Fernando Torres on the double as Chelsea get back on track
Chelsea prospered on the counterattack throughout after soaking up the pressure
Chelsea’s Fernando Torres scores against Schalke 04 during last night’s match in Gelsenkirchen.
Schalke 0 Chelsea 3: The last time Chelsea ventured on to German soil they clinched their first European Cup. If they had been waiting ever since to re-establish their credentials at this elite level, last season’s toils in the group section having damaged their reputation, then this resounding victory in the Ruhr valley will serve as a statement of renewed intent.
Schalke were well beaten here, wounded by neatly taken goals from Fernando Torres, a striker who suddenly looks revived as he revels under new management, and a late third from Eden Hazard. Chelsea had prospered on the counterattack throughout, soaking up the local pressure and springing forward with intent to register a victory that will resonate throughout Group E.
Jose Mourinho will have been as satisfied with his side’s performance as he was at breaking his own duck. Six previous visits to Germany in this competition, with three different clubs, had all ended in defeat. That record has been laid to rest.
There had been an acceptance within the Chelsea camp in the build-up that damage had to be inflicted upon Schalke if authority was to be imposed upon this group. The ramifications of last month’s defeat by Basel at Stamford Bridge are still being felt, leaving the 2012 winners playing catch-up and with this being an awkward contest against a side who had won their first two fixtures in the group and had lost only twice here in 13 Champions League matches.
Jens Keller’s team had also succumbed only once in 10 games in all competitions to recover their poise from a slapdash start to the campaign, all of which had suggested a daunting occasion ahead.
Yet there had been some cause for optimism to spur on the London club, not least the German side’s defensive vulnerability. Schalke have shipped 19 goals in nine Bundesliga games this term.
Tone set early
The tone was set early, Frank Lampard regaining possession deep in midfield before Oscar, Torres and Andre Schurrle sprung forward with menace as opponents laboured on the turn. That move culminated 86 seconds in, with Torres spinning and seeing his shot deflected behind for a corner. The Spaniard was to find his range minutes later.
This time the counter was sprung by Hazard’s wonderfully placed and paced pass from deep, Oscar and Schurrle again pouring at back-tracking defenders, with the Germany international winning a corner. Lampard’s delivery was duly flicked on by Branislav Ivanovic for Torres, unmarked at the far post, to nod home.
This was the striker’s 100th start for the club – and a 37th goal to mark the occasion. He may have scored only once in the Premier League since last December but he remains prolific in European competition.
Schalke were initially deflated by the concession, the locals almost undone again by Hazard’s mesmeric dribble into the penalty area, and it took them time to generate their own momentum. When the pressure came, Chelsea rather creaked to contain their hosts, Cesar Azpilicueta – selected at left-back – blocking from Max Meyer and Julian Draxler, and Petr Cech turning away efforts from Kevin-Prince Boateng and Roman Neustadter.
After the interval home players and their vociferous support chorusing penalty appeals in unison as Meyer pulled back a centre and it struck a prone Gary Cahill.
When Lampard flung over an angled free-kick from distance, the excellent Torres drifted away from his marker to rise and thump a fine header on to the angle of the crossbar. As it was, Torres did not have long to wait for further reward.
Schalke’s sloppiness in central midfield allowed the visitors to break into the German half, Oscar holding off Jones before eventually passing to the Spaniard. The forward took his time to wrong-foot Hildebrand before sliding in his second. His team’s third, taken with glee by Hazard, was well merited by player and side alike.
SCHALKE 04: Hildebrand, Uchida, Howedes, Matip, Aogo, Jones (Kolasinac 70), Neustadter, Clemens, Meyer (Goretzka 78), Draxler, Boateng (Szalai 70). Subs not used: Fahrmann, Hoogland, Felipe Santana, Fuchs. Booked: Jones, Neustadter.
CHELSEA: Cech, Azpilicueta, Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic, Oscar (Luiz 83), Ramires, Lampard, Schurrle (Mikel 72), Torres, Hazard (Eto’o 88). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Mata, Willian, Bertrand. Booked: Cahill.
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hungary).
Attendance: 60, 000