Guus Hiddink believes the penalty decision, which rescued Chelsea a draw with West Ham, was ‘a close call’.
West Ham were leading the reigning Premier League champions at Stamford Bridge before Cesc Fabregas converted an 89th-minute spot-kick to earn a 2-2 draw. Referee Bobby Madley adjudged Ruben Loftus-Cheek had been tripped by Michail Antonio and replays suggested the initial contact was minimal and outside the area.
Andy Carroll thought he had enhanced the Hammers’ bid for Champions League qualification when he scored one minute after coming off the substitutes’ bench at Stamford Bridge.
But Fabregas netted his second after a brilliant free-kick had earlier cancelled-out Manuel Lanzini’s superb opener.
The penalty equaliser extended the Blues’ unbeaten league run to 14 games. Eight of interim boss Guus Hiddink’s 13 league games have been drawn.
The Dutchman felt the penalty was the correct decision.
“It was a very close call,” Hiddink said.
“Loftus-Cheek was about to score, because he was going towards the goal. I thought he was on the line when he was tripped.
“And the line is part of the box, I think. When there’s any doubt, the benefit of the doubt is always going for the attacking team – by this case, by rule.”
Asked if Loftus-Cheek could have stayed on his feet to score, instead of inviting controversy, Hiddink said: “Normally he is able to score in this position. (But) I think it’s not much of a discussion.
“He was tripped and then I think it’s fair to have the benefit of the doubt, if there is any doubt, for the referee to (award) this penalty.”
As West Ham chase the Champions League, Hiddink is still eager to secure Europa League qualification, dismissing the suggestion it could be beneficial not to play in the second-tier competition next term.
Chelsea are tenth, nine points behind the Hammers, who occupy the final European spot at present.
Hiddink said: “Our target now for the rest of the season is to see if we can get a European spot.
“You must get the highest position possible. If you start calculating not going into Europe for whatever the reason might be… I’m not in favour to say ‘hey, let’s calculate – please let’s not play Europe’. I think then you undervalue the tournaments.”