x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 17 August 2017

Anelka treble gets Chelsea out of trouble

Guus Hiddink showed little emotion and gave nothing away as he watched Chelsea squeeze into the quarter finals of the FA Cup.

A falling Nicolas Anelka, centre, scores his second goal for Chelsea against Watford.
A falling Nicolas Anelka, centre, scores his second goal for Chelsea against Watford.

LONDON // Guus Hiddink showed little emotion and gave nothing away as he watched Chelsea squeeze into the quarter finals of the FA Cup. But Frank Lampard believes the new Blues manager will have been impressed by the spirit of the side that can still help them garner success this season.

It took a clinical hat-trick from Nicolas Anelka to overcome a battling Watford, who had dreams of a shock after Tamas Priskin put them ahead. Lampard knows life at Stamford Bridge is not rosy after the departure of Luiz Felipe Scolari as manager and speculation about cliques and problems in the dressing room. Amid the unrest, John Terry, the club's inspirational captain who missed the cup tie through suspension, has been linked with a summer move.

But Lampard is hoping Hiddink, in charge until the end of the season in combination with his Russia role, can put things right. "I think he will have been happy with the desire and spirit we showed and will be looking forward to working more with us," he said. "I thought we played some good football on a difficult pitch." Hiddink has already claimed Chelsea can still win the league even though they are fourth and seven points behind the leaders Manchester United.

Lampard added: "It's still achievable because the points say so. If we win all our games and other teams drop points then it's possible; we have to keep going. We can also win the FA Cup; we are not too many games away from Wembley now and we have got a huge Champions League game to come [against Juventus]. "On every front we have got a great chance. Obviously everyone is trying to impress the new manager."

With futures at stake, nobody, it seems, is trying harder than Anelka and Didier Drogba. They showed glimpses of a potentially fearsome striking partnership at Watford, especially when switched to a 4-4-2 system. Ray Wilkins, the Chelsea assistant manager, led the team on Saturday and is hoping opposites can attract and the pair will gel. He said: "Nicolas is not the most vocal guy, but he works extremely hard on his game and is a wonderful finisher. Didier is extremely vocal. He's a good guy to have in the dressing room and they can play together, as they showed playing in a three and then when we went to 4-4-2. It has been a tough week for the club, but I thought the attitude of the players was exceptional.

"He (Hiddink) obviously knows we have got some very talented footballers, but he also knows that we've got courage as well. "People keep saying it's been a difficult season, but we are in the cup and in the hunt for the Premier League and Champions League. You haven't seen the best yet." Meanwhile, in Scotland yesterday, Celtic and Rangers fought out a 0-0 draw, ensuring Celtic remain two points clear at the top of the Scottish Premier League.

akhan@thenational.ae