Chelsea stand on the brink of winning Champions League Group E after back-to-back 3-0 wins over Schalke. The most recent victory came at Stamford Bridge on a night when Samuel Eto'o reminded everyone of his talent. We analyse the match
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF. Last Updated: 07/11/13 11:29am
Samuel Eto'o: Scored twice in a game in the Champions League for only the fourth time
It would be necessary to wind back 15 years to when Samuel Eto'o was a frustrated teenager at Real Madrid to find the last period in the Cameroonian's career in which he was not guaranteed to be a first-team starter.
But his role at Chelsea, since he joined in the summer on a one-year contract, means the three-time UEFA Champions League winner is now in such a position as a result of the presence of Fernando Torres and the influence of Father Time. That is something a now-32-year-old Eto'o has accepted, particularly as it comes as a decision of a manager - Jose Mourinho - in whom he has full respect.
Before facing Schalke, Eto'o had only scored once in 10 games for Chelsea. But that is not to say the forward is not also still more than capable of the flashes of brilliance which have terrified defences around the world for almost a decade in years with the likes of Barcelona and Inter Milan.
And with two goals, combining the difference of cunning and clinical, in Wednesday's Champions League 3-0 win over Schalke at Stamford Bridge, which also included Demba Ba's first goal in the European Cup and puts Chelsea on course to win this season's Group E, the forward reminded everyone of his undisputed ability.
It lit up an otherwise slightly flat encounter in West London in which Mourinho's reactionary tinkering in the wake of last weekend's Premier League defeat by Newcastle United meant Chelsea, who had otherwise this season appeared more attack-minded, had looked in danger of returning to their boss' pragmatic factory settings.
Chelsea v Schalke starting line-ups
Mourinho made six changes. It was Torres' injury which gave Eto'o his chance to start and, responding to Saturday's loss at St James' Park, which ended a six-match winning run, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, David Luiz and Juan Mata were also left out.
Eden Hazard was the sixth change and was not even among the substitutes after not taking part in Monday's training session due to a timekeeping issue, according to Mourinho. In came Cesar Azpilicueta, John Obi Mikel, Gary Cahill, Willian and Andre Schurrle along with Eto'o.
Christian Fuchs and Adam Szalai were in the Schalke team in two changes from the side who also lost 3-0 to Chelsea on Matchday Three. Rising star Max Meyer and Christian Clemens were the men to miss out as boss Jens Keller appeared intent on fielding a side who would be harder to beat. Kevin-Prince Boateng started as the lone frontman in a 4-2-3-1 line-up.
Story of the game
As a result of Mourinho's changes in personnel, Chelsea had not started well and the players appeared to be lacking in understanding of their specific roles. As Schalke chased and harried their hosts, inside the first 10 minutes, Branislav Ivanovic was guilty of losing possession on five occasions while Keller's team wasted chances in the same time period with three off-target shots.
9 - Samuel Eto'o has now scored in nine consecutive seasons in the Champions League. Pedigree.- OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 6, 2013
And apart from Eto'o using his experience to force Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand's comedic error for the opening goal in the 31st minute, which reminded of the way the striker had slyly embarrassed Cardiff City's David Marshall in the Premier League, Chelsea remained a disconnected and sterile team in the first half. That the home team's supposedly most creative players, Oscar (29), Willian (31), Schurrle (33) and Eto'o (25), had touched the ball on the lowest number of occasions among their team told its own story. Oscar, Willian and Schurrle were also failing to rotate positions in order to give Chelsea some variety in their attacks.
Indeed, it was centre-back pair Cahill (47) and John Terry (56), in their harmless defensive areas, who had attempted the most passes in the first half of any players on the pitch. Ivanovic had joined his defensive colleagues in touching the ball on a higher number of times than any other players but he had also been guilty of giving it away an inexcusable 14 times at the end of the half.
Gary Cahill and John Terry, in harmless areas, played the most passes in the first half
Captain Terry, upon whom Mourinho has always depended, had at least been a typically assuring first-half presence among the uncertainty of his team-mates, touching the ball on a higher number of times (64) than any player, winning all six of his combined duels and aerial duels, and making six clearances. Terry went on to finish the game having played a match-high 90 passes at an excellent success rate of 95.6 per cent.
There had been a sense of Mourinho having gone back to basics, the defensive mentality of his first Chelsea era, after being stung by the defeat by Newcastle and, shortly after half-time, they almost paid the price when Petr Cech was forced to make a fine save from Julian Draxler.
But, ninety-five seconds later, Chelsea had their second in the 54th minute in what was their first, fast attacking move of the match, with Willian, who still does not quite seem certain of his role at Stamford Bridge but did create four chances in the game, bursting out of midfield to assist Eto'o, whose immaculate first touch made room before he angled a shot from inside the box past Hildebrand.
Eto'o (no. 29) was able to touch the ball in various areas (l) and did not become isolated
Eto'o went off to stadium-wide applause in the 77th minute having scored his two goals from five shots of which three had been on target. It was also only the fourth time Eto'o had scored more than once in a Champions League game having last done so against Tottenham Hotspur in October 2010 when at Inter Milan. Whether it is his familiarity with the Champions League with Barcelona and Inter, he certainly looks more comfortable in Europe, where he does not always find himself as isolated as a lone striker as he does in the Premier League.
Eto'o is deeper v Basel (r) and Steaua Bucharest (c) than he was v Fulham (l) in the Premier League
Ba came on for Eto'o, scoring his first Champions League goal in the process as Chelsea cruised to the final whistle while, also for the first time since October 2010, they kept a third clean sheet in successive Champions League games. Chelsea also finished the game with 640 passes to Schalke's 200. But the abiding thought was of Eto'o, the manner in which he has embraced his squad role and how good he might have been in this Chelsea team on a weekly basis earlier in his career.
"It was good. The team was stable and kept possession. After the first goal, we played like we want to play. Everyone worked hard, especially the wingers. When we recovered the ball, we were always aggressive. That was important for us."
"I think Jose Mourinho's ability is that he gets the group of players as a real unit. It is almost a siege mentality. I think Jose does it in a very pleasant manner. When you are at this level, man-management is more important. All these players know how to play. It is keeping the human-being happy which is important."
UEFA Champions League
Wed 6th Nov - Group G
Zenit1 - 1FC Porto
A Madrid4 - 0Austria Vienna
Wed 6th Nov - Group H
Ajax1 - 0Celtic
Barcelona3 - 1AC Milan
Wed 6th Nov - Group E
Basel1 - 1S Bucuresti
Chelsea3 - 0Schalke
Wed 6th Nov - Group F
Napoli3 - 2Marseille
B Dortmund0 - 1Arsenal
UEFA Champions League Group A
UEFA Champions League Group B
UEFA Champions League Group C
|4||Zenit St. Petersburg||0||0|
UEFA Champions League Group D
UEFA Champions League Group E
UEFA Champions League Group F
|4||Paris St Germain||0||0|
UEFA Champions League Group G
UEFA Champions League Group H
Chelsea v Schalke
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It's coming together for Chelsea and they can go a long way in the Champions League, says Ray Wilkins.
Jose Mourinho says Eden Hazard's poor timekeeping resulted in him being dropped for Chelsea's home win over Schalke.