millwall on Saturday, and moved to within five points of leaders Leicester in the Championship.
Extending their unbeaten league run to 12 matches, high-flying Burnley will be hugely confident of a first Premier League return in four years.
Tenth-placed Rovers suffered only their second defeat in seven league games and missed out on the chance to close the gap on the play-offs to three points.
Last weekend’s 4-0 defeat by fellow Lancashire neighbours Bolton ended a five-game unbeaten run and saw Gary Bowyer’s men slip six points adrift of sixth-placed Wigan.
Bowyer reacted with five changes as David Dunn, with three goals in his previous three outings against Burnley, and influential captain Grant Hanley, who withdrew from the Scotland squad to face Poland in midweek, returned from injury.
With Matt Kilgallon ruled out with a groin problem, England Under-21 international Michael Keane made his debut after signing on loan from Manchester United while Corry Evans was passed fit for his first start since October.
On-loan Leeds forward Luke Varney made his home debut and Liam Feeney, the 27-year-old who was at Bolton earlier in the campaign, was among the substitutes after joining from Millwall until the rest of the season on Friday.
But January signing Tom Cairney and forward Josh King were still sidelined along with midfielders Ben Marshall and Dickson Etuhu.
Morale was high in the Burnley camp after back-to-back victories over promotion rivals Derby and Nottingham Forest.
Former Watford boss Dyche, 42, fielded the same starting line-up for the eighth successive game with five starters maintaining their ever-present records this term.
The 102nd competitive meeting between the sides was merely 30 seconds old before being abruptly halted in bizarre circumstances as the chicken, a signature of the protests against Blackburn owners the Venkys, made a re-appearance.
Prompting a stoppage of over a minute, it was eventually chased off the pitch by stewards and play was able to resume against the backdrop of a vibrant atmosphere.
Rovers made a bright start with Jordan Rhodes cushioning a header towards goal from a Luke Varney cross which Tom Heaton parried away and gathered at the second attempt.
But the Clarets thought they had taken the lead in the seventh minute when Sam Vokes slid in to turn home a scuffed effort from Scott Arfield although the flag was raised for a tight offside decision.
The spectacle opened up with Burnley gradually gaining a foothold, settling into their passing rhythm and applying pressure on the Rovers defence.
Kieran Trippier supplied two delicious crosses, one flashed off target by top scorer Danny Ings before Arfield, with five league goals this term, pulled away at the back post to loop a header onto the roof of the net.
Ings dragged across the face of goal and wide of the target after Michael Kightly chased down Tommy Spurr as the Clarets pressed high up the pitch.
At the other end, Varney curled off target from the edge of the box after cutting inside of Michael Duff – making his seventh East Lancashire derby appearance.
Rhodes then found space in between the lines but struck tamely into the gloves of goalkeeper Heaton with Jason Shackell in close proximity before lashing another effort harmlessly wide following a poor clearance from Duff.
The Scotland international had gone eight appearances without scoring, the worst run of his career, and having given the Clarets several warning signs, he eventually punished them to end his long goal drought with a moment of real quality.
The 23-year-old controlled Jason Lowe’s cross before shifting away from Shackell and firing superbly into the bottom left-hand corner.
His 17th league goal of the season gave Rovers the crucial breakthrough on 24 minutes but with confidence brimming in the home camp, the Clarets did not lie down.
The visitors, who taunted their 20-point gap over their rivals with a private aircraft message flying over the stadium, responded by penning Blackburn back into their own half with Rovers forced to retreat deeper to protect their slender lead.
The hosts battled well to frustrate their counterparts throughout an evenly-contested first period but almost gifted Burnley an equaliser six minutes before the break.
A poor back-pass from Craig Conway presented Ings with a clean run at goal but the striker, without a goal in his previous four appearances, was denied by Paul Robinson who stood firm to make the block before the rebound was miscued wide.
Rovers could have established a two-goal cushion going into the dressing room had Ben Mee not been in the right place to clear a flicked effort from Lowe off the line.
Inevitably, Burnley came out all guns blazing in the second half with a greater level of urgency and saw their half-hearted cries for a penalty waved away.
Ings latched onto a lofted Kightly pass and went down when tussling with Michael Keane but Premier League official Mike Dean, in charge of his third East Lancashire derby, ignored the claims.
The Clarets’ top scorer was causing problems for Keane and Rovers skipper Hanley and had another effort deflected into the gloves of Robinson.
But with both sides committed to full-blooded attack, Rovers almost gave themselves clear daylight in the 55th minute.
Former Rovers loanee David Jones was dispossessed by derby veteran David Dunn, who slipped in Rhodes and the former Huddersfield frontman hit the base of the left-hand post with a low shot from the edge of the box.
Dyche introduced Ashley Barnes and Ross Wallace in place of Vokes and Kightly midway through the half as the Clarets continued to rally with Rovers adopting an attacking approach as the best form of defence.
Dunn made way for the arrival of debutant Liam Feeney twenty minutes from time and the on-loan Millwall midfielder made his presence felt immediately, picking up a yellow card for a high challenge on Marney which could have resulted in red.
Fourth official Phil Dowd acted as peacemaker to separate the two managers amid a minor fracare in the technical area but it was Dyche who was celebrating as Burnley drew level on 73 minutes.
Wallace sent a teasing free-kick into the penalty area and skipper Shackell, who scored at Ewood Park twelve months ago, climbed bravely above Robinson in the six-yard box to head home his second league goal of the season.
And as Burnley cranked up the intensity, the dramatic turnaround was complete six minutes later.
Barnes’s deep centre was insufficiently cleared by Hanley and Wallace poked the ball into the path of Ings, who calmly slotted home from 12 yards via the clip of the heels of the keeper.
Bowyer immediately sent on French forward Rudy Gestede, a starter in the previous seven league games, as Varney was withdrawn.
Northern Ireland international Corry Evans fired waywardly over the top from Conway’s lay-off and Lowe produced a fine tip-over from Heaton with a fizzing long-range drive.
Gestede twice headed into the midriff of the keeper and Hanley pulled a shot wide on the turn during four minutes of stoppage time as Rovers fought for an equaliser.
But the hosts were resigned to their fate as Burnley’s agonising wait for derby glory finally came to an end to the delight of their ecstatic 4,500 strong away support.
MANAGER AND PLAYER REACTION:
Blackburn Rovers manager Gary Bowyer: “We're hugely disappointed to have lost. I thought it was harsh, but in football it is fine margins. Jordan Rhodes goes through one on one and hits the post. We are disappointed with the two goals we have conceded. My criticism of the side is that we have conceded two goals and the manner of the two goals. They [Burnley] are second in the league - you think they will get automatic promotion. That is what comes from having a settled squad like they do. It is something we have been working to and working very hard. My lads have to keep going. We have go again. People will probably write us off, but that is not the right thing to do. It is important we finish as strongly as we possibly can.”
Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): 1 Robinson, 27 Henley, 5 Hanley (C), 16 Keane, 3 Spurr, 32 Conway, 6 Lowe, 29 Evans, 15 Varney (Gestede 81), 8 Dunn (Feeney 71), 11 Rhodes.
Subs not used: 13 Eastwood (GK), 2 Kane, 14 Marcus Olsson, 17 Williamson, 19 Taylor.
Booked: Varney (55), Feeney (71)
Goals: Rhodes (24)
Burnley (4-4-2): 1 Heaton, 2 Trippier, 4 Duff, 5 Shackell (C), 6 Mee, 19 Kightly (Wallace 68), 8 Marney, 14 Jones, 37 Arfield, 9 Vokes (Barnes 68), 10 Ings.
Subs not used: 12 Cisak (GK), 15 Edgar, 28 Long, 11 Stanislas, 26 Treacy.
Booked: Arfield (74)
Goals: Shackell (73), Ings (79)
Referee: Mike Dean (Wirral) – 9/10
Burnley have used just 22 different players in the Championship so far this season, the fewest in the division.
It was only the second time that Blackburn have lost in 14 Championship games in which they have taken the lead, winning 11 and drawing one after losing 2-1 to Wigan at the DW Stadium.
The Clarets have conceded only 27 league goals so far this season, only QPR (26) have shipped fewer in the Championship.
Burnley are now unbeaten in their last six away games in the Championship, winning three.
Blackburn lost for only the second time in 11 home games in all competitions after a 3-2 defeat to Birmingham in the Championship in late December.
STRIKE PARTNERSHIPS IN ENGLISH FOOTBALL:
Sturridge and Suarez (Liverpool) – 42 goals
Ings and Vokes (Burnley) – 37 goals
Nugent and Vardy (Leicester) – 30 goals
Clarke and Wilson (Coventry) – 29 goals
Lisbie and Mooney (Leyton Orient) – 28 goals
MIKE DEAN THE MAN IN CHARGE:
The 42-year-old Premier League referee from the Wirral took charge of his third East Lancashire derby having overseen the goalless FA Cup fifth round draw in February 2005 and a 1-0 Premier League win for Rovers in March 2010, both at Turf Moor.
Dean has given 89 yellow cards and five red cards in 26 games in all competitions this term.
It is the tenth time he has refereed Burnley since the start of the 2007/08 season.
Dean booked Jerome Thomas for diving and awarded Palace a penalty, sending off Chico Flores for an offence which appeared to occur outside the box in Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw at Swansea last Sunday.
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 9 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
CHELSEA captain John Terry has maintained his stance that he will not come out of international retirement to play for England at this summer’s World Cup.
Terry has started all but one of the Blues’ 29 Premier League games this term and has forged a solid partnership with Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence.
With England lacking in defensive leadership following Rio Ferdinand’s exclusion from the set-up, widespread speculation has linked the 33-year-old with a recall to the squad for Brazil.
However Terry, who quit the Three Lions in September 2012 in the wake of the racism row with Anton Ferdinand, insists his own England career is over and team-mate Cahill is the main man for his country.
“My days are gone and it is down to Gary and the young boys to push on for our country," he told Sky Sports after Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge.
“He seems to get better every day. He is great in the air and reads it well, he is quick and he is the man for England going forward and has been excellent for Chelsea.
“We have struck up a great relationship, since he came from Bolton not only on the pitch but off it too. We do love playing together and he made his debut for England with me.
“But a lot went on with myself and England. I love playing for my country, and I was very proud to do that and captain my country twice. Unfortunately things have changed and moved on, and I am concentrating on playing well and hopefully keeping us top of the league.”
‘City are the favourites’
Terry lined up alongside Cahill in the thrashing of ten-man Spurs, which extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points, but echoed the thoughts of manager Jose Mourinho that Manchester City remain the title favourites.
“I think we all agree – Manchester City are the strongest side, they've shown that in games they performed in, and they've got games in hand as well,” the Blues skipper declared.
“It's great to have the points on the board at the moment, but for sure they've got a bigger and better squad, a lot of firepower up front.
“They have a game in the week against Barcelona. If they go out [of the Champions League], it only strengthens their chances.
“All we can do is keep winning our home games and at times we're not playing at our best but we're still grinding out results - and that's very much like the old Mourinho teams.”
The Lilywhites bossed possession in the first period and restricted Chelsea to few opportunities but Terry pointed to the introduction of Oscar at the interval in place of Frank Lampard as the key tactical switch.
“It was not easy, first half. I thought Tottenham had a game plan to stop us playing out from the back which worked.
"The manager made a change at half-time and second half generally we were a lot better. The tempo was a lot better,” he added.
Samuel Eto’o, an Eden Hazard penalty and a late double from substitute Demba Ba maintained Chelsea’s unbeaten home record this term.
John Terry International Record
Made debut vs Serbia and Montenegro in June 2003
78 caps and six goals for England
Captained country 34 times
? DID YOU KNOW
John Terry and Gary Cahill have kept 11 clean sheets in 20 Premier League starts together in central defence for Chelsea this season.
The Blues have conceded just 22 league goals so far this term, the fewest in the division.
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 8 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
TIM Sherwood launched a scathing attack on his Tottenham team after their second-half ‘capitulation’ against Premier League leaders Chelsea.
Head coach Sherwood bemoaned ‘a lack of characters’ and said the players ‘need to show a bit more gut’ following their thumping 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge.
“Obviously with the first goal, anyone can slip and it’s a bad error but the second one the penalty and the sending off has gone against us unfortunately and the game is over after that. It still doesn’t legislate for the capitulation, I can’t have that.
When asked what led to the collapse, Sherwood declared: “Lack of characters, too many of them too nice with each other, need to show a bit more gut and not wanna be someone’s mate all the time.
“It can’t always be me having a pop at them, they need to drag it out of each other. It hurts me. I am not going to forget about this before we hit the motorway, some might.”
Spurs, without a win away to the Blues in 27 attempts since 1990, performed well in the first half but were undone by defensive lapses in the second period which began in the 56th minute.
Samuel Eto’o pounced on a defensive slip from Jan Vertonghen before Younes Kaboul was sent off for bringing down the Chelsea striker in the box as Eden Hazard converted the spotkick.
Substitute Demba Ba scored twice late on, capitalising on Sandro tripping up and a wild backwards header from Kyle Walker.
The Lilywhites, who have now lost five of their six games against top-four clubs this season, remain fifth in the table, four points behind Manchester City who have three games in hand.
And Sherwood insisted they have no chance of finishing in the top four if they cannot beat the top sides, admitting those at the club thinking about Champions League qualification need to ‘wake up’.
“You can’t finish in the top four if you can’t beat the top teams. It isn’t going to happen. Yes [it has happened too often this season]. [We are] miles away unless you beat the top teams,” the former Blackburn captain told Sky Sports after the game.
“You are reliant on rolling over, with respect, the smaller sides all the time and it can’t always happen like that.
“We’ve done alright in patches. There has been too many blips. If you are going to finish where you want to finish. They are talking about fourth, everyone at the club talks about fourth, wake up.”
The turning point came just before the hour mark when Eto’o theatrically went to ground under marginal contact from Kaboul, who conceded a penalty and was sent off by referee Michael Oliver.
“It’s not a penalty and then it’s not a sending off. The game is finished after that,” Sherwood insisted.
“I’ve looked at it again, I can’t see why he has given a penalty. When you play here, it’s a tough decision. The referees have got a really tough job but we can’t hide behind that.
“That’ll be two and that’s a sending off and that’s the game over but we’ve still conceded another two goals after that. We’ve got to be professional about it.
“We’ve got to stop this capitulating we keep showing. We’ve done it against the big teams far too often. It's not good enough,” he told Match of the Day’s Steve Wilson.
With Kaboul set to miss three games and captain Michael Dawson limping off, Spurs will be short of defensive options in the coming weeks but Sherwood said they must cope in their absence.
“Michael has done his hamstring which is disappointing. Obviously Younes will miss some games now so yes we will have to go with what we have got and rotate our squad about.”
Spurs face Portuguese high-flyers Benfica in the first leg of their Europa League last 16 tie on Thursday night before the North London derby with Arsenal at White Hart Lane next Sunday.
And the 45-year-old boss has demanded a response in the coming days, particularly for the supporters, but questioned whether he could maintain his faith in certain players.
“It’s onto the next, that’s the nature of the game. There’s a few I’d count on, others I wouldn’t.
“We’ve got a game on Thursday in the Europa League, they come thick and fast and we have to get out there and produce a performance. We owe it to the fans who were fantastic here today for us. We let them down again on a big occasion.”
SPURS UNDER SHERWOOD
(In all competitions):
Played – 17
Won – 9
Drawn – 2
Lost – 6
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 8 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
JOSE Mourinho insists the title is not in Chelsea’s destiny despite going seven points clear at the top of the Premier League.
After Saturday’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Tottenham at Stamford Bridge, Mourinho admitted that a top-four spot is now “in their pocket” but the next target for the Blues is securing a top-three finish.
“Clearly it is very, very difficult to not get a top-four position. They [Spurs] were the biggest threats to the top four,” the Portuguese told Sky Sports.
“If we lose seven points now with nine matches to go, a lot can happen but 13 points with nine matches is almost impossible for us to lose that so from now our objective in the Premier League is in our pocket.
“Our next objective is top three, as that gives us direct qualification [to the Champions League group stages] and if at a certain point our distance to fourth is big, I will say we will think a bit more - but objective now is top three. If Man City win three games in hand, which they can - they are top.”
Chelsea were underwhelming in the first period but came to life in the second half as Spurs, without a win at the Bridge since February 1990, capitulated.
Samuel Eto’o opened the scoring on 56 minutes after a slip from Jan Vertonghen before top scorer Eden Hazard slotted home from the penalty spot following the sending-off of Younes Kaboul.
Demba Ba came off the bench to score twice late on as they recorded their biggest victory over the Lilywhites since March 2002.
And Mourinho was pleased with his side’s second-half display after a tough opening 45 minutes in which Spurs dominated possession.
“Yes the first half was very difficult but at half-time, we were all very calm and I told the players we should not be surprised the game would be difficult,” the 51-year-old said.
“As we know, we shouldn't be surprised or have less confidence or less esteem as in the first half we could not be as dominant, so we were calm.
“We made the change that changed the dynamic of the team, not because [Frank] Lampard was not playing well, but we played the second half with a clear number 10 [Oscar] and that stretched them a bit more and gave them room to play.”
While Mourinho admitted the breakthrough goal from Eto’o was a result of Jan Vertonghen’s wayward back-pass, he never felt the win was in danger.
“Yes it was a defensive mistake but Samuel is so clever how he reads the game, and after that at 1-0, I am not saying they gave up but I think they felt they were in trouble as in the first half, they had a lot of the ball and they were dominant in the game, but how many saves did Petr Cech have?
“I think they are a team that have great control of the ball possession, but they don't hurt people so the second-half was comfortable for us.
“They are quite dominant as they are comfortable on the ball but as an opponent, you don't feel in trouble as you don't feel the danger. Even if you are not controlling the game, you feel calm, and in the second half when we scored even with 11 v 11, I felt it would be difficult for us to concede.”
Mourinho heaped praise on Eto'o, who was given moments to prepare for the game when replacing Fernando Torres after the Spaniard picked up a groin injury in the warm-up.
“I told him before the game, 'you are going to score for sure' because he was supposed to be on the bench,” Mourinho continued.
“Fernando was supposed to start the game. A couple of minutes before the game, he was not able to play and I thought 'this is your destiny'.
“Samuel is so clever in the way he reads the game. After 1-0, the game had no mystery.”
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 9 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
CHELSEA recorded their biggest win over Tottenham since March 2002 with four second-half goals to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League to seven points.
The resurgent Blues thumped their London rivals in another ruthless display to increase their advantage over fourth-placed Manchester City, who have three games in hand, to nine points.
The game was tight until Samuel Eto’o pounced on Jan Vertonghen’s error to open the scoring on 56 minutes before Spurs defender Younes Kaboul was sent off and Eden Hazard slotted home the resulting penalty.
Substitute Demba Ba bagged a late brace, capitalising on more woeful defending, as Spurs’ winless run at Stamford Bridge stretched to 27 matches since their last win in February 1990.
After four draws in their previous five league meetings, including the reverse meeting at White Hart Lane in September, the Blues got the better of the Lilywhites to maintain their unbeaten home run this season which also stretched to 75 games under Jose Mourinho’s stewardship.
Mourinho insisted afterwards that City are in pole position to win the title however the Portuguese will be pleased that the Blues took advantage of Manuel Pellegrini’s men and Arsenal were in FA Cup action while second-placed Liverpool do not play in the league again until 16 March.
Chelsea have lost just once in their last 17 games in all competitions and are undefeated in the Premier League since December 7.
Spurs, who boast the best away record this term having accumulated 29 points, had the better of the first 45 minutes but a complete capitulation once Hazard dispatched a contentious spotkick on the hour mark will disappoint boss Tim Sherwood.
Their hopes of Champions League qualification are now remote, sitting four points adrift of the top four in fifth.
Spurs made four changes from their 1-0 win over Cardiff last Sunday as Sherwood opted for a change in tactics in a bid to combat Chelsea’s dynamic threat.
Kyle Walker, who missed the previous four league games and England’s friendly win over Denmark with a thigh problem, started on the right hand side of midfield while Gylfi Sigurdsson made his second start since Boxing Day and Sandro’s first start since December was his 100th appearance for the club.
Younes Kaboul made his third league start of the campaign and Nabil Bentaleb also returned with Emmanuel Adebayor leading the line as Roberto Soldado, Andros Townsend, Ezekiel Fryers and Paulinho dropped to the bench. Christian Eriksen was left out of the squad with a back problem.
The Blues made one change from the side that beat Fulham 3-1 last weekend as Frank Lampard replaced Oscar in midfield for his 400th Premier League start for Chelsea and Eden Hazard recovered from an ankle injury sustained on Belgium duty on Wednesday.
But Mourinho was enforced to make a late change to the XI with Samuel Eto’o taking the place of Fernando Torres, who suffered a groin injury in the warm-up.
And Eto’o almost gave a Chelsea an electrifying start inside 30 seconds when racing onto Hazard’s slide-rule pass and went down under contact from Hugo Lloris.
The flag was swiftly raised by assistant referee Andy Garratt for offside as the Cameroon striker lay injured on the deck but was able to resume to Mourinho’s considerable relief.
Spurs continued to keep a high defensive line and were given a huge let-off in the fourth minute when Eto’o returned the compliment for Hazard with an incisive through-ball.
The Belgian international skipped around Lloris fancifully and seemed certain to break the deadlock but miscued his effort wide of the target from 15 yards.
The tentative visitors gained a foothold somewhat through sustained spells of possession without offering any real attacking intent.
Bentaleb, who made his international debut for Algeria in midweek, burst into space in the box after a flick-on from Emmanuel Adebayor but flashed a low cross-cum-shot beyond the far post.
After a laboured opening, Spurs settled into the contest despite being pressed relentlessly on the ball by the energetic Blues when venturing over the halfway line.
Aaron Lennon, on his 250th Spurs appearance, began to roam into pockets of space in an adapted central role while Gylfi Sigurdsson’s influence grew although Nemanja Matic protected the Chelsea back four solidly and often stifled their threat.
Adebayor had scored seven in his previous six away games and three in four league starts against the Blues before this one.
The hosts, making themselves tough to break down, adopted a resolute approach to patiently allow Spurs to dominate on the ball without showing urgency to push forward.
Gary Cahill’s poor clearance at the near post dropped on the edge of the box to Sandro, who unleashed a low fizzing drive which Petr Cech was forced to turn around the post as Spurs came close on 22 minutes.
As Chelsea raised the tempo, Matic steered harmlessly off target from Frank Lampard’s inswinging free-kick when creeping away from Adebayor at the back post.
Eto’o then advanced away from Bentaleb and Kaboul before firing off target as the angle became increasingly narrow.
Spurs exercised the greater energy levels without capitalising as the Blues defence, the meanest in the division with just 22 conceded this term, came out on top in an insipid opening 45 minutes.
The intensity was miserably flat with neither side able to establish a measure of control and goalmouth action in short supply.
With nine of the starting XI on international duty in midweek, fatigue was a significant factor in a sluggish display in the first period from Chelsea, who failed to conjure a shot on target.
Mourinho took evasive action at the interval, introducing Brazilian playmaker Oscar for the booked Lampard to inject extra craft and creativity.
But Tottenham had the first opportunity of the second half when Kaboul met Lennon’s corner firmly with his head and brought a cushioned save from Cech.
Schurrle, who netted a hat-trick against West London rivals Fulham last weekend, could not connect cleanly with Hazard’s cross as the ball drifted through to Lloris.
Both sides livened up after the restart with Chelsea becoming more expansive on the counter as Naughton and Sandro picked up yellow cards for stopping ominous breaks forward.
Spurs were coping well and made in-roads of their own but a costly mistake from Vertonghen gifted the Blues the lead on 56 minutes.
The defender cruelly slipped in the left-back position and, in trying to make amends, kicked the ball into the path of Eto’o.
The 32-year-old quickly pounced and prodded through the spread legs of Dawson and underneath Lloris into the bottom corner for his seventh league goal of the campaign, before mocking Mourinho with an ‘old man’ celebration in response to his recent jibes about his age.
And fortune favoured the Blues again just three minutes later when referee Michael Oliver awarded a hugely controversial penalty.
A square pass from Hazard was taken in his stride by Eto’o, who fell to the deck with Kaboul in close proximity directly in front of goal.
The Spurs centre-back was harshly shown a straight red card and top scorer Hazard stepped up to compound their misery, coolly sending Lloris the wrong way to slot home his 13th league goal of the campaign.
It left the visitors with a mountain to climb as a despondent Sherwood watched on from the technical area.
Paulinho immediately entered the fray to shore up midfield in place of Sigurdsson with Sandro switching to central defence but Chelsea were in complete command.
Events went from bad to worse for the North London outfit as captain Dawson hobbled off on 71 minutes, with youngster Ezekiel Fryers his replacement.
Willian – close to joining Spurs on transfer deadline day last summer – swapped places with Schurrle to supplement Mourinho’s offensive options.
Lloris prevented a Ramires cutback from reaching the unmarked Eto’o as a shellshocked Spurs struggled to contain the rampant Blues, who bossed the closing stages.
Hazard ambled through the middle but was unselfish in attempting to find Eto’o as Fryers slid across to concede a corner.
Demba Ba added fresh legs to the attack with 14 minutes remaining as Eto’o made his departure to a standing ovation from the Blues faithful.
Willian pulled back unselfishly to Oscar, who contrived to blaze hopelessly into the stands from 16 yards.
But Ba added gloss to the scoreline with his second and third league goals of the season in the space of 76 seconds, profiting from more woeful Spurs defending.
The Senegalese striker slotted home from Oscar’s low delivery as Sandro fell over before stroking into an empty net after tussling with Lloris, who could not gather a sloppy back header from Walker, as Chelsea efficiently strolled towards another three points which underlined their title credentials.
The Blues travel to Aston Villa in next Saturday’s late kick-off before hosting Galatasaray in the Champions League last 16 second leg and then fellow title contenders Arsenal.
Tottenham will seek a response against Portuguese high-flyers Benfica in the first leg of their last 16 Europa League tie on Thursday before hosting the Gunners in the North London derby next Sunday.
MANAGER AND PLAYER REACTION:
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: “I would prefer to be in Man City's position because they have three matches in hand. At the moment I have a nine-point lead but I would prefer to be in their position because if they win all their games in hand they are top of the league. We don't have control of our destiny - if we win all our matches then maybe we are not champions. If Man City win their games they are champions. The first half was really difficult. I'm not saying we were in big trouble because we weren't - Spurs controlled the game but were not aggressive in creating chances. In the second half everything was different. Oscar gave us a different dimension and there was a better connection between midfield and attack. The first goal was born in a mistake but it was a mistake that my striker reads in a fantastic way and is cold enough to see the ball through the legs of the keeper. After that I think Spurs felt they had no chance and we controlled the game and scored a few more goals. It was a heavy result I don't think they deserved, but three points is very important for us and clearly deserved.”
Chelsea captain John Terry: “It wasn't easy in the first half - they played very well. They had a plan to stop us playing out from the back but the manager changed it at half time and we were much better in the second half. He said a little bit more than last week but it worked a treat and we had the response as well. In the second half we came out and pushed on. Since Gary Cahill has come to the club he gets better and better. So comfortable on the ball, great in the air and does it very well. He's the man for England going forward. My days are gone and now it's for players like Gary to push on for the country. We've struck up a great relationship on and off the pitch. He's wanted to learn and seems to get better and better every game. We do love playing together. A lot went on with myself and England, I loved playing for my country and being captain twice but things have changed and moved on and I can hopefully keep us at the top of the league. I think we all agree that Man City are probably the strongest side and they've got games in hand. They've got a better and bigger squad than us and a lot of firepower. We're grinding out results like the old Mourinho teams.”
Tottenham Hotspur manager Tim Sherwood: “You can't legislate for the capitulation - you can't have that. Lack of characters, too many of them too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts and not want to be someone's mate all the time. They need to drag it out of each other. It hurts me and I won't forget about this when we hit the motorway, but some might. It's not a penalty and not a sending off but the game was finished after that. We've got the Europa League on Thursday and we owe the fans a performance. We let them down again on the big occasion. You won't finish in the top four if you don't beat top teams. You're miles away unless you beat the top teams. There have been too many blips. The club talks about fourth, they need to wake up.”
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): 1 Cech, 2 Ivanovic, 26 Terry (C), 24 Cahill, 28 Azpilicueta, 8 Lampard (Oscar 45), 21 Matic, 7 Ramires, 17 Hazard, 14 Schurrle (Willian 66), 29 Eto’o (Ba 76).
Subs not used: 23 Schwarzer (GK), 33 Kalas, 12 Mikel, 15 Salah.
Booked: Lampard (40), Azpilicueta (85)
Goals: Eto’o (56), Hazard (60 pen), Ba (88, 90)
Tottenham Hotspur (4-5-1): 25 Lloris, 16 Naughton, 20 Dawson (C) (Fryers 72), 4 Kaboul, 5 Vertonghen, 2 Walker, 30 Sandro, 42 Bentaleb, 7 Lennon, 22 Sigurdsson (Paulinho 61), 10 Adebayor.
Subs not used: 24 Friedel (GK), 21 Chadli, 17 Townsend, 9 Soldado, 37 Kane.
Booked: Bentaleb (9), Naughton (53), Sandro (54)
Sent-off: Kaboul (58)
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland) – 7/10
Following a goalless scoreline at the interval, Chelsea are still yet to concede a goal in the first half of any match in 2014.
All of the nine goals Samuel Eto’o has scored for Chelsea have come at Stamford Bridge. It was the Cameroon international’s 300th career goal and his first since January’s hat-trick against Manchester United.
Chelsea scored all four of their goals with all four of their shots on target.
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 24 home league meetings with Tottenham (winning 16 and drawing eight) plus three cup matches (winning one and drawing two).
The Blues are unbeaten in 75 home Premier League games under 51-year-old Portuguese tactician Jose Mourinho, winning 59 and drawing 16.
Spurs have won nine, drawn two and lost four of their 15 away Premier League games this season, scoring 21 and conceding 19.
After losing to Norwich at Carrow Road, Tottenham have now lost back-to-back Premier League away matches for the first time since November 2012 when beaten by Manchester City and Arsenal.
The Blues have lost just one of the last 11 meetings with Tottenham, winning five and drawing five, scoring 24 and conceding 11.
John Terry and Gary Cahill have now kept 11 clean sheets in 20 Premier League starts together this season. Chelsea’s record of 13 league clean sheets is bettered only by Arsenal (14).
Chelsea are the only team not to lose a home league game this term (claiming 41 points at the Bridge), are 10 points better off than at this stage last season and are five points better off than their 2009-10 title winning campaign.
Spurs' last win at Stamford Bridge was on 10 February 1990, when Gary Lineker and David Howells got the goals in a 2-1 victory.
The Blues are unbeaten in 14 league games, winning 11 of those matches. They and Liverpool are the only Premier League sides unbeaten in 2014.
Chelsea have been awarded five penalties in the Premier League this season, only Liverpool (seven) have taken more.
A winning margin of four goals equals Jose Mourinho’s best in the Premier League.
Eden Hazard has scored (22) or assisted (18) 40 Premier League goals since he joined Chelsea in 2012.
CHELSEA IN PREMIER LEAGUE SINCE CHRISTMAS DAY:
Games – 12
Won – 10
Drawn – 2
Lost – 0
Scored – 24
Conceded – 4
Clean sheets – 9
Points – 32/36
Samuel Eto’o: Career goals
Leganes – 4
Real Mallorca – 69
Barcelona – 129
Inter Milan – 53
Anzhi – 36
Chelsea – 9
TOTTENHAM IN PREMIER LEAGUE 2013/14
RECORD AGAINST TOP FOUR:
Games – 6
Won – 0
Drawn – 1
Lost – 5
Scored – 2
Conceded – 22
Clean sheets – 0
Points – 1/18
TOTTENHAM: HEAVY DEFEATS IN PL
Spurs haven’t won at Chelsea in last 27 visits
Third defeat in last seven league matches
Have conceded 23 goals across their five heaviest defeats this term (5-1 vs Man City, 6-0 vs Man City, 5-0 vs Liverpool, 4-0 vs Chelsea)
Goal difference is 0 with nine games to go, Man City (one place above them) is +42
No club has ever qualified for the Champions League with a goal difference as low as that
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 8 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
MANCHESTER United delivered a convincing reaction to their Champions League defeat by Olympiakos by inflicting more misery on West Bromwich Albion with a 3-0 win at the Hawthorns.
Phil Jones sent a bullet header past former United goalkeeper Ben Foster after Rafael’s effort had been tipped onto the crossbar.
Victor Anichebe angled a shot wide as the Baggies pressed forcefully for a leveller but strikers Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck added gloss to the scoreline with second-half goals for the Red Devils.
David Moyes, who thanked supporters in a letter this week, will be satisfied with the positive reaction from a disappointing display in Athens 11 days ago as the defending champions leapfrogged his old club Everton into sixth place in the Premier League.
A second win in six games in all competitions restores the slim hope United have of making up a nine-point deficit on the top four after dismantling an out-of-form Albion, who are hovering just one place and a point above the drop zone.
West Brom won at Old Trafford in September but have picked up just one victory in 18 subsequent games as boss Pepe Mel remains without a win in seven league matches in charge.
The corresponding fixture on the final day of last season produced a thrilling 5-5 draw in Sir Alex Ferguson’s send-off but this lunchtime kick-off took a while to simmer to the boil.
The hosts began on the front foot amid the early afternoon sunshine in the West Midlands with the bulk of the possession but United looked fresher with greater menace on the counter attack.
Their much-flaunted front four of Juan Mata, Adnan Januzaj, Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie caused problems with their interchanging and elusive movement but it was Chris Brunt who almost gave them the lead after 16 minutes.
The Albion captain inadvertently diverted Marouane Fellaini’s header goalwards before Youssouf Mulumbu came to his rescue by clearing off the line.
Former Real Betis boss Mel, 50, prowled the technical area with assistant Keith Downing in some discomfort as the Baggies rode their luck.
Foster kept them level again before the half-hour mark when Rafael’s powerful back-post header was touched onto the upright.
However, the keeper was powerless in preventing Phil Jones from scoring his second ever Premier League goal.
The England international steered home van Persie’s free-kick from eight yards to give the Red Devils the lead on 33 minutes.
West Brom responded spiritedly and could have drawn level five minutes later when Argentine midfielder Claudio Yacob nodded over from three yards before being withdrawn prematurely through injury, as James Morrison entered from the bench.
Victor Anichebe, a scorer against Chelsea and Liverpool in recent 1-1 draws at home, outmuscled Jones with his back to goal but dragged harmlessly wide from 12 yards.
Foster was fortunate to escape punishment just before half-time when appearing to handle outside his area, with referee Jon Moss waving play on despite strong appeals from United.
The hosts began the second period brightly and fashioned a clear opening which was wasted by Zoltan Gera as the Hungarian fired tamely at goalkeeper David De Gea after a neat one-two with Anichebe.
Moss was again in the spotlight when deeming van Persie’s wild lunge on Steven Reid did not warrant a second yellow card having earlier cautioned the Dutchman for a mistimed lunge on Morgan Amalfitano.
Moyes wisely substituted the former Arsenal striker for Welbeck just after the hour mark at a time when United struggled to regain their measure of control.
Anichebe almost carved an opportunity when shrugging off the attentions of Jones to fire across the goalmouth but Rafael was on hand to clear his lines before Brunt could pounce.
But a promising spell for the Baggies was quickly extinguished by a move of real quality, as Rooney doubled United’s advantage on 65 minutes with his 13th goal of the campaign.
Slick interplay ended with Brazilian right-back Rafael picking out Rooney at the back post with a pinpoint cross which the England striker converted with a simple close-range header.
And the three points were safe eight minutes from time when Fellaini and Rooney combined to tee up Welbeck for his tenth goal of the campaign in all competitions, a smart sidefooter past the advancing Foster after taking an excellent first touch.
United will take confidence from their second away win of 2014 ahead of crunch home games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Greek champions Olympiakos this month.
Another demoralising defeat leaves the Baggies, who have taken four points from a possible 24 since Mel was appointed in January, staring perilously down at the bottom three.
By Adam Higgins
By: Adam Higgins
Gary McDonald gave the Premiership visitors the lead at Stark’s Park after four minutes with his second goal of the season, a half volley on the swivel.
But the Championship hosts pegged them back with a spectacular long-range equaliser from Joe Cardle and could have been ahead at half-time with Dougie Hill and Ross Callachan spurning headed chances.
Nigel Hasselbaink restored Saints’ lead early after the break with an individual solo run and poked finish, his first goal since November, before Steven Anderson made sure in the 78th minute.
Boss Grant Murray will be pleased with his side’s efforts as Ramsdens Cup finalists Raith, without a league win in 2014, responded well to trailing in the opening minutes.
The Fifers reached the last four of the competition in 2010 but could not repeat their heroics of the last round when beating top-flight Hibernian at Easter Road, their only victory in the last 13 games.
With holders Celtic already out, Saints boss Tommy Wright will hope the League Cup semi-finalists can go one step further in the Scottish Cup – a competition in which they have never reached the final – in a bid to end their long 130-year wait for the first major trophy of their history.
The McDiarmid Park outfit, who have reached the semis for the fifth time in nine seasons, will discover their opponents at Ibrox next month when the draw is made on Sunday.
Saints had beaten lower-league opposition in Livingston and Forfar to reach the last eight and fancied their chances when making the 40-mile trip south from Perth to face Raith, eighth in the second tier, who had won just one of their previous 12 games in all competitions.
Rovers made three changes from their 4-2 defeat to Falkirk last time out as defender Paul Watson recovered from three broken metatarsals to make his first appearance since November while Kevin Moon was recalled against his former club in midfield and Grant Anderson came in.
Strikers Calum Elliot, their top scorer with 10 goals in all competitions, and John Baird along with goalkeeper David McGurn missed out through injury.
Wright made two changes to the Saints side beaten 1-0 at Aberdeen last weekend as former Dons striker Steven MacLean, with six goals in his previous four starts, and Nigel Hasselbaink were reinstated with David Wotherspoon and Michael O’Halloran dropping to the bench.
Top scorer Stevie May, with 21 goals in all competitions this term, was not risked on Scotland Under-21 duty in midweek due to a hamstring problem and started in attack while defenders Frazer Wright and Tam Scobbie and midfielder Murray Davidson were sidelined.
It took St Johnstone all of four minutes to make an impression by taking an early lead with their fastest goal of the season.
Gary Miller, a Scottish Cup runner-up with Ross County in 2010, pumped a free-kick forward from halfway which Steven Anderson flicked on to Gary McDonald.
The midfielder had scored at Stark’s Park for Aberdeen and Kilmarnock in the competition before and repeated the trick again with the Saints, firing a snapshot past goalkeeper Lee Robinson at the near post from 15 yards.
May ballooned over the crossbar from range at the end of a progressive move up field as the visitors quickly established a foothold.
Raith struggled to muster an immediate response with Saints threatening on the counter attack, with the pace of Hasselbaink giving Rovers captain Jason Thomson numerous problems down the left hand side.
But out of nothing, the hosts were level on 21 minutes when midfielder Joe Cardle let fly from 35 yards and sent an unerring drive swerving past Alan Mannus into the back of the net via the post.
It was the first time Saints conceded in the competition this term but captain Dave Mackay curled a precise free-kick over the bar as the sixth-placed Premiership side sought a quick reaction.
After an even spell in which neither side could gain control, Saints left-back Brian Easton fizzed a dangerous low strike inches wide from 30 yards.
Both teams, meeting for the first time since January 2008, opted for aimless long balls which were unaided by the breezy conditions in Kirkcaldy in the first half.
And it almost brought Raith a stroke of fortune when a wind-assisted corner from Cardle picked out the head of centre-back Dougie Hill, who could only guide his effort wide of the target.
Ross Callachan wasted another glorious opportunity, heading past the post from Grant Anderson’s pacy delivery as the second-tier side ended the first period the stronger.
As the sunshine emerged, Raith looked to continue their bright momentum but the Saints began the second half in the manner they started the first, scoring inside four minutes.
Hasselbaink picked up the loose ball and waltzed away from several Raith players with a low centre of gravity before prodding home inside the box for his sixth goal of the season.
The Saints began to carve open more chances as James Dunne, who scored on his debut as a substitute in the previous round at Forfar, sidefooted Hasselbaink’s cutback wide from 16 yards.
A fearsome 25-yard shot from May stung the palms of former Rangers trainee Robinson, who also denied MacLean’s tame follow-up but the flag was raised for offside.
At the other end, Anderson darted inside and glided an effort wide when leaning backwards on his left foot.
May again opened up the space with a forward burst in between the lines but fired wastefully over when Lee Croft was better positioned to his left.
Raith battled vivaciously with Cardle offering their greatest threat to the Saints goal, the 27-year-old’s latest pot-shot flying off target.
A curling free-kick from Liam Fox tested Northern Ireland keeper Mannus, who scrambled low to his right to retrieve at the second attempt.
As Raith’s attempts to restore parity stepped up a gear, Mannus then made a routine stop from a powerless daisycutter by Callachan, who was soon replaced by 18-year-old Lewis Vaughan with 16 minutes remaining.
With the outcome still hanging in the balance, Saints tried to assert their superiority through sustained spells of possession which almost proved fruitful.
Anderson was inches away from diverting a low May strike into the bottom corner before Robinson raced out of his goal superbly to tackle MacLean.
Dunne, on loan from English League One strugglers Stevenage, then tried his luck with an ambitious 30-yard effort which veered narrowly off target.
Dutchman Hasselbaink, who wreaked havoc down the left hand side, was withdrawn for the arrival of David Wotherspoon as Wright turned to his bench for the first time.
And the former Hibernian midfielder’s short corner was cleverly steered in at the near post by experienced campaigner Anderson – his first goal for two years – to give Saints a 3-1 lead with twelve minutes to go.
A raft of substitutions disrupted the flow of the latter stages as May – who has now gone five games without scoring – and Croft made way for Michael O’Halloran and Chris Millar for Saints while Raith striker Greig Spence replaced Gordon Smith.
Ex-Bolton striker O’Halloran made a lively contribution in his late cameo and miscued a left-foot shot off target but Saints were already assured of their ninth last-four clash in the competition.
Wright’s men travel to Tannadice in midweek to face Dundee United in a rearranged Premiership match before hosting Ross County and Hibernian.
Raith, who haven’t beat St Johnstone in ten years, host bottom-of-the-table Greenock Morton next weekend.
MANAGER AND PLAYER REACTION:
Raith Rovers manager Grant Murray: “We got ourselves back in the game [after losing the opening goal]. We got back in the game with a great strike from Joe Cardle. I think we had them rattled for a wee bit, we were on top and we did have a couple of chances. In cup ties you've got to take your chances when they come along. St Johnstone turned it round in the second half. We found ourselves behind against a very good side who punished us when they could."
St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright: “I'm delighted for the players, the supporters, the board as well and the chairman. It's a big thing to get to a semi-final. We probably need to go and vanish the ghosts of the last semi-final we were in [the 3-0 defeat by Motherwell in 2011]. We were disappointing that day. I think they deserve the right to have another semi-final and another crack of getting into the final. Second half, we were excellent. It's a tremendous goal from Nigel to get us back in front. I thought we dominated most of the second half. They did put us under pressure in the first half. It was important that we came in level at half-time. It was important that we dominated and started well in the second half.”
Raith Rovers (4-4-1-1): 20 Robinson, 2 Thomson ©, 4 Watson, 5 Hill, 3 Booth, 11 Anderson, 6 Fox, 8 Moon, 7 Cardle, 12 Callachan (Vaughan 75), 15 Gordon Smith (Spence 83).
Subs not used: 17 Laidlaw (GK), 16 Ellis, 19 Mullen, 14 Donaldson, 23 Matthews.
Goals: Cardle (21)
St Johnstone (4-4-1-1): 1 Mannus, 19 Miller, 2 Mackay ©, 6 Anderson, 24 Easton, 22 Croft (Millar 86), 8 McDonald, 12 Dunne, 11 Hasselbaink (Wotherspoon 76), 17 May (O’Halloran 82), 9 MacLean.
Subs not used: 15 Banks (GK), 23 Clancy, 4 Cregg, 25 Iwelumo.
Booked: McDonald (10), Easton (38), Croft (64)
Goals: McDonald (3), Hasselbaink (49), Anderson (78)
Assists: Anderson, Easton, Wotherspoon
Referee: Craig Thomson (Scotland) – 9/10
Gary McDonald’s two goals this season for St Johnstone have both come in the quarter-finals of cup competitions after scoring a last-minute winner against Morton in the League Cup.
This is Raith’s eighteenth appearance at this stage of the competition, with the first coming in 1908, when they lost to Celtic 3-0 at Stark’s Park.
Their most recent was the 2-1 win at Dens Park in 2010, and that victory brought to an end a run of five straight quarter-final defeats, stretching back to 1971.
St Johnstone had failed to score in four of their previous six games in all competitions and had won just four of their previous 11 games before this one.
Saints have now won the last seven meetings between the sides in all competitions and have won eight of the last 11 encounters with Raith’s only win in that time a 1-0 win back in October 2004.
The two sides have now shared 32 goals in their last seven Scottish Cup meetings.
The Saints have now won eight of their 20 away games so far this season in all competitions.
Raith beat League Two East Stirling 2-0 at Ochilview in the third round before a bizarre own goal from Gary Irvine knocked out Championship leaders Dundee at Dens Park in round four at the end of November. They upset the odds again to record a stunning 3-2 win at Easter Road against Premiership Hibernian in the fifth round last month.
The Saints beat Championship side Livingston 2-0 in the fourth round and League One Forfar 4-0 at Station Park in the fifth round last month.
Raith Rovers, in their fifth successive season in the second tier, beat Celtic 20 years ago in the League Cup final.
St Johnstone are one of only four Scottish Premiership teams in the quarter-finals.
Raith Rovers midfielder Kevin Moon scored five goals in 81 appearances for St Johnstone before being released by the McDiarmid Park club last summer.
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 8 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
SEAN Dyche believes the experience of winning in big games this season will stand Burnley in good stead against Blackburn.
The Clarets boss insists the weight of expectation in Sunday’s East Lancashire derby is on Rovers, who are desperate to extend their 35-year unbeaten run against their local rivals.
And Dyche has told his players to play with the freedom that has seen them rise to the top two in the SkyBet Championship this term.
“We are aware of what it means and we are aware of the fact it’s a big game. But we’ve had a number of big occasions this season, going back to early season when QPR came to our place,” he said.
“Then we had Reading come to our place, we were away at Leicester on the TV and away at Forest, away at Brighton and QPR on the TV.
“More recently, Derby and Forest, so we’ve had some real experience this season and we hope that adds to the players understanding and belief in what they do, because regardless of the size of the game we have delivered very good performances.
“We go into the game very confident and in good spirits, knowing that really the expectation is on Blackburn because of the history.
“We haven’t beaten them in 30 years or so, so you know there’s a lot of expectation on them and they’ll be feeling they need to win again to keep that record going.
“We can go in there with freedom and we want to play with freedom anyway. There is tremendous energy in the side, good organisation and we feel that we’ve got real ability, so we’re looking forward to the game.”
Dyche has savoured the electric derby atmosphere on three occasions, with each game finishing in 1-1 draws.
The Clarets have come close to ending the hoodoo in the past two meetings since Sam Vokes equalised in their Turf Moor encounter in December 2012, which arrested a run of three straight defeats against their arch-rivals.
“We have delivered three very good performances in my time against Blackburn,” Dyche said.
“I have been not disappointed, but I would say surprised that we haven’t got the win. A couple of things have gone against us, but you can’t guarantee that. What you can guarantee is your performance - and we look to go again.
“On reflection of the games we think we should have put this record to bed, but they’re nothing to do with this next game.
The Clarets moved five points clear in second place by extending their unbeaten league run to 11 games with last Saturday’s 2-0 win over play-off chasing Derby.
But former Watford boss insisted that their recent record will count for nothing when they make the short trip to Rovers for the lunchtime kick-off on Sunday.
The 42-year-old added: “The form book always goes out of the window with these sort of games. In my experience it’s almost like a cup game because it is that local derby.
“On the other hand they’ve just lost 4-0 at Bolton so they’ll be thinking about that. We’ve just had another really big, really important result and performance, so we’re certainly in confident mood.
“There are never any guarantees, but we’re looking in good shape and were ready to go to Blackburn and when that whistle blows this team will be ready to give another performance, I’m sure of that.”
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 8 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
The Three Lions struggled to muster a winning formula as an experimental side scraped a 1-0 victory over Morten Olsen’s Denmark. But in the final chance to stake a claim, which players impressed and who scuppered their hopes of being named in the final 23-man squad? Adam Higgins investigates.
ENGLAND edged past Denmark at Wembley in their final friendly before Roy Hodgson chooses his squad for this summer’s World Cup.
Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge headed home substitute Adam Lallana’s inch-perfect cross eight minutes from time to earn a laboured 1-0 victory for the Three Lions.
With 99 days to go before the tournament kicks off, Hodgson has huge decisions to make to cut the pool of players down to 23 by the end of May.
The England boss named an enlarged party of 30 players to maximise the experimental exercise, with Raheem Sterling, Luke Shaw, Jordan Henderson and Steven Caulker among those called up.
But who deserves a place on the plane and who should stay at home?
The lacklustre display against the Danes provided no conclusive evidence regarding squad selection, however some players caught the eye and gave their chances of travelling to Brazil a real boost.
Others, meanwhile, did not take the opportunity to shine in the final audition before the deadline to submit the squad.
Who’s guaranteed a place?
Daniel Sturridge: The Liverpool striker has been in exceptional form all season and has proved his worth both individually and in tandom with Luis Suarez. His tally of 12 goals in as many games speaks volumes about his significance to the Reds’ remarkable resurgence in the Premier League. After scoring only his third international goal, his stock in Roy Hodgson’s World Cup plans will have risen. Having started out on the left hand side of the three-pronged attack, the former Chelsea and Manchester City forward moved centrally in the second period once Wayne Rooney was withdrawn and made the difference with a decisive late header. A definite on the plane.
Steven Gerrard: The driving force from his deep-lying midfield role, the Three Lions and Liverpool skipper will be integral to England’s progression at this summer’s tournament and possibly beyond. Although his presence was unapparent against the Danes, Gerrard’s leadership qualities, ability to dictate the tempo of a game and [dare I say it] penalty-taking capabilities remain second to none. A squad guarantee.
Joe Hart: The Manchester City goalkeeper is undoubtedly Hodgson’s number one choice for Brazil despite a number of high-profile errors in the past 18 months which led to him being dropped by his club in favour of Costel Pantilimon. With the visit of the Danes offering a final chance for Hodgson to view a potential back-up in action, Hart’s inclusion was somewhat surprising. Considering Fraser Forster kept 13 consecutive league clean sheets for Celtic recently, John Ruddy has kept four successive shut-outs at home for Norwich and Ben Foster has been in fine form since returning from injury at West Brom, there are options aplenty.
Wayne Rooney: His international form has never reached the heights of his peerless Manchester United displays, nor has his goalscoring exploits, but England’s hopes of glory rest a lot upon the 28-year-old. Probably the only world class talent at Hodgson’s disposal. The focal point of the Three Lions attack, the team operates chiefly around fitting him in. Rooney started down the middle of the 4-3-3 against Denmark but did not have the desired impact as a target man. An England World Cup squad without a fully-fit Rooney firing on all cylinders would be extremely weakened.
Gary Cahill: The Chelsea defender has grown into one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League since joining the Stamford Bridge club and his level of consistency has improved dramatically. With Rio Ferdinand and John Terry now out of the England picture, England are reliant on Cahill to forge a solid partnership with Everton’s Phil Jagielka. Against Denmark, it was only the third time he had been paired with Chris Smalling and the inexperience of the pairing could have been exploited further by stronger opposition. Cahill is a defensive lynchpin and ultimately the bedrock of the Three Lions rearguard. An absolute must for the upcoming tournament.
Jack Wilshere: The Arsenal midfielder did not leave a lasting impression against the Danes and after picking up an early knock from a hefty Daniel Agger challenge, could not influence proceedings in his usual. The diminutive maestro gives something extra and has always possessed a unique talent. Yet to fully kick start his international career, the World Cup in Brazil could offer him the platform to do so. A leading contender to start alongside automatic pick Gerrard.
Glen Johnson: With Kyle Walker withdrawing from the squad through injury, Johnson was a certain starter against the Danes. But when the Tottenham full-back returns to fitness, he faces a tough battle to nail down the regular starting berth ahead of Brazil. The Liverpool full-back has been in and out of Brendan Rodger’s side this season but has performed better when stringing a number of appearances together. His lungbusting raids forward in conjunction with Ashley Cole and Luke Shaw down the left was one of few highlights in a subdued friendly. Guaranteed to be on the plane, but not the starting line-up when the Three Lions face Italy in Manaus on June 14.
Who has work to do?
23 man squad prediction:
Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Fraser Forster (Celtic)
John Ruddy (Norwich)
Glen Johnson (Liverpool)
Kyle Walker (Tottenham)
Gary Cahill (Chelsea)
Phil Jagielka (Everton)
Chris Smalling (Manchester United)
Phil Jones (Manchester United)
Leighton Baines (Everton)
Ashley Cole (Chelsea)
Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Adam Lallana (Southampton)
Andros Townsend (Tottenham)
Raheem Sterling (Liverpool)
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool)
Danny Welbeck (Manchester United)
Jay Rodriguez (Southampton)
By Adam Higgins
By: Adam Higgins
An experimental England scraped to victory against a stubborn Denmark at Wembley but were far from convincing. As this summer’s World Cup edges closer, Adam Higgins looks back on the final warm-up match before Roy Hodgson names his provisional squad for the tournament.
ON a night when tactics and selection dilemmas were always going to dominate whatever the outcome, England made extremely hard work of edging past an average Denmark side.
But as far as final auditions go, those on the fringes of a career-defining World Cup experience in Brazil barely staked a claim to make the final 23-man cut.
As Roy Hodgson prepares to sift through the notepad and rewind the tape of the final 90 minutes before the preliminary squad is revealed, the signs of progression from a lackadaisical performance against the Danes – who failed to qualify for this summer’s tournament – will be difficult to find.
The unprecedented competition for places, mounting injury problems and varying untried formations will undoubtedly give the boss one or two headaches as the countdown to the big kick-off gathers speed.
And on the evidence of another subdued Wembley display, there is plenty of work to do in the 99 days that remain before the Three Lions take to the field in the Amazonian climbs of Manaus.
After November’s insipid defeats to Chile and Germany, rediscovering the winning formula that hadn’t been experienced since qualification was secured in October was important regardless of the manager’s methods and personnel on view.
Eight minutes away from an abject goalless draw, England were disappointing for large periods, upping the gears only in short spells and demonstrated a defensive vulnerability which leaves more ominous questions than conclusive answers.
Chances were few and far between with Denmark’s Peter Ankersen turning against his own post and Danny Welbeck going close on two occasions before Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, on top form throughout, was finally beaten by a Daniel Sturridge header.
One of five Liverpool starters in an England team for the first time since 1977, Sturridge was part of the Reds contingent supplying the backbone of a starting XI that raised few eyebrows.
Captain Steven Gerrard was an inevitable choice, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling made their second international starts while Glen Johnson’s 50th cap was a formality following Kyle Walker’s withdrawal through injury.
The inclusion of Ashley Cole has rarely been scrutinised so much in the past but with Leighton Baines taking the night off, a first start for Southampton’s latest teenage sensation Luke Shaw at left-back was widely expected.
The 18-year-old shared the 90 minutes with the Chelsea veteran, 15 years his senior, and quickly settled onto the senior international stage with a competent second-half display as a substitute.
Although with World Cup certainties Joe Hart, Gary Cahill and Wayne Rooney all handed starts, Hodgson showed a distinct reluctance to experiment in a friendly which offered a final opportunity for squad players to impress.
The England manager maximised the use of his enlarged 30-man squad with 18 players taking to the field to showcase their credentials.
Just like his Manchester United team-mate Tom Cleverley, the form of Chris Smalling has been the subject of online abuse from fans of late and the former Fulham defender was efficient enough to cope with the threat of a largely impotent Danish attack.
With Gerrard sitting deeper in the engine room, the back four was solidly protected and gave the license for club team-mate Henderson and Jack Wilshere to press forward.
But the Arsenal midfielder never recovered fully from an early challenge by Daniel Agger, giving away possession cheaply on numerous occasions before being withdrawn prior to the hour mark.
There was no doubting the mark that his replacement left on a rather unforgettable occasion as Southampton captain Adam Lallana had the desired impact on his third cap.
Gliding elusively into space and weaving his magic graciously, the 25-year-old proved just why a seat on the plane should be reserved.
Lallana, whose consistent displays for the Saints this season have earned rave reviews, looked the only source of danger to the Denmark defence and invariably unlocked it to create the decisive moment.
Sturridge cut a frustrated figure at times in the first half when forced to retreat down the left hand side, tracking back with former Everton right-back Lars Jacobsen to perform a defensive role.
However when afforded greater freedom to roam through the middle in the second half and England’s emphasis shifted in the final half an hour, his ability in central areas shone through as his rich vein of goalscoring form continued.
Raheem Sterling, without making a significant contribution, offered a promising display on his Wembley debut with his electrifying pace causing problems.
Yet despite possessing the attacking tools to kill off the game, England’s lack of a cutting edge will be of grave concern to Hodgson just three months before the start of the World Cup.
Amid a muted atmosphere, the anxious Three Lions lacked energy and urgency in a cagey first half in which they failed to click into their stride until the closing minutes.
Even when in control, England were guilty of conceding the initiative which allowed the Danes, who sat back in numbers, to fashion several half-openings.
With passes going astray and the tempo often disjointed, Hodgson watched on pensively as the frustration mounted with every passing minute.
Although the pedestrian and predictable approach became distant after the break and scoring opportunities presented themselves, breaking the resistance of the well-organised visitors proved difficult for the Three Lions.
The result may have little bearing as World Cup preparations are finalised but in the first of four internationals to be played before the tournament gets underway, a morale-boosting win was just what the doctor ordered for the Three Lions.
A low-key friendly against considerably weak opposition won’t have inspired Hodgson to draw any conclusions into who deserves a coveted place in the squad. However, with two months to assess and evaluate each individual, Hodgson will leave no stone unturned in the process of allocating the plane tickets.
Whether the drab Danes display has had any real effect on turning ticks into crosses is unknown. While some did not show enough fight to earn their stripes, others certainly left a lasting impression on a manager under intense pressure to pick the right names.
By Adam Higgins
By: Adam Higgins
DANIEL Sturridge's late header secured a laboured victory for England over Denmark in their final match before Roy Hodgson names his preliminary World Cup squad.
The Liverpool striker netted his 12th goal in as many games for club and country, heading home substitute Adam Lallana's teasing cross with seven minutes remaining.
Raheem Sterling hit a post and Danny Welbeck was twice denied by in-form Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel as the stubborn Danes restricted a lacklustre England to few opportunities.
Hodgson, who selected a 30-man squad for the Wembley friendly, experimented with his line-up and would have been pleased by the performances of Sterling, Sturridge and Lallana.
Southampton left-back Luke Shaw made a competent debut in the second half as fringe players were given a final opportunity to shine before the 23-man party for Brazil is announced on 13 May.
More to follow.
MANAGER AND PLAYER REACTION:
England manager Roy Hodgson tells ITV Sport: "It was a very organised Danish team and we had to work very hard. Kasper Schmeichel had an outstanding game in goal. From the 60th minute onwards we showed some really good play and Adam Lallana made a big difference. I'm pleased we showed as much energy as we were looking for. I'm pleased that players who don't usually play for England grabbed that opportunity with both hands. I'm even more pleased we won it because 0-0 would have been disappointing with that level of dominance. Looking at performances, you would have to be a harsh critic to say anybody played poorly tonight. I've been very happy with the attitude and the desire to get on that plane and grab a shirt. It's going to mean headaches for me but it's good news for England. Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, even Jack Wilshere, all of those came out of the game with credit."
England goalscorer Daniel Sturridge: "Whichever system the manager plays me in, I put my all into it and I want to make a difference and make an impact. You have to do the job the best you can. It's not about me, it's about the team. It's not about where I am and it's not about questioning what the manager decides."
England winger Adam Lallana: "It was nice to get some minutes and a chance to impress the boss and more importantly to get the win and after two defeats. I gave it my best and that's all I can do, it's not for me to judge how well I played, I will go back to my club and keep performing well and working hard and hopefully I will be involved in the squad at the end of the season."
England's Denmark report card
Player ratings: England 1-0 Denmark
England (4-3-3): 1 Hart, 2 Johnson, 5 Cahill, 6 Smalling, 3 A Cole (Shaw 45), 4 Gerrard (C), 8 Henderson (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77), 7 Wilshere (Lallana 59), 11 Sterling (Townsend 86), 10 Rooney (Welbeck 60), 9 Sturridge (Milner 88).
Subs not used: 13 Foster (GK), 22 Ruddy (GK), 23 Forster (GK), 14 Baines, 15 Caulker, 16 Carrick, 17 Milner, 18 Lampard, 19 Barkley, 20 Cleverley, 25 Townsend, 26 Lambert, 27 Defoe, 29 Rodriguez.
Goals: Sturridge (83)
Referee: Kevin Blom (Netherlands) - 9/10
By Adam Higgins
By: Adam Higgins
Ross McCormack’s tenth-minute penalty was saved by Robert Green before the Scotland international gave the visitors the lead with a deflected free-kick four minutes later.
Jermaine Jenas equalised shortly before half-time with a precise low finish for Rangers, who ended a run of three successive Championship defeats.
QPR improved after the break and were denied a crucial winner in stoppage time by the linesman’s flag when defender Clint Hill volleyed home from an offside position.
Harry Redknapp’s men, who remain fourth, have taken just two points from the last 15 available and could be nine adrift of Burnley in second if the Clarets beat third-placed Derby later in the day.
Rangers have not picked up a league win since 28 January and although the play-offs appear more likely now, they could still catch the top two by mounting a charge with seven more league fixtures to play in March.
Leeds sit eleventh, six points shy of the play-offs ahead of the remaining weekend games, as their recent upsurge in form continued with a solitary defeat in the last six under re-instated boss Brian McDermott.
But despite a deserved point in their fourth consecutive away game, the Whites have won just one in eight away from Elland Road in all competitions.
QPR, without hamstring injury victims Niko Kranjcar and Benoit Assou-Ekotto, made one change from the side beaten 1-0 at Charlton last weekend as Karl Henry replaced on-loan Tottenham midfielder Tom Carroll.
Joey Barton completed a two-match ban for amassing 10 yellow cards this season and Ravel Morrison made his home debut following his recent loan move from West Ham.
Leeds, who had failed to score in their previous two games, handed a debut to loan signing Connor Wickham after the England Under-21 international striker arrived from Sunderland this week.
After an impressive first outing at Middlesbrough last time out, fellow loanee Jack Butland kept his place in goal with ex-QPR stopper Paddy Kenny out injured.
Tom Lees returned in defence after missing the goalless draw at the Riverside due to family reasons as Scott Wootton and Noel Hunt dropped to the bench where Sam Byram was included after a hamstring injury.
QPR began ambitiously in the opening minutes, venturing into advanced positions by quickening the tempo of their passing while Leeds remained compact and sought to impose their own attacking ideas.
Armand Traore burst into space down the left hand side for Rangers but his low cross was played behind the waiting Kevin Doyle as the visitors cleared their lines.
But it was Leeds who were presented with the first significant opportunity to take the lead when awarded a penalty after ten minutes.
Luke Murphy drove forward from midfield and fed Ross McCormack, who was sent sprawling in the box by a lunge from Richard Dunne.
Linesman Scott Ledger signalled for a corner but referee Chris Foy overruled the decision and pointed to the spot.
McCormack stepped up and saw his tame effort towards the bottom right-hand corner kept out by goalkeeper Robert Green.
However, the captain did not take long to make amends as the Whites broke the deadlock just four minutes later.
After Traore was adjudged to have brought down Murphy 20 yards out, McCormack took responsibility again with his curling free-kick deflecting in off Doyle and wrong-footing a helpless Green.
It was a sixth goal in as many appearances for the Championship’s leading scorer, who took his league tally to 23 for the season.
Leeds began to brim confidence when streaming forward but were forced to adopt a solid defensive approach once QPR crossed the halfway line.
Jermaine Jenas called Leeds’s on-loan Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland into action with the hosts’ first shot at goal on 17 minutes.
The groans of the home crowd reverberated around Loftus Road as QPR struggled to find a high tempo and muster a response following a sluggish spell.
Rangers had lost for only the second time at home this season against Reading in their previous outing and back-to-back defeats in front of their own fans seemed a realistic proposition.
The visitors pressed Rangers back themselves with Wickham and McCormack linking up effectively on several occasions in the final third to trouble the three-man QPR defence.
Green almost dropped a clanger when spilling a dipping 30-yard free-kick from Cameron Stewart back into the danger area, although no-one was following in for Leeds.
Having combined again with strike-partner McCormack, Wickham dragged another effort dangerously across the goalmouth via a deflection against the boot of Karl Henry.
In stark contrast, QPR’s injury worries began to mount as Doyle required lengthy treatment when on the receiving end of a crude challenge from Stephen Warnock, who was shown the first yellow card.
With top scorer Charlie Austin, Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora already sidelined, the former Wolves striker was sent back onto the field in a desperate bid to recover from the ankle knock.
Junior Hoilett drifted a shot inches wide from distance and Jenas nodded Traore’s centre straight at Butland at the end of a promising move as the hosts sought a reaction before half-time.
Lacking in creativity for much of the first period, Redknapp switched to a conventional flat back-four with Clint Hill moving to left-back with Traore operating in a more advanced position.
And the tactical variation reaped dividends as Leeds, who had held a comfortable foothold, were pegged back in the final minute of normal time prior to the interval.
A well-worked move freed up space for Jenas and the former Tottenham midfielder steered a low accurate shot past Butland from the edge of the box for his second league goal of the campaign.
QPR almost completed one of the quickest turnarounds of the season when Hill roamed free of his marker to plant a firm header narrowly wide of the left hand post from Hoilett’s corner.
The hosts increased the intensity after the break with 19-year-old Morrison having a greater influence as the youngster played in Traore, who was denied by the legs of Butland from an acute angle.
Both sides resumed with a discerning level of commitment and urgency which left proceedings delicately poised and intriguingly stretched.
On-loan Manchester United striker Will Keane entered the fray for Hoilett just after the hour mark as Rangers added extra firepower to reflect their own attacking intentions.
But moments later, Leeds almost re-established their advantage when Wickham shifted the ball away from Dunne inside the area and fired agonisingly wide of the far post on his right foot.
The visitors introduced 18-year-old Alex Mowatt for Stewart to stiffen up the midfield with goalmouth action in short supply at either end.
And McDermott was almost forced into another change when McCormack limped gingerly and needed to leave the field but his absence was temporary.
QPR built up a head of steam without carving open the Leeds defence, probing patiently for a gap to emerge.
The introduction of the experienced Michael Brown in place of shin injury victim Murphy added steel to the engine room for the Yorkshire outfit as the combative 37-year-old slotted seamlessly alongside Rodolph Austin.
Tom Carroll also took over from injured QPR scorer Jenas with ten minutes remaining before Yossi Benayoun replaced Morrison as Redknapp altered his personnel.
Leeds came close to stealing all three points when Wickham climbed highest in the penalty area to glance on Mowatt’s inswinging free-kick.
The former Ipswich frontman, who netted eight goals in 11 appearances on loan at Sheffield Wednesday earlier this term, saw his header smartly parried away by Green a minute from time.
However QPR, without a home win over Leeds in 20 years, thought they had snatched victory themselves in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Hill, who scored the only goal in the reverse fixture in August, latched onto a Dunne flick from Carroll’s free-kick and smashed a volley into the top corner but was correctly flagged offside.
The jubilant celebrations were ultimately short-lived and both sides were left to settle for a point after a keenly-fought contest in West London.
QPR will be hoping to arrest their minor slump when travelling to mid-table Birmingham next weekend while Leeds, who face five of their next seven games at home, play host to Bolton.
Man of the match: Jason Pearce (Leeds United)
The former Portsmouth and Bournemouth defender has not missed a minute of Championship action for the Whites this term and his form has rarely dipped below the unexpected standards. The centre-back was solid throughout, keeping Kevin Doyle quiet, and was tidy in his distribution out from the back. Retained possession well and never put a foot wrong. A key member of Brian McDermott’s team.
Queens Park Rangers (3-5-2): 1 Green, 15 Onuoha, 5 Dunne ©, 18 Hughes, 6 Hill, 3 Traore, 16 Jenas (Carroll 81), 20 Henry, 4 Morrison (Benayoun 85), 23 Hoilett (Keane 62), 14 Doyle.
Subs not used: 26 Murphy (GK), 13 Yun-Song, 37 Sendles-White, 40 Maiga.
Booked: Jenas (59), Henry (88)
Goals: Jenas (44)
Leeds United (4-4-2): 30 Butland, 2 Peltier, 4 Lees, 5 Pearce, 15 Warnock, 38 Kebe (Byram 90+5), 8 Austin, 6 Murphy (Brown 80), 28 Stewart (Mowatt 70), 9 Wickham, 44 McCormack ©.
Subs not used: 33 Cairns (GK), 22 Wootton, 10 N Hunt, 20 Smith.
Booked: Warnock (32), Kebe (46), Mowatt (90+3)
Goals: McCormack (14)
Missed penalty: McCormack (10)
Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside) – 9/10
Queens Park Rangers have now won 11 of their 17 home games in the Championship this season but have now dropped 14 league points at Loftus Road.
QPR have conceded just 26 league goals so far this term, the fewest in the division, but have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their past 10 matches. The last time they stopped the opposition from scoring was in the 0-0 draw with Watford on 29 December.
Rangers avoided a fourth successive league defeat for the first time since February 2010.
Without the goals of Ross McCormack, Leeds United would be bottom of the table and 21 points worse off.
Only two teams outside the bottom five of the table have found the net fewer times than QPR in the current campaign.
Leeds have now scored in each of their last ten league matches against QPR at Loftus Road.
Leeds have kept only one clean sheet in their last 12 games in all competitions and have scored just twice in their last six away games.
QPR are yet to record a clean sheet in nine league games in 2014, only Bournemouth have gone on a longer run without a shutout (ten).
Ross McCormack’s goal was only the fourth Leeds have scored in the opening fifteen minutes of a league game this term, only QPR (three) have netted fewer.
Leeds have won just two of their last 13 league matches.
QPR have won just only one of their last 11 league meetings with Leeds, losing six and drawing four.
Leeds are unbeaten in the last six meetings at Loftus Road, winning three, with QPR last beating the Whites at home in the Premier League in November 1994.
It was the first meeting of the sides at Loftus Road since the final day of the 2010/11 Championship campaign when QPR, under then-manager Neil Warnock, were confirmed as champions after a 2-1 defeat while Simon Grayson’s Leeds narrowly missed out on a play-off place.
By Adam Higgins
By: Adam Higgins
DUTCH official Kevin Blom will take charge of England’s friendly with Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night.
The 40-year-old from Gouda, who has been a referee in the Eredivisie since 2004, has brandished 58 yellows and three red cards in 20 games in all competitions so far this season.
Robert Van der Ven and Charles Schapp are the assistant referees while fourth official Serdar Gozubuyuk completes the officiating team from the Netherlands.
Blom, who now predominantly oversees Europa League matches, has been in the Uefa Elite category since June 2004, allowing him to officiate in the Champions League.
It will be the first time the Dutch A-list official will be in the middle for an England match but has past history of officiating the other home nations.
Blom is notoriously remembered for his controversial handling of Scotland’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Czech Republic at Hampden Park in September 2011, awarding a dubious penalty which the Czechs converted late on to rescue a vital point.
Deep into stoppage time, Scotland defender Christophe Berra was also booked for diving when fouled in the box as the 2-2 draw all but ended the Tartan Army’s hopes of qualification.
The woeful display led to Blom being reprimanded by the Dutch Football Association and was axed from contention for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine.
He also attracted criticism twelve months ago for sending off Albania defender Andi Lila for a second bookable offence in their 1-0 victory over Norway in qualifying for this summer’s World Cup.
The Denmark practice match is the first of four pre-World Cup fixtures for the Three Lions and the final match before manager Roy Hodgson names his preliminary tournament squad.
Hodgson, 66, has selected an enlarged 30-man party to face Morten Olsen’s team with Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, Cardiff’s Steven Caulker, Everton midfielder Ross Barkley and Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling all included.
The international friendly between the Three Lions and the Danes will be screened live on ITV and ITVHD on March 5, kicking off at 20:00 GMT with coverage starting at 19:30 GMT.
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 1 March 2014
By: Adam Higgins
WIGAN Athletic will be hoping to continue their impressive winning sequence against fellow promotion contenders Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Saturday (KO 15:00).
The Latics have won five of their last six matches in all competitions and can move into the top six for the first time since September if they better Reading’s result against Yeovil.
Uwe Rosler’s men have lost just twice in 17 games as their solid form seeks to pick up further pace heading into the business end of the gruelling SkyBet Championship campaign.
With no midweek fixture to contend with, preparations have been fully focused on the tricky trip to the City Ground where fifth-placed Forest, desperate to bounce back from a rare setback, lie in wait.
The East Midlands club, who are six points superior to seventh-placed Wigan, suffered their first defeat in 15 league outings last weekend at the hands of in-form Burnley.
Forest may have won just one of their last five matches but have proven difficult to beat on home soil in the league this term.
They are unbeaten in seven stretching back to the end of November, accumulating 17 points from a possible 21.
However the Latics will be confident of securing a positive result having won their last three away games against Sheffield Wednesday, Cardiff and most recently Brighton.
Wigan also have a fine record against Forest of late, winning 2-1 in the reverse fixture in August after a thumping 4-1 League Cup triumph last term.
The incentive is up for grabs for both sides to breathe fresh life into their respective bids to reach the Premier League.
Forest could climb above Queens Park Rangers into fourth depending on the outcome of their lunchtime kick-off against Leeds United, while the Latics can move to within three points of Billy Davies’s men with a game in hand should they clinch a fifth straight success.
Quays News Match Prediction: Nottingham Forest 2-2 Wigan Athletic
With promotion firmly in the minds of both clubs, an action-packed encounter could be on the cards as the intense fight for three points reaches fever pitch which would be thrilling for the neutrals. Forest have been strong at home all season while the Latics have been tough to beat wherever they play. But as is often the case when two evenly-matched sides do battle, trading blows for 90 minutes can mean that they ultimately cancel each other out.
Nottingham Forest's injury problems continue as influential captain Andy Reid requires a hernia operation and is facing six weeks out.
The Irishman joins fellow midfielders Henri Lansbury (back) and David Vaughan (knee) on the sidelines.
Eric Lichaj and Kevin Gomis are close to full fitness while fellow defender Jack Hobbs, a transfer target for Wigan in January, is still not ready to make his comeback from an ankle injury.
Ryan Tunnicliffe could be named in the Wigan squad for the first time after the young midfielder completed a loan move this week from Fulham, just 10 days after Ben Watson’s double leg break.
Winger Callum McManaman (ankle) and forward Nick Powell (hamstring) are both set to miss out again along with Scotland internationals Shaun Maloney and Gary Caldwell.
Nottingham Forest: Darlow (GK), De Vries (GK), Lichaj, Fox, Halford, Hobbs, Wilson, Harding, Lascelles, Jara Reyes, Collins, Gillett, Majewski, McLaughlin, Abdoun, Greening, Moussi, Henderson, Mackie, Djebbour, Paterson, Cox, Blackstock, Derbyshire.
Wigan Athletic: Al-Habsi (GK), Nicholls (GK), Perch, Boyce, Browning, Holgersson, Kiernan, Barnett, Ivan Ramis, Crainey, Juan Carlos Garcia, Rogne, Beausejour, McCann, Redmond, Espinoza, McArthur, McClean, Jordi Gomez, McManaman, McEachran, Powell, Fortune.
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Warwickshire)
By Adam Higgins
By: Adam Higgins
STEVEN McLean has been selected as the referee for the Scottish Communities League Cup final between Aberdeen and Inverness Caledonian Thistle next month.
The 32-year-old will be the man in the middle for the March 16 showpiece at Celtic Park, his first national final.
McLean, the older brother of Ross County defender Brian, will be assisted by linesmen Andrew McWilliam and Douglas Ross while John Beaton is the fourth official.
A Category One official in Scotland since 2007, McLean’s burgeoning reputation received continental recognition when named a FIFA referee in 2010 and UEFA Category One listed official a year later.
McLean officiated at the 2011 UEFA Under-17 European Championships in Serbia, taking charge of three matches including the semi-final clash between Denmark and Germany.
His only notable domestic appointment came in January 2012 when overseeing the League Cup semi-final between local rivals Ayr United and Kilmarnock at Hampden Park.
McLean has taken charge of 30 games in all competitions so far this season, dishing out 79 yellows and four red cards, including a first Europa League appointment in December.
He also took charge of the Division One play-off semi-final first leg between Alloa and Dunfermline Athletic at Recreation Park in May.
The appointment has been made despite the fact McLean, who is also an SFA referee recruitment and education manager along with Craig Thomson, has already taken charge of both participating teams five times already this term.
The showpiece will be held at Celtic’s Parkhead, which holds 60,000 supporters, as the national stadium hosts the Commonwealth Games.
The allocated seating plan for the stadium was announced last week with 40,000 fans expected to attend.
The all-Scottish Premiership final, with kick-off scheduled for 14:30 GMT, will be screened live on BBC1 Scotland on Sunday 16 March.
2013-14: THE DONS & CALEY THISTLE WITH MCLEAN IN CHARGE
10 August 2013
Dundee United 0-1 Inverness CT
31 August 2013
Aberdeen 0-0 St Johnstone
14 September 2013
Kilmarnock 1-2 Inverness CT
25 September 2013
Scottish League Cup
Falkirk 0-5 Aberdeen
The Falkirk Stadium
5 October 2013
St Johnstone 4-0 Inverness CT
26 October 2013
Hibernian 0-2 Aberdeen
2 November 2013
Inverness CT 2-1 Kilmarnock
The Tulloch Caledonian Stadium
21 December 2013
Inverness CT 3-4 Aberdeen
The Tulloch Caledonian Stadium
25 January 2014
Motherwell 2-2 Aberdeen
By Adam Higgins
Last updated: 28 February 2014
By: Adam Higgins
Alejandro Dominguez went close early on before flicking a tame shot from Giannis Maniatis past David De Gea shortly before half-time.
The Greek champions, seeking their first quarter-final appearance since 1999, deservedly doubled their lead when on-loan Arsenal forward Joel Campbell curled home from distance in the second half.
Robin van Persie spurned United’s best opportunity late on as they slipped to their first European defeat of the season, leaving manager David Moyes with plenty to reflect upon after an insipid display which served up just a solitary shot on target and several defensive frailties.
The Scotsman will demand a huge improvement in the second leg at Old Trafford in three weeks’ time as the defending Premier League champions bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since the 2010/11 campaign.
Facing an in-form Olympiakos, who sit 20 points clear at the top of the Greek Super League having lost just two games this season in all competitions, would always provide a stern test for a stuttering United side sitting 11 points adrift of the Premier League's top four.
And the gulf in confidence was evident as Michel's men, unbeaten domestically since the Spanish coach's appointment a year ago, ran out worthy winners in front of a partisan crowd in Piraeus.
Giannis Maniatis returned for Olympiakos in midfield after serving a ban on matchday six while former Real Madrid and Barcelona striker Javier Saviola was injured as 21-year-old Nigerian Michael Olaitan lined up alone in attack and ex-United goalkeeper Roy Carroll missed out against his former club.
United arrived at the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis buoyed by the fact they had won their four previous encounters with Olympiakos, scoring twelve goals and conceding just two in the process.
Moyes made three changes from Saturday's 2-0 win over Crystal Palace as Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley replaced the ineligible Juan Mata, omitted Adnan Januzaj and benched Marouane Fellaini.
Against the backdrop of an electric atmosphere, the visitors were immediately placed under pressure as Patrice Evra picked up an early booking for handball, denying Arsenal loanee Joel Campbell the chance to burst down the right hand side.
The hosts, largely in control of possession in the first half, asked questions of the United rearguard in a dominant spell.
Moyes watched on pensively from the dugout as the deafening jeers from the crowd added to the hostile reception which evidently unnerved the visitors.
The most fruitful opportunity of the opening 45 minutes as the elusive Alejandro Dominguez sprinted through the gears with a mazy run to glide past three United players but a tame shot from the 32-year-old Argentine was blocked by the retreating Nemanja Vidic.
Pressing well with collective hunger, Olympiakos gave United plenty of warning signs without adopting a high intensity as Wayne Rooney dropped increasingly deep in search of the ball.
United began to settle with a mixture of patience and purpose as Tom Cleverley’s volley flew over the crossbar from 15 yards after the England midfielder’s initial corner, helped on by captain Vidic, was cleared by Ivan Marcano.
But biding their time, the Red Devils were susceptible to losing possession cheaply and being hit quickly on the counter.
The influential Dominguez was at the heart of the most promising moments for Olympiakos, feeding Hernan Perez down the left hand side.
The Paraguayan cut inside of Chris Smalling and unleashed a right-footed shot from the edge of the box which drifted wide of David De Gea’s left-hand post.
As Olympiakos continued to show greater invention, adventurous Greek left-back Jose Holebas then pulled a shot wide from distance after Rooney appealed vehemently to Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi that he had been fouled by Delvin N’Dinga.
United stayed relatively firm defensively but cracks constantly emerged which Olympiakos sought to exploit and the Greek outfit made the breakthrough in scruffy circumstances seven minutes before half-time.
Captain Giannis Maniatis mishit a low shot from 22 yards and Dominguez applied a clever and instinctive flick which left De Gea wrong-footed as the Spanish keeper tried to change direction.
It was an unfortunate break for United, who qualified as Group A winners, as they trailed in the Champions League for the first time this season.
An initial response from the visitors was apparent as a curling Rooney free-kick was guided over his own crossbar desperately by Manolas before van Persie was clattered into by goalkeeper Roberto and required attention from the physio.
But offering no attacking threat and remaining too cautious, Moyes could have few complaints about the slender deficit his team were left to overturn at half-time.
The start of the second half hardly exuded confidence as United continued to present the initiative through a series of errant passes.
And Olympiakos took full advantage to double their lead on 55 minutes as 21-year-old Costa Rican Campbell nutmegged Michael Carrick and curled an accurate left-footer into the bottom corner from 25 yards following another positive surge from Dominguez.
Moyes reacted with a double change in personnel on the hour mark as Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa made his first appearance in a month and Danny Welbeck emerged from the bench, replacing Valencia and Cleverley.
However, the visitors never gained a foothold in their bid to mount a revival which always appeared unlikely.
During a brighter spell, Welbeck improvised a looping header from Ashley Young’s cross which dropped harmlessly wide of the target.
But Olympiakos, with their pace in wide areas prominent, still posed danger of their own with Maniatis coming close on the volley when connecting sweetly with a loose ball.
Michael Olaitan then thundered a searing shot inches over the crossbar as the Greek champions searched for a killer third.
Portuguese midfielder Paulo Machado and Spaniard David Fuster entered the fray for the hosts, who remained compact with a measure of control to drain the life out of any potential United comeback.
But, hunting down a tiring defence, the Red Devils upped the ante in the closing stages and squandered a glorious opportunity ten minutes from time.
Moments after Young’s cross was beaten away by an alert Roberto, Van Persie leant backwards to fire over from close range once Smalling’s cross found its way into his path as the Dutchman failed to add to the four goals scored in his previous five appearances.
It was the final moment of encouragement on an otherwise disappointing night for United as their disastrous season faces the prospect of another competition expulsion.
Manchester United manager David Moyes: ''That's the worst we've played in Europe, we didn't deserve to get anything. I'm surprised, I didn't see that level of performance coming. I take responsibility, we have to play better. The players are hurting. We didn't offer enough on the night to create a goal. They have a very good home record so it wasn't unexpected. I take responsibility, it's my team and we have to play better. We can do, and the one thing is there's still a second game to come. There is a second game and we will do all we can to turn it around. There is undoubtedly talent at Manchester United but we didn't show it tonight. We are determined to put it right and we have the opportunity to do that. The players are hurt, Old Trafford's seen some great nights in the past and we hope to see another one."
Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick: "It's a disappointing night. We feel like we are still in with a chance going back to Old Trafford. We've lost a game. We came here hoping to win but we are not out of the tie. It's not ideal. We had good possession in the first half without penetrating through their lines but at the same time they didn't cause us any problems. We didn't start the second half well and that put us on the back foot. We are not getting results and as players we have to take that on the chin. You're looking for me to blame someone but everyone at the club is judged by results."
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane on ITV: "Nobody predicted that. It's been a tough night for the club, the players and the fans. Criticise United all you want buy Olympiakos were good. They were on the front foot and technically better than United tonight. There is a lack of confidence and there are some players who just don't have the quality. We've been brainwashed that the Premier League is the best in the world - nonsense. It's the best brand in the world but they have fallen behind, United more than most. They need six or seven players to rebuild the club. Privately David Moyes will be shocked at the quality he is working with."
Olympiakos (4-2-3-1): 16 Roberto, 30 Leandro Salino, 24 Manolas, 25 Marcano, 20 Holebas, 2 Maniatis (C), 8 N'Dinga, 26 Campbell (David Fuster 67), 35 Dominguez (Paulo Machado 76), 17 Perez (Haedo Valdez 86), 99 Olaitan.
Subs not used: 42 Megyeri (GK), 14 Samaris, 21 Papadopoulos, 88 Bong Songo.
Goals: Dominguez (38), Campbell (55)
Assists: Maniatis, Olaitan
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): 1 De Gea, 12 Smalling, 5 Ferdinand, 15 Vidic (C), 3 Evra, 16 Carrick, 23 Cleverley (Kagawa 61), 25 Valencia (Welbeck 60), 10 Rooney, 18 Young, 20 van Persie.
Subs not used: 13 Lindegaard (GK), 28 Buttner, 25 Fellaini, 11 Giggs, 14 Hernandez.
Booked: Evra (2), Ferdinand (90)
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy) - 9/10
Manchester United have won 13 of their last 15 home games in the knockout stages of the Champions League with their last defeat coming at this stage of the competition twelve months ago against Real Madrid.
United have lost ten, drawn two and won just three of the 16 games in all competitions in which they have conceded the first goal this season.
Olympiakos's overall home record against English clubs reads six wins, three draws and three defeats.
Olympiakos have now won three consecutive Champions League home games after victories over Benfica and Anderlecht.
Olympiakos have won seven of their last nine home games in the Champions League, scoring in all of them.
Michel's side are unbeaten in 20 games in all competitions, winning 17 and drawing three dating back to November, and have won 24 of their 26 Greek Super League games this term.
The result now means that Arsenal, Manchester City, Tottenham, Swansea and Tottenham have all failed to score in the first leg of their European ties so far.
? DID YOU KNOW ?
The lower tier of the north stand inside the Stadio Georgios Karaiskakis was closed as Olympiakos were punished for the racist conduct of supporters, insufficient organisation and setting off fireworks during their Group C clash with Anderlecht on 10 December 2013.
Manchester United's European Cup lows:
Galatasaray 0-0 Manchester United - Lost on away goals in 1993-94 Champions League second round after drawing first leg 3-3.
Manchester United 1-1 Monaco - Lost in 1997-98 Champions League quarter-finals on away goals.
Bayer Leverkusen 1-1 Manchester United - Lost in 2001-02 Champions League semi-final on away goals.
Zalaegerszeg 1-0 Manchester United - Beaten in first leg of 2002-03 Champions League third qualifying round. Went on to beat Hungarians 5-0 in second leg.
Maccabi Haifa 3-0 Manchester United - Lost to Israeli side in 2002-03 Champions League group stage after they'd already qualified.
Manchester United 1-1 FC Porto - Went out in Champions League first knockout round in 2003-04, 3-2 on aggregate.
Lille 1-0 Manchester United - Lost 2005-06 Champions League group game.
Benfica 2-1 Manchester United - Lost 2005-06 Champions League final group game when needing to win. Defeat eliminated them at the group stage for the first time in 11 years.
FC Basel 2-1 Manchester United - Eliminated in 2011-12 Champions League final group game - a draw would have been enough to go through.
Manchester United 0-1 CFR Cluj - Lost at home to Romanian side in 2012-13 Champions League group stage after they'd already qualified.
By Adam Higgins