Thursday 19 April 2018

Conte announcement did not affect result, says Hiddink

Guus Hiddink interim manager of Chelsea looks on prior to the match between Swansea City and Chelsea. Photo: Getty
Guus Hiddink interim manager of Chelsea looks on prior to the match between Swansea City and Chelsea. Photo: Getty Newsdesk Newsdesk

Guus Hiddink insisted the first league defeat of his second Chelsea reign was not down to the announcement that Antonio Conte will be in the Stamford Bridge hotseat next season.

Hiddink had not lost any of his previous 14 Premier League games since succeeding Jose Mourinho in December, but Chelsea came unstuck at Swansea as Gylfi Sigurdsson's 25th-minute volley gave the Welsh club a 1-0 win and took them to the 40-point milestone.

Chelsea announced last week that Conte will be taking over after leading Italy at Euro 2016 in France this summer. But Hiddink refuted the suggestion that the appointment had affected his players, saying: "I don't think so."

He added: "What we did in the second half was good. I don't think they had it in mind to look to next season."

Hiddink was without several first-team players through injury and suspension, among them John Terry, Gary Cahill, Nemanja Matic, Willian and Diego Costa. But the Dutchman also sprang a surprise by preferring Asmir Begovic to Thibaut Courtois in goal.

"Begovic is a good keeper and he has proven that," said Hiddink. "He has done his job as a professional very well. He is 100 per cent committed in every training session and that is why I rewarded him with the chance to play."

Swansea's third win in four games took them to the 40-point mark usually regarded as enough to retain top-flight status.

Under-fire Roberto Martinez insists the growing discontent among Everton supporters is not having a detrimental effect on his team.

Prior to Everton's 1-1 draw at Watford, the visiting section unfurled two banners, one which described Leighton Baines, who was forced to apologise for criticising his team following their 1-0 defeat at Manchester United, as "one of us", while the other demanded for Martinez to go.

They also jeered the stalemate, which, following victories by Bournemouth and Swansea, sees Everton drop to 14th in the table.

"The fans are allowed to express their views, and once the game started the support was magnificent," said Martinez. "For me they are the best fans in world football."

Everton will face either West Ham or Manchester United for a place in the FA Cup final later this month, but their form in the Premier League has been below-par. Their draw at Watford, where James McCarthy opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time, only for Jose Holebas to equalise 38 seconds later, ended a run of three successive losses.

Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew lauded Jason Puncheon after the midfielder's first goal of the season all but mathematically sealed Premier League survival.

Palace had lost nine of their prior 14 games - and six straight at home - before Puncheon's strike earned a 1-0 win over Norwich and surely secured the Eagles' top-flight status.

Pardew refused to celebrate survival with Palace 16th, on 37 points and 10 points clear of third bottom Sunderland with six games to go. But he did praise Puncheon.

"He carries this football club in his heart," Pardew said. "Some players play for a football club, they're professional, but they have no emotion to it. He's born here, his family are all from here. They were probably all in the stands today.

"He was feeling the pain of this run. His introduction back in the last two games has been a huge lift for us. Not just because of the manner in which he plays, but his personality and his leadership.

"He hasn't had his greatest season in terms of goals and assists, but he's a massive individual for this football club. He represents everything that's right about a black player, coming from this area.

"The way he conducts himself, handles himself around younger pros, particularly from ethnic origin. He's a great credit to this football club. It couldn't be more fitting that he got the goal, but I was absolutely delighted it was him."

It was Palace's first home win since the defeat of Southampton almost four months ago.

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