Schadenfreude served as Chelsea slip up against Schalke
Wasteful Chelsea will be ruing a slew of missed chances the morning after their opening Champions League group game with Bundesliga battlers Schalke.
At 7/1 to lift Europe’s most elite club competition for the second time in their history, the Blues will have to do better than this if they are to reach the final in Berlin.
Jose Mourinho showed remarkable foresight at Stamford Bridge, reacting dramatically to chances not taken by Cesc Fabregas, who also netted the opening goal, and Didier Drogba.
The posturing Portuguese coach appeared to predict his side would only get a limited number of chances to double their well-deserved lead, and was proven correct in the 62nd minute as Chelsea were punished for their carelessness.
Schalke starlet Julian Draxler, who has been consistently linked with a switch to the Premier League, showed his strength and speed by unceremoniously dumping Fabregas off the ball in his own half, setting off on a strong run before eventually feeding Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
The swift, smooth counter-attack was a play Mourinho would have been proud of, as Huntelaar collected the ball, swerving inside before releasing a low shot past Thibaut Courtois.
The ex-AC Milan and Real Madrid forward needed no second chance, and illustrated the ruthlessness that the Blues were lacking with his calm and composed finish.
Chelsea may feel aggrieved at the foul on Fabregas, but it was a case of just desserts, with the Spain star’s own goal crafted from similar circumstances.
Mourinho’s men had dominated the match from the first moment, looking no less potent in the absence of rested Diego Costa, as Fabregas and the excellent Eden Hazard combined effortlessly to put the Blues ahead after just 11 minutes.
Ex-Arsenal skipper Fabregas escaped a booking for an unsavoury challenge on Max Meyer, and picked Schalke’s pocket before running on to Hazard’s pass and finishing from close range.
Despite the controversy surrounding the opening goal, from then on out it should have been smooth sailing for the Premier League leaders at Stamford Bridge, but instead it turned into a somewhat stressful affair.
Just before half time, Fabregas skied a sitter high into the stands, a chance provided to him on a platter by Branislav Ivanovic. Returning hero Drogba could not match his previous Champions League final exploits for the club either, putting another simple chance wide before Schalke’s equaliser.
The Blues continued to show the same irresistible attacking spirit that has seen them top the league table and score 15 goals.
Their expansiveness was exploited expertly by the German strugglers, though, and without crafty Costa Chelsea seemed to panic in the closing stages. New singing Loic Remy and Hazard both had chances saved by Ralf Fahrmann with wasteful finishing reminiscent of last season.
Costa clearly gives the Blues their cutting edge, but not even the man himself, finally risked in the 74th minute, could fashion a winner this time out.
Schalke were rightly ecstatic with their point, with dangerous Draxler proving a real threat to Chelsea’s rearguard. The Bundesliga side needed breathing space after only collecting one point from three league games so far this term, and their celebrations illustrated just how much this result meant to them.
It was certainly progress for the Germans, who lost 3-0 in the same fixture last campaign. Mourinho, however, will be displeased that his side have revealed their fallibility after what had been a perfect start to the season.
Odds-on favourites at 8/11 to win the Premier League, the Blues are still unbeaten this term in all competitions. However, after conceding seven goals in just five games, Mourinho’s men are still clearly trying to find the right balance.