The British press described Mourinho’s mood as spiky in the build up to the game as he defiantly vowed to get the job of Qualification sorted with a game to spare. With the congested festive period upon us, having the Sporting Lisbon match as an opportunity to rest players looked a welcome proposition. Tonight’s match was the first time Chelsea had come up against former boss Roberto Di Matteo since his short stint as the boss who brought us the Champions League trophy.
Chelsea’s eagerness certainly showed from the off as The Blues put together a flowing move within the first 60 seconds. Hazard slipped Costa clean through, he turned the centre-half inside out and forced Fahrmann into a smart stop. From the resulting corner, Terry jumped highest at the back post and nodded it past the despairing dive of the home sides’ number 1. Di Matteo’s game plan had gone out of the window. Shalke needed to keep their shape for a while as Chelsea dictated possession. The plan seemed to deny space in between the home sides midfield and defence by remaining as compact as possible. With the early lead The Blues were content to nudge the ball around the back line and test the crowds’ patience.
It took about a quarter of an hour for Shalke to build any sort of meaningful possession but they very nearly grabbed an incredibly fortuitous leveller as Choupo-Moting’s long range effort kicked up off Cahill’s leg, lobbed Courtois and smashed back off the crossbar. From then on, it was all Chelsea. Despite Shalke’s midfield 5 sitting very deep, Chelsea’s brutish physically and midfield movement eventually tore Di Matteo’s men apart. Mourinho began barking instructions at Oscar, he dropped deep and allowed Fabregas to move forward and link up with Willian and Hazard to dazzling effect. The Brazilian smashed the ball under the keeper for 2-0 after a back heel one two with Hazard. The home support knew they were in for a long night and it seemed the players sensed it too. The back-line seemed hesitant to pass forwards and a slapstick back pass saw Costa clean through. The usually clinical centre-forward slipped and left the Germans unpunished.
There was a threat every time Chelsea went forward – from set pieces in particular and another comedy moment at the back saw three Schalke players attack Fabregas’ corner. Kirchhoff was the man to receive the brunt of the embarrassment by bagging the own goal that all but confirmed what looked likely from the beginning, that this match was over as a contest.
The second half resembled a training match. Di Matteo subbed Kirchhoff for Clemens but the visitors were unchanged. Chelsea continued to knock the ball around unchallenged and dropped the tempo to walking pace for large periods as the hosts offered nothing at all. The chances kept coming though. Willian got in down the left and teed Ivanovic up beautifully. The Serbs connection was sweet and it whistled past the post and bar joint but he really should have tested the keeper. Costa continued to terrorise Santana and Neustadter before being withdrawn and replaced by Drogba. It did not take the big Ivorian long to make an impact as another inch perfect Fabregas through ball saw Willian and Drogba through with just Fahrmann to beat. Willian squared and Drogba tapped into an empty net. The home support began to vanish whilst being serenaded with the ‘Is there a fire drill’ chant from the visiting support.
Didier was not finished. Hazard was busy causing a nuisance between defence and the by now, non-existent home defence and midfield. He released Drogba who’s back post cross meant substitute Ramires’ first touch of the ball was Chelsea’s number five from a straight forward header. Mourinho replaced the mesmeric Fabregas with Schurrle and by the time the final whistle went, 5-0 flattered the Germans. Hazard had a brilliant chance for 6 cutting in from the left and forcing one of very few smart stops Fahrmann made on the night. Chelsea are group winners with a game to spare. Mission