Chelsea not giving up on Premier League top-four until the end - Hiddink
LONDON -- Guus Hiddink admitted that Chelsea's top-four hopes look more forlorn than ever after West Brom twice came from a goal down to claim a draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Chelsea led through Cesar Azpilicueta and a Gareth McAuley own goal in each half, but rarely looked comfortable defensively against Tony Pulis' spirited side, with Craig Gardner bringing the visitors level on 33 minutes before James McLean struck four minutes from the end to earn a share of the points.
The result ensures that Chelsea remain unbeaten since Hiddink's return to Stamford Bridge last month, but the Premier League champions lie 14th in the Premier League, 12 points adrift of fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur with 17 matches to play.
"We have said before that as long as it's possible to mathematically get fourth and the Champions League [qualification] we will go for it," Hiddink said at his post-match news conference.
"But then we have to win all these games, at home at least, because if you want to do that you calculate that you need 2.8 average points per game. That's difficult and you have to win your games at home."
Diego Costa spurned several good chances to add to his improved goalscoring record under Hiddink, but once again found himself at the centre of controversy. The Spain international clashed with McAuley and centre-back partner Jonas Olsson throughout the match and squared up to Boaz Myhill at the final whistle. Afterwards his manager insisted he had no concerns over his striker's conduct.
Asked if Costa had come close to overstepping the line, Hiddink quipped: "I think there was a little space left!
"They were challenging each other. The central defenders if you watched closely they were provoking a little bit. It's their right and it was mutual.
"Those clashes are normal. I didn't see any bad things in this. It was a challenge of men on men. He's continuously causing danger. He's very vertical in his actions and it's very good to see."
THE BEST OF ESPN FC
- Bell: Liverpool fans make themselves heard
- Cox: Leicester improving | Why Poch should stay
- Okwonga: Man United's market | City's title hopes
- Laurens: PSG's pre-UCL issues | Hertha's curse
- Highlights (U.S. only): Stuttgart 1-3 BVB
- FC TV: Champions League W2W4 | LVG wrong
- News | Transfer | Toe Poke | Fantasy | FC TV | Podcast | MLS
"He's an emotional guy and I like that very much. If you have to push the players then it's difficult to survive in the Premier League, but if you have to control them every now and then it's even better."
Pulis also refused to condemn Costa, who was booked for a late tackle on Gardner early in the second half and attracted the attention of referee Anthony Taylor several times afterwards.
"I think he's fantastic, a great player," the West Brom manager insisted. "He's competitive, leads the line well, he does things that defenders don't like. He's got an edge to him but I was brought up in the seventies."
Pulis is still totting up the points in order to achieve a different target: Premier League survival.
"Now we need another 13 points to get to 40," Pulis said. "But it's such a relentless league, every game is tough.
"We have tremendous respect for Chelsea but I felt we could do certain things to get something out of the game.
"So I'm very pleased we have got something out of it because the lads worked hard as a team and as a group to take something out of the game."