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Anelka hat-trick fires Chelsea

NICOLAS Anelka rescued Chelsea's FA Cup hopes on Saturday, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-1 victory at Watford to avoid a shock fifth-round exit.

In their first game since Luiz Felipe Scolari was sacked and with replacement manager Guus Hiddink watching in the stands, the Blues fell behind to the Championship (second division) struggler when Tamas Priskin netted with 21 minutes remaining.

Priskin's goal came completely against the run of play but Anelka equalized six minutes later from close range and before Watford could regroup he headed in a cross two minutes later.

The France striker completed his treble in stoppage time to make Chelsea the first side through to the quarterfinals.

"Guus came down to the changing room to congratulate the players," stand-in manager Ray Wilkins told reporters.

"He is thrilled with the victory and knows he has a wonderful group of players to work with," added Wilkins who is to stay on as Hiddink's No. 2.

The day's other Cup ties ended all square with Premier League Blackburn Rovers and Fulham relieved to still be in the competition.

Blackburn was indebted to a last-gasp equalizer from Christopher Samba as it drew 2-2 at home to Championship side Coventry City.

Fulham survived a severe test against another team from the second tier, hanging on for a 1-1 draw at Swansea City.

In the only all-Premier League clash West Ham United drew 1-1 at home to Middlesbrough while Yorkshire rivals Hull City and Sheffield United also ended 1-1.

In the only Premier League game on Saturday, Portsmouth beat Manchester City 2-0 five days after firing manager Tony Adams. Pompey outplayed City at Fratton Park and capitalized with an angled shot by Glen Johnson in the 70th minute and a powerful header by Hermann Hreidarsson five minutes later.

Portsmouth goalkeeper David James set a Premier League record of 536 appearances and marked it with a shutout as Pompey did not concede for the first time in 11 league games.

The result means that City stays ninth in the standings while Portsmouth moved up one place to 15th, four points above the relegation zone.

Watford hardly got a kick in the opening 15 minutes on an awkward, muddy Vicarage Road pitch as a strong Chelsea line-up, which included debutant Michael Mancienne at right back, stroked the ball about.

Didier Drogba had been frustrated by Scolari's reluctance to combine him with Anelka in attack but he repaid Wilkins's faith with a lively display in a central role, as Anelka started out on the right.


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