This time last year, Chelsea and Jose Mourinho were licking their wounds following a shock 1-0 defeat at home to Basel in the first round of the Champions League group stages. Tonight, Chelsea will again be ruing a chance missed after Schalke 04 managed to salvage a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge, a mean feat considering the German’s disappointing form as of late.
Story of the Game.
On the back of a 100 per cent record so far this season, Chelsea started the brighter and attacked with some degree of intent during the opening stages. In fact Chelsea came out of the traps guns blazing and on 11 minutes, they broke the deadlock. Eden Hazard’s clever reverse ball fed Cesc Fabregas who was on hand to finish past the hapless Fährmann in the Schalke goal. 1-0. Hazard looked to be Chelsea’s main threat going forward and the Belgian superstar conjured up a number of neat moves down the left side
Despite Chelsea’s blistering start, they failed to kill the game off as a contest with Fabregas and Hazard spurning some gifting opportunities. The Blues didn’t have it their own way, Kevin-Prince Boateng tried his luck from long-range on a couple of occasions before Julian Draxler waltzed his way into the Chelsea penalty area before narrowly firing wide of Thibaut Courtois’ left hand post. The ever-present Branislav Ivanovic was bombing forward when given every opportunity but his efforts came to no avail, most notably when Fabregas blasted over from twelve yards following the Serbian’s cutback from the by-line.
Both sides went into the break with plenty to ponder. Mourinho would have looked at the situation up front and thought about making a change early in the second half. Didier Drogba made his first competitive start for the Blues since he rejoined the club as a free agent in the Summer. Aside from the aura and awe surrounding Drogba’s presence on the Stamford Bridge turf once again, the Ivorian struggled for large parts of the game. Mainly struggling to get to the pace of European football and understandably so.
Drogba wasn’t the only passenger in what was a fairly pedestrian second half for Chelsea and that was reflected when Cesc Fabregas was dispossessed in the middle of the park, exposing the Chelsea rearguard and leaving Klaas-Jan Huntelaar free to drive towards Courtois goal and expertly drive a low fizzing shot past Courtois. 1-1.
Surprisingly, the German outfit didn’t appear to be content with just a point and under-fire coach Jens Keller made some positive changes to suggest that was indeed the case. Chelsea came in dribs and drabs from then on and huffed and puffed, trying to redeem themselves.
Mourinho introduced strikers Diego Costa and Loic Remy to the fray in an attempt to snatch all three points but Keller’s troops held out to secure their first point of the campaign. A result that shouldn’t be frowned upon from a Schalke perspective at least, considering these two sides are heavily expected to qualify for the knock-out stages at the expense of both Maribor and Sporting CF.
Max Meyer (18), impressed for large spells of the game for Schalke 04. Definitely one to watch out for. But, the vote of confidence goes to Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic who was fantastic from the get-go. His explosive runs from right-back shifted the game in Chelsea’s favour all throughout and his timing and decision-making was near flawless. A very, very early contender for Chelsea’s Player of the Year award.
Line Ups and Player Ratings:
Chelsea: Courtois(7); Ivanovic(8), Cahill(7), Terry(6), Filipe Luis(7); Matic(7), Fábregas(8); Ramires(5), Willian(6), Hazard(7); Drogba(6). Subs: Cech, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Oscar, Mikel, Rémy, Costa.
Schalke: Fährmann(6); Höger(6), Ayhan(6), Neustädter(5), Fuchs(7); Boateng(7), Aogo(5); Sam(6), Meyer(7), Draxler(7); Huntelaar(7). Subs: Wetklo, Friedrich, Clemens, Barnetta, Choupo-Moting, Obasi, Avdijaj.
Referee; Ivan Bebek (CRO).