Hiddink rues draw as top-four hopes fade

LONDON • Guus Hiddink lamented two dropped points as Chelsea's hopes of clawing their way back up the Premier League table were dented by a 2-2 home draw with West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday.

A tap-in by Cesar Azpilicueta and an own goal by Gareth McAuley were cancelled out either side of half-time by fine strikes from outside the box by Craig Gardner and James McClean.

Chelsea are now unbeaten in five league games, a run which began immediately after the departure of Jose Mourinho. However, they have yet to record back-to-back league wins and remain in the bottom half of the table.

Hiddink conceded that the prospect of finishing in the top four was looking dimmer.

"As long as it is possible to get, mathematically, then we go for it," he told reporters. "But we have to win all the games at home at least."

That challenge starts with Everton's visit tomorrow.

West Brom coach Tony Pulis praised his players for the draw. But it was evident that Chelsea striker Diego Costa did not share his sense of satisfaction with the result.

Hiddink revealed that Costa punched a hole in the Chelsea tunnel after storming off the pitch at half-time. He was incensed after referee Anthony Taylor blew his whistle just as the Blues were launching a counter-attack.

However, Hiddink is satisfied Costa did not cross the line despite being booked for a nasty challenge on Gardner in the second half.

"I think there was room to spare," said the Dutchman. "Diego and the defenders were challenging and provoking one another.

"We can always repair the tunnel. He is an emotional guy and I like it very much. If you have to push the players, it is difficult to survive in the Premier League. But every now and then, if you have to control them, it is better."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2016, with the headline 'Hiddink rues draw as top-four hopes fade'. Print Edition | Subscribe