Chelsea’s position in Group E was greatly strengthened by our third straight win in the competition, a Samuel Eto’ double strike and a late goal from substitute Demba Ba giving us back-to-back victories over the Bundesliga side.
If Eto’o’s first goal tonight owed a lot to the opposition, the second certainly didn’t when he capped a swift move with an emphatic finish. Schalke had threatened early on but were kept at bay for most of the game although Petr Cech was called on early in the second half with the score 1-0.
As he promised, Jose Mourinho made changes, six in total with Cesar Azpilicueta playing left-back as he had in Germany two weeks ago. Gary Cahill, John Mikel Obi, Willian and Andre Schurrle all returned to the side, and Samuel Eto’o replaced injured Fernando Torres in attack.
Schalke’s changes from the first meeting were in attack too with Adam Szalai back as striker and Kevin-Prince Boateng dropping back into a more accustomed midfield role. Christian Fuchs came into midfield too.
Having excelled in two away Champions League games since the Basel defeat, it was time to exorcise the ghost of that night from the Bridge as we returned home for a European night. However the first proper chance this evening was manufactured by the Germans and it was a good effort too – Julian Draxler rolling a shot worryingly close to the target after the stretching Mikel couldn’t cut out a ball across from the right. Then Szalai hit the same section of boarding behind the goal as the Blues were left short of men at the back. That was two early escapes in the first five minutes.
Mikel later lost the ball in our half as he settled into his first Champions League start of the season but this time the Schalke shot didn’t go anywhere close.
Chelsea’s way of gaining a foothold on the game was a period of sustained, careful possession without pushing forward too much, a couple of Willian-led counter-attacks apart.
On 18 minutes, Draxler was booked for impeding Azpilicueta 30 yards out and it was the opportunity for the Blues to test Timo Hildebrand for the first time. Schurrle did just that with a well-flighted free-kick to the near top corner. The save was not the most graceful but it was effective, and earned congratulations from the keeper’s team-mates. The score remained 0-0.
Schalke were playing with Boateng often up close to Szalai in attack, keeping the Chelsea centre-backs well occupied. Terry needed treatment when caught in the face by the elbow of Szalai.
Schurrle had struck a shot wide in open play as the search for a lead continued but the manner in which we took it with half an hour played was so unexpected the live TV coverage almost missed it. Those in the stadium saw Hildebrand inexplicably delay a kick upfield so long that Eto’o’s chase down was rewarded, the eventual clearance bouncing off the striker and into the net.
This time there were certainly no congratulations from his team-mates for the former German international – only barracking from the home support every time he took a kick for the rest of the game.
There were also no questions over the legality of the goal this time either, unlike the last time Eto’o tried to catch a keeper unawares at the Shed End. A year ago Fernando Torres had similar joy at that end of the stadium too, early on in a match against Shakhtar Donetsk .
On this night against German opposition, Eto’o had a chance eight minutes later but spooned his shot tamely at the keeper. Neither side went close again before the interval.
Six minutes after the restart, it was time for Chelsea players to thank their goalie – Cech having saved splendidly from Draxler after the young German seemed certain to score, having stepped inside Azpilicueta after a throw had been allowed to go a long way.
Two minutes later, Eto’o doubled his tally and the Chelsea lead with deadly, stylish finishing. It was Chelsea counter-attacking at its best after the ball was given away by the visitors in our half. Willian played the perfect pass out to the three-times Champions League winner who knew exactly what to do.
Schalke now looked a beaten side. Hildebrand spilled a Schurrle shot but no one was following up closely and Jermaine Jones was booked for barging Willian over as another Chelsea break was very much on the cards. There was a near action replay when Atsuto Uchida took out Schurrle to earn the same punishment.
Demba Ba, one of three players brought on inside the final 15 minutes, should have tested Hildebrand more than he did with a shot but with 82 minutes on the clock and with his second opportunity, he hit the back of the net for the first time this season.
Having won an aerial challenge himself, the striker stayed onside as another substitute, Frank Lampard, lifted the ball over the defence and half-volleyed the ball into the bottom corner.
Since defeat in the opening game of this season’s Champions League we have won three, scored 10 goals and conceded none, a fine response to defeat. Basel drew at home to Steaua Burcharest and a good result in Switzerland in out next game should see us through.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Mikel; Willian, Oscar (Lampard 80), Schurrle (De Bruyne 77); Eto’o (Ba 76).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Cole, D Luiz, Mata.
Scorers Eto’o 30, 53, Ba 82.
Schalke (4-2-3-1):Hildebrand; Uchida, Howedes (c), Matip, Aogo; Jones, Neustatder; Draxler (Clemens 61), Boateng (Kolasinac 76), Fuchs (Meyer 66); Szalai.
Unused subs Fahrmann, Hoogland, Felipe Santana, Ayhan.
Booked Draxler 18, Jones 71, Uchida 75.
Referee Svein Oddvar Moen from Norway