Keep a cool Ed

Wednesday 10 April 2002

Edwin Van der Sar seems remarkably relaxed for a man about to face the Premiership's most feared marksman.

The Fulham goalkeeper could be peppered with 80mph shots from his Dutch international team-mate Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink during Sunday's FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea at Villa Park.

Opposition managers have tried to devise specific plans in order to reduce Hasselbaink's effectiveness - for example, warning players not to give away free-kicks around the penalty area because he is a deadball specialist - yet his tally still sits at an impressive 29 goals in all competitions this season.

Van der Sar, however, insists he will not be paying his fellow Dutchman any special attention before they come up against each other on Sunday.

The 31-year-old said: "I have played against a lot of good strikers and all different sorts. Chelsea's strike force is not bad either.

"But there has never been anyone who has always scored against me or got lots of goals in one game that I can remember.

"I don't really study the strikers I am coming up against, but I have a pretty good general football knowledge.

"You also learn a lot about players when you are away with the national team and Jimmy is a very good striker. It is for me and our defence to stop him."

Hasselbaink, who is likely to be in the starting line-up against Blackburn tonight, scored against van der Sar when the teams drew 1-1 at Fulham last September, but he was not on the score sheet when his side claimed a 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge last month.

"I think we have played well against Chelsea and were a bit unlucky, particularly at their ground where they won with a goal that Mikael Forssell controlled with his arm," the Fulham goalkeeper said. "But this is a new game and maybe we will be third time lucky."

If van der Sar sounds a little low key about the game on Sunday, it is because he is. He is more accustomed than any other player at Fulham to performing on the big stage.

That the tie against Chelsea at Villa Park is Fulham's biggest Cup game for 27 years does not worry him. He has played in World Cup and European Championship semi-finals with Holland and won the Champions League with Ajax.

Van der Sar also has winner's medals from the UEFA Cup and four Dutch league titles, never mind his experience against some of the best players in the world playing for Juventus before he arrived in England last summer in a £7 million deal.

"It is a semi-final and you have not won anything if you win the game. It is important for the club, but I don't think it is something we have to get stressed about," he said.

"I think it is just a normal game with a bit more outside attention. You cannot get too excited until you get to the Final.

"The players said very little about it before the Newcastle game and the only thing we have discussed is how many tickets we are going to get for the game and if people's families and are going to be there.

"But we are very determined to get a result and afterwards we can talk about what we are aiming for: winning it, qualifying for Europe and thinking about the other semi-final winner."

Fulham have worked hard to alleviate the threat of relegation and only after Monday's 1-1 draw at Newcastle did they turn their attentions to Chelsea. Striker Barry Hayles is available despite receiving a three-match ban by the Football Association. If they win on Sunday, however, he could miss the Final.

Hayles was charged with violent conduct by the FA after an incident involving West Ham defender Hayden Foxe in November. Foxe was cleared of a similar charge but Hayles pleaded guilty and was hit with a three-match ban.