Salomon Kalou targeting third place with Chelsea

 

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The Independent Football

Salomon Kalou believes Chelsea could still finish third in the Barclays Premier League, despite them sinking to sixth after a damaging 1-1 draw at Fulham.

The Blues blew a chance to haul themselves back into the top four for the first time since February last night, throwing away victory in a wet and windy west London derby at Craven Cottage.

Tottenham's shock home defeat to Norwich had opened the door for Roberto Di Matteo's men, who failed to fully exploit the slip-up, even though they closed to within two points of their London rivals.

Striker Kalou refused to be downbeat, insisting he was still targeting Arsenal, who will go seven points clear of Chelsea if they win at Wolves tonight.

Regardless of the outcome of that game, the Blues must surely win the sides' showdown at the Emirates Stadium a week on Saturday if they are to stand any chance of finishing best of the rest behind the Manchester clubs.

Kalou told Chelsea TV: "We have to forget about the game [last night] and continue to work hard because it's still possible to get the third place."

The Blues are still underdogs to finish fourth, never mind third, especially with Newcastle having leapfrogged them yesterday courtesy of their fifth straight victory.

The rearranged May meeting with Alan Pardew's men - originally scheduled for this Saturday before Chelsea reached the FA Cup semi-finals - is beginning to look just as significant as the Arsenal game.

Caretaker manager Di Matteo welcomed the head-to-head contests, saying: "It's good that we still have to play these teams.

"It's still in our hands."

Chelsea looked a tired team yesterday, having played twice a week since Di Matteo took charge more than a month ago.

The Italian will be keeping his fingers crossed his decision to give his players today and tomorrow off will allow them to recharge for another punishing run of games, starting with Sunday's Wembley semi with Spurs.

He said: "It'll be again until the end of the season very demanding physically and mentally.

"So, I think two days' break is good."

Reports this week suggested Ashley Cole could miss Sunday's showdown with the ankle injury that sidelined him again last night, while fellow defender Branislav Ivanovic has yet to discover whether he will face a three-match ban for Saturday's off-the-ball clash with Wigan's Shaun Maloney.

Last night's game was not without controversy, with Mark Clattenburg awarding Chelsea a penalty that initially looked to be for a two-footed Danny Murphy challenge on Kalou but was later clarified as being for a Stephen Kelly challenge.

Kalou was as baffled as most in the ground, saying: "I thought it was because of the two feet because it was a dangerous tackle."

If there was doubt even in Chelsea minds over the reasons for that spot-kick, which Frank Lampard buried to become the first midfielder to score 150 Premier League goals, they were adamant they should have had another for a Brede Hangeland push they claim prevented Lampard making it 151.

Kalou said: "Definitely. I think if he hadn't touched Lampard, we'd have had a second goal then. That could have been the end of the game."

Lampard added: "I thought I should've had one at the time.

"I was running in to get on the end of the cross and he pushed me out of the way."

Clint Dempsey took all the plaudits for Fulham after being credited with their equaliser - a header which may have been going wide but for a nick off Gary Cahill.

But Hangeland felt praise would be better received by Mousa Dembele, who has managed just five goals in 67 appearances for the club and only one since May.

Hangeland told the Cottagers' official website, www.fulhamfc.com: "We all know he can do stuff that no-one else can do in this team.

"Sometimes he does unbelievable stuff in training, and it's just about giving him the opportunity to do that as often as possible.

"He just needs to work on certain things in his game - among them scoring more goals - but that goes for all of us doesn't it, apart from Clint!

"He's one of those players you can look at and say there's no limit to what he can do on the pitch."

PA

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