London: Chelsea were left two points adrift of one of the four Champions League places on offer to English teams as Newcastle stole a march on their rivals for top-class European club football on Monday. (Agencies)
Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by Fulham, after walking off knowing they needed to win by two clear goals to go above Newcastle and Tottenham Hotspur into fourth on goal difference after the Magpies beat Bolton 2-0 and Spurs lost 2-1 to Norwich earlier on Monday.
The Blues were left two points shy of both Tottenham -- their opponents in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday -- and Newcastle with five league games of the season left. Frank Lampard put Chelsea in front at a rainswept Craven Cottage by scoring his 150th Premier League goal -- the first midfielder to reach that landmark -- from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time.
But eight minutes from time, United States international Clint Dempsey equalised for Fulham when his header from a corner deflected in off Chelsea defender Gary Cahill. The Premier League's top three clubs go into the first round of the Champions League proper, with the fourth-placed side set for a qualifying round. However, Chelsea could scupper the qualification hopes of any other side that finish fourth by winning this season's Champions League.
Chelsea are the only English side left in the tournament, although they are up against defending champions Barcelona in the semi-finals. Interim Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo said a draw was a fair result.
"I thought we were quite in control of the game, to be honest, and maybe we didn't pose them a threat enough for the second goal. But we're still in there, hanging in there.” he told
At St James' Park, France midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa gave Newcastle a sensational 73rd minute lead when he beat several defenders before slipping the ball into the corner.
London: Chelsea were left two points adrift of one of the four Champions League places on offer to English teams as Newcastle stole a march on their rivals for top-class European club football on Monday.