Samuel Eto’o stuck his first Champions League goals for Chelsea as the Blues strengthened their position at the top of Group E.
Demba Ba came off the bench to add a third late on as Jose Mourinho got the reaction he wanted from his side, matching the score line from Gelsenkirchen.
The visitors Schalke had started promisingly, but were unable to capitalize on some early nerves among those in blue as hot property Julian Draxler, and then Adam Szalai could only fire wide.
A shaky start was perhaps inevitable given the dressing down Mourinho had handed his players in the wake of the disappointing defeat at Newcastle at the weekend, combined with the changes to the side the Portuguese had promised.
Out went Cole, Lampard, David Luiz, Mata, Hazard and the injured Torres; with Azpilicueta, Mikel, Cahill, Willian, Schurrle and Eto’o stepping in the breach. The final four names on that list were instrumental in everything good Chelsea did, alongside the tireless Oscar they put the Germans to the sword, particularly in the second half.
Before that though the Blues were handed a piece of luck to get them going. The latest in a growing list of goalkeeping mishaps at the Shed End; Schalke’s experienced Timo Hildebrand following in the footsteps of David Marshall and Joe Hart as he failed to anticipate Eto’o’s ability to close him down, the keeper’s desperate clearance smashing against the Cameroonian and spinning into the empty net. It settled the hosts down no end, but they did have to wait until the second half to add to their lead.
The build-up to the crucial second goal was something straight from the book of football clichés – at one end, Draxler cut in from the right and on his stronger left foot, curled an effort towards the far corner only for the right-hand of Cech to palm it around the post. 95 seconds later Chelsea broke and the impressive Willian, having picked up the ball in midfield skipped past his man and bore down on the Schalke back line. The Brazilian had Schurrle to his left and Eto’o to his right, he chose the latter, and Eto’o’s first touch was perfect, preventing him from breaking stride before planting the ball beyond Hildebrand.
It was the goal that killed the game as a contest and while Chelsea continued to threaten, the visitors seemed to accept their fate.
Jose Mourinho then gave some of his hardworking attackers the chance to milk the admiration of the crowd and have a sit down, introducing Ba, Lampard and De Bruyne for Eto’o, Oscar and Schurrle. It seemed the subs still felt they had something to prove as inside the last ten minutes Ba showed his strength to chest Cahill’s long ball to Willian. The Brazilian found Lampard who lifted it beyond the German defence to find Ba, who tucked home his first Champions League goal.
A more than satisfactory response to the limp showing in the North East, and while the press pack were keen to find out why exactly Eden Hazard was surplus to requirements, the rest of us will be looking forward to Saturday’s encounter with West Brom hopeful that the Blues are very much back on track.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Mikel, Ramires, Willian, Oscar (Lampard 81), Schurrle (De Bruyne 78), Eto’o (Ba 77)
MOTM: Samuel Eto’o