Dundee 1
St Johnstone 0
League (Premier League)

1 - 0
St Johnstone 

League (Premier League)
Saturday, February 9th, 2002
Dens Park
Attendance: 6,344
3:00 PM Kick-off

Kiko Torres (40)

Team Managers
Ivano Bonetti
Billy Stark

Starting Eleven
12. Julian Speroni
17. Walter Del Rio
24. David Mackay
2. Barry Smith
31. Fan Zhiyi
6. Temur Ketsbaia
8. Gavin Rae
11. Mark Robertson
32. Kiko Torres
7. Fabian Caballero
9. Juan Sara
Alan Miller .15
Darren Dods .2
Grant Murray .12
Jim Weir .5
Mark Lynch .29
Martin Maher .33
Paul Hartley .17
Paul Kane .11
Tommy Lövenkrands .7
Keigan Parker .18
Sammy Youssouf .25

1. Jamie Langfield
18. Javier Artero
14. Beto Garrido
28. Khaled Kemas
15. Steven Milne
Kevin Cuthbert .21
Willie Falconer .16
Graeme Jones .9
Nick Dasovic .4
Stuart McCluskey .3

Steven Milne for Fabian Caballero (35)
Javier Artero for Juan Sara (67)
Graeme Jones for Keigan Parker (46)
Willie Falconer for Sammy Youssouf (84)

None. Keigan Parker (24)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Ian Fyfe (Referee)
Stuart Shearer & Joe McDowall (Assistants)
Ian Brines (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Whether they are winning, losing or drawing there is never a dull moment with Dundee.

A week that saw the Dark Blues ousted from the Tennents Scottish Cup by first division Partick Thistle and the management team of Ivano and Dario Bonetti criticised in some quarters for everything from their dress style to their tactical awareness (not to mention the former disappearing back to Italy for a week to get married) may have ended in a hard-fought 1-0 victory over St Johnstone.

But even in succeeding in keeping their top-six hopes alive, the result-which ended a seven-year, 11-game win-free run in this fixture-was overshadowed by news concerning front pair Fabian Caballero and Juan Sara and an outburst from assistant boss Dario.

Caballero's unhappy season reached a new low when, 32 minutes into Saturday's game, and following a desperate showing, he was substituted by Steven Milne. The Argentinian looked like he was carrying the cares of the world on his shoulders as he dejectedly trudged straight to the dressing-room.

And it emerged subsequently that the health problems that have dogged him for the past 16 months continue.

Caballero just hasn't looked the same player-neither around the waistline nor in terms of performance-as he was prior to suffering serious knee ligament damage against United last season and now he has been diagnosed with a respiratory complaint which will require corrective surgery sooner rather than later.

"Caballero was taken off because we needed someone who was more mobile and better able to run around than he was," said Bonetti.

"I was disappointed with the way he had played up to a point. But he has a big difficulty with breathing at the moment.

"He visited a specialist in Dundee last week and was told that one of the tubes in his nose is bent and that he has a cartilage problem which means that his nostrils aren't opening when he breathes in. As a result of this he has to breathe through his mouth, which is a major problem for an athlete. Fabian has a spray to help him for the moment but he will need an operation."

And Caballero's strike partner Sara lasted only as long as the midway mark of the second period before being carried off concussed after being clattered in mid-air by Saints keeper Alan Miller.

"I was speaking to Juan afterwards and he was asking me if he'd been playing and if he'd scored and was even asking what had happened in the last match-that's how out of it he was," revealed defender Walter del Rio.

Miller's every touch was roundly booed by the home support following the incident.

Bonetti would not be drawn on whether he considered the keeper to have been reckless, claiming it was difficult to tell for sure if Miller was guilty, but he did accuse Scottish referees of being so lenient in dealing with certain types of challenges that the SPL is at risk of becoming a no go area for foreign stars.

"If players are allowed to go in as they like then sooner or later something will happen and the responsibility for preventing these situations lies with the referee," he said.

"The beauty of Scottish football is its pace and temperament but gratuitous tackles can lead to serious injuries and big names will think twice about coming to play here. This is happening already because people we've spoken to about signing for us have said they don't like some of the tackles they've seen being allowed in Scotland."

But the bizarre thing about Bonetti's outburst was its timing, for he spoke out in the wake of a match that the-Miller/Sara incident perhaps apart-lacked challenges of the type he was referring to.

Indeed the most contentious events involved himself-albeit generally in the role of victim.

A flare-up with Perth skipper Jim Weir inside the Dundee technical area when Weir went to claim the ball for a throw and "tackled" the Dark Blues number two, ended in Bonetti being roundly lectured by fourth official Ian Brines while Weir escaped with a casual reprimand from referee lan Fyffe.

And in the second-half, when Paul Hartley got mouthy with the Italian as he passed by the dugout to claim the ball for another throw-in, again the Saints player was let off with a passing comment from Fyffe while he'd had stern words with Bonetti.

However, add in another couple of tickings-off from the officious Brines after the short-fused Bonetti let his emotions get the better of him when decisions wrongly went against Dundee and you could begin to understand his feeling inclined to let off steam.

"The St Johnstone player came in with his studs showing and I only just managed to pull my shin away in time-yet incredibly I was the one who ended up being told that if I did one more thing I'd be sent off," he said of the clash with Weir.

Dundee were a little fortunate to win but at least they battled and when you are chasing a spot in the top six, and have won only two of your last 13 games, you'll take any kind of victory.

"This was a very, very important result for us because we needed a win in this game to allow us to take full advantage of our two matches in hand," said Bonetti, who called his brother in Italy within a minute of the final whistle sounding to break the good news.

"Now we can look to exploit these six points, starting against Dunfermline on Wednesday."

Del Rio, for one, reckons they'll do just that.

"That's us up to 30 points, the same total as we had from the same number of games last season when we finished in the top six," he observed. "The hope is that once again we can qualify to play the best teams in the final five matches and I believe we can achieve that."

Saints boss Billy Stark claims too that his side can still achieve their goal of SPL survival. Yet on a run of seven straight defeats as they are and with second-bottom Hibs 11 points better off, it's nearly impossible to agree with him.

"It is a big deficit we've got to make up," acknowledged Stark.

"But Hibs are suffering a crisis of confidence and struggling badly and there are still 30 points to play for."

Not for the first time in recent weeks, St Johnstone matched the opposition in every area bar the one that really matters-putting the ball in the net.

They had chances but Julian Speroni saved well from Keigan Parker, Graeme Jones and Willie Falconer-a series of good aerial opportunities were wasted through being directed straight at the keeper-and when Speroni was beaten by a deflected effort from excellent first-time starter Martin Maher the woodwork came to Dundee's rescue.

"We just don't seem to get the wee break we are needing and, as against Aberdeen last week, we've been undone by losing a goal shortly before half-time," said Stark.

"I cannot criticise the players for effort, though, because they are putting everything into games and are sitting there in the dressing-room just now absolutely spent.

"And the positive thing I take from today is that there was a greater sense of adventure about us than has been the case."

The 40th-minute counter which consigned Saints to defeat had an element of misfortune about it for the 25-yard drive from Kiko Torres did pass through a ruck of players and wasn't as cleanly struck as Miller might have been anticipating.

Yet it should be acknowledged that Dundee went close several times-Gavin Rae and Temuri Ketsbaia bringing out fine saves and Fan Zhiyi and Ketsbaia rattling the frame from distance.

Match report written by The Courier

Squad Statistics (as at February 9th, 2002)

2001-02 All Time
Julian Speroni (GK)22 9 - 9 -
Walter Del Rio25 30 - 39 -
David Mackay20 111111
Barry Smith27 34 - 2551
Fan Zhiyi32 153153
Temur Ketsbaia33 182182
Gavin Rae24 30517217
Mark Robertson24 18 - 23 -
Kiko Torres26 122122
Fabian Caballero24 2954613
Juan Sara25 2586125
Javier Artero (sub)26 17 - 664
Steven Milne (sub)21 304568

League Table (as at February 9th, 2002)

No league table has been added for this season.

Manager's Programme Notes

Wednesday evening's defeat by Partick Thistle left me very, very angry.

Given all the problems we have had with injuries, we got a wonderful reaction from the players, but having 10 games in 25 days has not helped us. Clearly the breaks didn't go our way. We should have had a penalty in the first half, that's for sure. Then, of course, we lost the player. Having said that we really only started to play after they scored their first goal and it was a wonderful goal. Once we equalised I felt we would go on and win the game, but then. came the incident involving Fan Zhiyi.

All the players say he did nothing and having viewed it on video, I would say that he was very unlucky to be sent off, the decision being far to harsh.

I can't see how we would have lost the game if Fan Zhiyi had stayed on the pitch. Unfortunately, he didn't and we did lose.

That makes this afternoon's game all the more important. As you probably know, I will miss the game because I am getting married tomorrow and my brother Dario is taking charge of the team for this afternoon's game with St Johnstone.

I very much hope that when I contact him after it that he will be able to tell me that we have picked up three points because our hopes of finishing in the top six are still very high.

Starting with the game today we have three games at home in a week and with a home game against Livingston also outstanding, it gives us a terrific opportunity to close the gap on the clubs above us.

In recent games we have drawn at Pittodrie and played very well at Ibrox where I am sure that like me you really enjoyed seeing the team fight against Rangers and create chances. But, when you are playing against a big team, you can lose a goal and I was just disappointed that we didn't even take one point from the game. And what we need to do right now is make sure that we take all three points this afternoon.

Again we have problems with injuries with Beto Carranza doubtful because of the knee he injured at the time we were denied a penalty on Wednesday. There is better news on Alessandro Romano. He was left out as a precaution against Partick Thistle and should be available today.

Whilst St Johnstone may have been struggling this season, they did draw here earlier in the season, but when we met them at Perth, we fully deserved to win with goals from Juan Sara and Tempura Ketsbaia.

And I just hope that we can do the same again against them today.