Basel's qualifying hopes shattered with draw

Basel suffered a blow in their bid to qualify from the Champions League group stages as they were held to a frustrating 1-1 draw in Bucharest.

Basel

A Fernando Torres double saw Chelsea seize control of Champions League Group E with a 3-0 victory over Schalke at the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen.

Chelsea were playing on German turf for the first time since winning the 2012 European Cup in Munich and, as then, for large parts of the game had to absorb the pressure applied by their German opponents.

On his 100th Chelsea start Torres netted his 38th and 39th goals for the Blues - hitting the bar in between - to take his tally for the season to four.

Eden Hazard scored a breakaway third three minutes from time as Jose Mourinho's men joined Schalke on six points, moving ahead of their rivals on head-to-head record ahead of the November 6 clash at Stamford Bridge.

Torres put Chelsea in front with a fifth-minute header, but the visitors were firmly on the back foot during the rest of the first half.

Only some marginal offside calls and a spectacular save from Petr Cech to deny Roman Neustadter saw the visitors take an interval advantage.

Chelsea were living dangerously as Schalke pressed forward, but six minutes into the second half Torres hit the frame of the goal with a header from Frank Lampard's free-kick as the visitors went close to doubling their advantage.

Determination made the second goal. First Hazard won the ball midway inside Chelsea's half, then Oscar shrugged off Jermaine Jones' attempts to dispossess him.

The Brazil playmaker reached the edge of the Schalke area and centred for Torres to score.

It was Torres' third goal of the season against German opponents - the other coming at Swindon in the Capital One Cup - after his European Super Cup strike against Bayern Munich.

After beginning the campaign with a surprise loss to Basle, Chelsea now lead the pool following wins away to Steaua Bucharest and Schalke ahead of the return match with the Germans at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho, charged with improper conduct following his dismissal during the controversial win over Cardiff, made five changes, two of them in defence.

David Luiz and Ryan Bertrand dropped out for Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta, respectively, while Oscar, Torres and Andre Schurrle also returned to the starting line-up.

Azpilicueta is a right-back but Mourinho preferred to play the Spaniard out of position, rather than field Bertrand, in the absence of Ashley Cole (ribs).

It was Schalke's defence which was exposed early on when Lampard's inswinging corner was glanced on by Branislav Ivanovic.

The ball evaded the Schalke defence and goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand for Torres to nod in at the far post.

Schalke enjoyed plenty of possession and were dynamic in attack. Kevin-Prince Boateng, once of Tottenham and Portsmouth, Christian Clemens, Julian Draxler and Max Meyer operated as a fluid front four, without finding a clinical final pass or shot.

Twice Cech saved when a Schalke player was offside, while Atsuto Uchida passed up a glorious opportunity when played in by Roman Neustadter, lifting his shot high.

Chelsea were struggling to get the ball, let alone keep it.

But there were still warning signs for Schalke and a dazzling Hazard run went unrewarded as the ball became caught under the Belgian's feet inside the Schalke box.

A Schalke surge closed the first half, with Azpilicueta blocking from Meyer when Cech could only claw away an Dennis Aogo cross before the goalkeeper tipped over a Boateng shot.

From the resulting corner Cech had to acrobatically tip over a header from the unmarked Neustadter.

The next set-piece resulted in a goalmouth scramble which ended when Benedikt Howedes backheeled wide.

John Terry then blocked from Draxler as the half ended with Chelsea's slender advantage intact.

The visitors had little respite early in the second half, but came close to extending their advantage when Lampard lofted a free-kick into the box and Torres leapt to meet it, his header rebounding down off the woodwork.

A Schalke set-piece troubled the visitors once more when Howedes lost his marker, but headed wide.

The hosts were made to pay in thrilling style by a Hazard-inspired break.

As another Schalke attack broke down, the Belgian nipped in ahead of a sliding Aogo and burst into the Schalke half - where Oscar assumed possession.

Three blue-shirted attackers swarmed forward and the Brazilian showed great strength to hold off Jones and play the ball square for Torres.

The Spaniard's first touch wrong-footed Hildebrand and he was able to fire in to complete a scintillating counter-attack.

Recognising Chelsea had exerted the near knockout blow, Mourinho brought on defensive midfielder John Obi Mikel for Schurrle and Luiz for Oscar.

The Blues then showed a ruthless streak with a late third.

Ramires prodded the ball forward for Hazard to run half of the field, Torres provided a distraction and the Belgian tucked in to complete victory.



comments powered by Disqus

Most Popular News

News & Update