A 3-0 win in Schalke, secured courtesy of a Fernando Torres brace and a late Eden Hazard strike, saw the Blues move into top spot in Group E and record a fourth successive victory.
The evening had started well, with Torres heading us in front inside the opening four minutes, but for the latter part of the first half it was Schalke looking the more threatening of the two sides.
Torres, though, extended our advantage in the 68th minute when he finished from close-range following excellent build up play between Hazard and Oscar.
The Belgian, after scoring twice against Cardiff at the weekend, produced a wonderful individual display, and he got the goal his performance had merited in the closing minutes when he raced clear before finishing excellently.
It’s now seven games unbeaten for Jose Mourinho’s men, with 19 goals scored in the process, and we head into Sunday’s Premier League game against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge in great shape.
There were five changes to the side which beat Cardiff City 4-1 on Saturday, with Mourinho making two defensive switches, bringing in Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta at the expense of David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand. Torres was given the nod to lead the line, while in behind him Oscar and Andre Schurrle were selected ahead of Juan Mata and Willian, with both players starting on the bench.
Schalke had suffered with injuries to key players in recent weeks, but the likes of Jermaine Jones, Julian Draxler and Kevin-Prince Boateng all started for Jens Keller’s side.
With the home side going into the game having yet to concede a goal in this season’s competition, it was imperative we started the game in a positive manner, and after an incisive break inside the opening minute of the match we went close. Oscar and Andre Schurrle combined and, as the German found Torres, the striker’s shot on the turn was deflected behind.
Moments later, however, we weren’t to be denied as another quick counter-attack produced an early breakthrough for the Blues.
Cahill cleared a Dennis Aogo cross on the edge of our own box and the ball fell to Hazard out on the right-hand side who broke at pace. After some clever build-up play between the Belgian, Oscar and Schurrle we won a corner. Frank Lampard’s delivery was a teasing one, and as Branislav Ivanovic flicked it on, Torres arrived at the far post to head us into the lead.
It was the Spaniard’s first start since last month’s game at Tottenham, and the perfect way to announce his return to the starting line-up.
The Blues were content to defend deep and in large numbers early on, looking to cause the hosts problems on the break, and as the game approached the 20-minute mark it was an approach that appeared to be working well.
Hazard and Oscar had looked particularly dangerous, and another move involving the pair, as well as Ivanovic, culminated with the Brazilian screwing a shot well wide when he should have at least worked Timo Hildebrand in the Schalke goal.
The home side came into the game top of Group E having taken maximum points from their opening two matches, and they remained a threat, but John Terry and Cahill were standing firm, with the latter making a couple of crucial interventions to keep them at bay.
On the first occasion we were really opened up, though, Schalke should have restored parity. Roman Neustadter slid an inch-perfect pass in behind Azpilicueta, presenting Atsuto Uchida with a glorious opportunity to equalise, but the right-back, perhaps in unfamiliar territory, blasted his shot high into the stand behind the goal which was playing host to the most vocal section of the home support.
The home side were growing into the game as the half edged towards its conclusion and went close twice in quick succession. Petr Cech could only get a hand to a cross from Draxler, and as the ball landed at the feet of Christian Clemens it took a magnificent block from Azpilicueta to preserve our lead.
Moments later, the Chelsea goalkeeper showed great agility to tip a Neustadter header, which looked destined for the roof of the net, over the bar as Schalke pressed for a leveller before the break.
Jones became the first player to earn a yellow card two minutes into the second half for a cynical trip on Ramires as the Chelsea midfielder looked set to burst away from him, and three minutes later we went close to extending our advantage.
Like the opening goal, it stemmed from a Lampard set-piece, this time a free-kick rather than a corner, and as it was swung in, Torres expertly guided his header towards goal, only to see it crash against the top of the post and bounce away to safety.
After seeing the home side dominate towards the end of the first half, Mourinho will have been keen for his players to take control of proceedings and not allow Schalke to gain the ascendancy once more.
Lampard and Torres combined again just before the hour, the striker taking a clever pass in his stride before rolling the ball invitingly across goal, but while the idea was a smart one, the pace on the delivery meant there was little chance of Oscar or Hazard getting on the end of it.
At the other end, Schalke’s threat remained, and Benedikt Howedes will feel he should have done better when he arrived in the box to meet a Jones knock-down but, with time on his side, could only steer his header wide of Cech’s left-hand post.
With 22 minutes left on the clock, though, and from another devastating counter-attack, it was 2-0. The goal owed much to the quick-thinking and abilities of Hazard who pounced on a loose ball inside our own half as a Schalke move broke down. After beating two men, he slipped it into the path of the advancing Oscar; the Brazilian showed great strength to hold off the defensive challenge and as he rolled it across the penalty area, Torres was on hand to finish it off and double his tally for the evening.
It was a goal of the highest quality and one which sent the travelling Chelsea faithful packed into the far corner delirious.
With a two-goal lead to protect, and no doubt conscious of not wanting to take any unnecessary risks, Mourinho made his first substitution of the night, replacing Schurrle with the more defensive-minded John Mikel Obi, while soon after Oscar made way for his compatriot David Luiz, with the substitute slotting into midfield.
If the second goal had knocked the wind out of Schalke’s sails, three minutes from time the game was well and truly put to bed.
A hopeful clearance by Ramires landed at the feet of Hazard, and as the Belgian drove towards goal, he jinked inside the retreating defender and finished in style, rolling his effort into the back of the net , his first goal in the Champions League, and one which put the seal on a fantastic night for the Blues.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Lampard; Hazard (Eto’o 89), Oscar (David Luiz 82), Schurrle (Mikel 71); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Bertrand, Willian, Mata
Scorers Torres 4 and 68, Hazard 87
Booked Cahill 54
Schalke (4-2-3-1): Hildebrand; Uchida, Howedes (c), Matip, Aogo; Jones (Kolasinac 71), Neustadter; Clemens, Meyer (Goretzka 78), Draxler; Boateng.
Unused substitutes: Fahrmann, Hoogland, Santana, Fuchs, Szalai
Booked Jones 47
Referee Viktor Kassai (Hungary)