Normal service resumed as Eto’o shows Chelsea the way

Chelsea recover their poise to gain breathing space at the top of the group


Chelsea might consider this normal service resumed. A team that had just started to sense their own persuasive qualities, only to be floored in the north-east, recovered their poise here to gain breathing space at the top of this group.

If that was not reassuring enough, then the home fans could bask at the sight of two strikers taking full advantage of Fernando Torres' absence through injury. This was a fine night for Jose Mourinho, Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba. The latter's contribution came late, the Senegalese substitute spinning to shin in his side's third goal, and his first of the season, from Frank Lampard's flicked pass. By then Chelsea were already clear and comfortable, courtesy of Eto'o's double.

Won three times
This competition has been kind to the Cameroonian, who has won it three times with Barcelona and Internazionale, but the London club had been seeking evidence that the 32-year-old can still thrive on this stage. In undermining Schalke, Chelsea's closest rivals in the group, Eto'o has offered up that confirmation. One more win will claim the section. This had been Chelsea's opportunity to restore momentum after the shock of Saturday's setback on Tyneside.

Even Mourinho had not seen that defeat coming, his team having grown through October with six successive victories propelling them through three competitions. Newcastle punctured the optimism, the manager admitting his own surprise at his team's complacency and suggesting afterwards that he had made "11 mistakes" in his selection.

Watching from the stands
If that was an exaggeration, there were still six changes here, with Eden Hazard watching from the stands and other players with a combined 257 Champions League appearances benched. Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard contributed the bulk of that tally, with Juan Mata and David Luiz, apparently back on the naughty step, shivering in the dugout.

There were times in the opening exchanges when Chelsea seemed dazed and confused as Schalke poured through them. Yet Chelsea weathered the German pressure, eventually caught their breath and duly saw the visitors implode.

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The contest had drifted beyond the half-hour when Timo Hildebrand dawdled over a clearance and was duly caught out by Eto'o's dart to close him down. Hildebrand panicked his kick, the ball thumping against the Cameroonian's right leg to skim back and into the net.

For the second Willian darted through the centre away from Fuchs, with his slipped pass for Eto'o leaving the Schalke back line in disarray, the forward's collection calm and his finish crisply dispatched across Hildebrand and in off the far post.
Guardian Service