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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Hasselbaink saves Chelsea

Hasselbaink saves Chelsea

March 28, 2004 17:04 IST

Dutch substitute Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink celebrated his 32nd birthday by scoring a late hat-trick to give Chelsea a sensational 5-2 comeback win over relegation battlers Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Hours after the club were hit by fresh speculation of Claudio Ranieri being replaced by England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson next season, Chelsea were heading for a shock 2-1 defeat until Frank Lampard fired an equaliser and Hasselbaink came on to score three times in the last 15 minutes.

Victory kept Chelsea's title hopes alive by moving the premier league's second-placed team on to 67 points, six behind league leaders Arsenal, who face champions Manchester United, third on 61 points, at Highbury on Sunday.

In other Saturday matches, Birmingham City edged Leeds United closer to relegation with a 4-1 drubbing, Portsmouth moved out of the drop zone with their first away win of the season, 2-1 at Blackburn Rovers, and Aston Villa earned a 2-1

victory over Charlton Athletic, a direct rival for European football next season.

But the place to be for drama was Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea took an early lead through Mario Melchiot, only for sloppy defending to allow Wolves's Henri Camara and Jody Craddock to throw Chelsea on to the ropes.

Ranieri's tenure had already been battered on Saturday by a tabloid newspaper's photographs of an apparent meeting last Thursday between Eriksson and Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon.

But the Italian's decision to send on Hasselbaink after an hour proved inspired as the Dutch striker followed up Lampard's equaliser with a stunning solo effort from 20 metres and two more well-taken strikes that turned victory into a rout.

The win clearly ratchets up the pressure on Arsenal, who had put one over Chelsea last Wednesday by drawing 1-1 at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

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