Hiddink enjoys rapturous applause at last home match

By Mike Collett

LONDON (Reuters) - Guus Hiddink, who will leave Chelsea at the end of the month after taking over as the club's interim manager in February, was given a standing ovation by fans after the last home match of the season Sunday.

The 62-year-old Dutchman revitalised Chelsea's campaign after it began to falter under previous coach Luiz Felipe Scolari and will take charge of the side for the last time in the FA Cup final against Everton at Wembley Stadium on May 30.

He will then resume coaching the Russia national team, despite making a huge impact at Stamford Bridge and becoming popular with fans -- many of whom had banners pleading with him to stay Sunday.

Chelsea beat Blackburn Rovers 2-0 and will almost certainly finish third after ending their Premier League campaign at Sunderland next weekend.

After the match Hiddink went on to the pitch and told the fans: "To all of you, for the support you have given me and to the team, thank you very much. The season is not over yet."

He was applauded by the club's Russian billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and in scenes rarely witnessed in soccer, was given a guard of honour by his squad on the pitch.

He also embraced Roy Bentley, celebrating his 85th birthday, who led Chelsea to their first League title in 1955 and he got into the party atmosphere by dancing and jogging on the pitch.

"That was surprising for me because I have only been here for a short period, but on the other hand, worked with a lot of joy with these players," Hiddink told Sky Sports News.

"This was not just a job. I came here in February to get the team out of the position they were in at that moment, and the players responded."

In 21 matches since Hiddink's arrival, Chelsea lost only once, and narrowly went out of the Champions League when they lost to Barcelona on the away goals rule after a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of their semi-final.

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)

Article Published: 18/05/2009