Daniel Stendel: Hearts' defensive training helped us knock Rangers out
Tynecastle manager delighted with Scottish Cup win
Daniel Stendel revealed how two weeks of defensive training helped Hearts beat Rangers to reach the Scottish Cup semi-finals.
Oliver Bozanic’s second-half strike decided the quarter-final at Tynecastle Park, taking the hosts into their fourth successive national cup semi-final.
They had conceded 13 goals in their previous five games and remain bottom of the Premiership, but last Friday’s postponed league match against St Mirren gave coaching staff time to work on defending.
Shape, organisation and tactics were drilled at Riccarton in the last fortnight and it paid off with a clean sheet against Rangers.
“I thought only about winning the game for the last 20 minutes. It is good that we have this positive result,” said a delighted Stendel, who lost centre-back John Souttar with a serious-looking Achilles injury after only 16 minutes. “For the cup it is important and we need more positive moments in the league.
“We worked very hard for the last two weeks on our defensive behaviour and I am happy that we kept a clean sheet against one of the best teams in the league. It was not so easy after the injury to John Souttar but [his replacement] Clevid Dikamona did very well.
“It was good work from all in the team and this is what we want to do in the future. When we concede less goals, we can win a game with one goal.”
Hearts beat Rangers 2-1 in the league last month but hadn’t won against a top-flight side since. “After the last game we also thought it was the start of a lot of wins,” added Stendel.
“I told the players it is hard work and we need to think more for the club than for ourselves. We play for a great club and we need to stay in the league. It is not easy but it was good work today. We need to do it again on Tuesday [against Hibs].
“No-one expected a season like this season at this club but this is the reality. I hope they all understand it. The biggest thing is that we understand we can only do it together.
“Today was a good example. The clean sheet was good but it was not only the goalie and the back four. It was the whole team. This is what gives me hope we can win the biggest competition of the season.
“It’s a different game against Celtic and Rangers but today was not only fight. It was a good game in possession. We planned what we wanted to do. I am very satisfied with how we played. When we listen and do what we want to do, we have a chance.”
Hearts were denied a first-half penalty when the Rangers defender George Edmundson used an arm inside his own penalty area. From the resultant corner, an effort from midfielder Loic Damour was correctly disallowed for handball.
“If we did not win this game I would say it was really bad that he cannot see it was a penalty,” said Stendel of the Edmundson incident. “I saw the clip and it was so clear but after a win it doesn’t matter.”
Rangers struggled to pass the ball out from defence due to Hearts’ hustling tactics and Stendel admitted this helped his team. “Not so many teams in this league want to play from the back with a good structure. We needed a little bit of luck.
“Rangers have quality and had some chance but, in the last two games, we had the right moments on our side. I think today we deserved the victory more than in the league.
“You can say it is only the cup, we were not the favourites but the pressure was high after last week not playing.
“Our last results were not positive. We wanted to show we could be better. I am happy so many people supported us and I hope, on Tuesday, they do it again.”
The Rangers manager Steven Gerrard left Tynecastle distraught at his team’s cup exit, labelling it the lowest point of his tenure in Glasgow.
“I need to think. The plan was to have a day off tomorrow [Sunday] but I need to think hard about where we are at as a group. I need to some real serious thinking in the next 24-48 hours,” he said.
Asked if he would be considering his own future, Gerrard replied: "I just need to think, I am feeling pain right now because I want to win here. I am desperate to win here, but looking from the side today I didn't get the impression that the feeling among my players was the same.”
The Liverpudlian stressed he does not doubt himself or his coaching staff. “No because me and my staff have given these players absolutely everything for 20 months, held their hand on and off the pitch and improved everything but it is tough when, with every other performance, you feel the way I feel.
“It’s tough. I need to analyse myself for sure but this is the toughest moment I have had since I came in.”