London - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s second-half strike earned FC Schalke 04 a fully-deserved draw against Chelsea FC in their opening UEFA Champions League group stage encounter.

Cesc Fabregas broke the deadlock with just over ten minutes on the clock, but Huntelaar restored parity with a well-taken goal after the interval. Both sides spurned chances to win the match, but a draw was a fair reflection of an evenly-matched contest in west London.

Worst possible start


Jens Keller’s side went into the game with four first-team centre-backs – Benedikt Höwedes, Joel Matip, Felipe Santana and Jan Kirchhoff – all missing through injury, and the Royal Blues’ current defensive limitations were exposed after only eleven minutes at Stamford Bridge. Max Meyer surrendered possession inside his own half, allowing Eden Hazard to pounce on the loose ball and play in Fabregas, who finished past Ralf Fährmann to give the hosts an early lead.

Die Knappen could easily have fallen further behind with ten minutes of the half remaining when Fabregas ballooned Branislav Ivanovic’s cut-back over the crossbar, but Julian Draxler very nearly levelled matters following a superb solo run which caught the Chelsea defence off-guard. The 20-year-old managed to get his shot away, but it rolled agonisingly wide of Thibaut Courtois’ right-hand post.

Huntelaar strikes


Didier Drogba, who famously scored the winning penalty in the 2011/12 Champions League final against FC Bayern München, failed to hit the target from a promising position shortly after the restart, and the Ivorian was made to pay for his profligacy when Huntelaar picked up Draxler’s pass on the edge of the area, cut inside Gary Cahill and fired low into the bottom corner.

Rather than rest on their laurels, Schalke continued to attack following the equaliser and Draxler stung the palms of Courtois with a powerful 20-yard effort after 70 minutes. Substitute Roman Neustädter then cleared off the line from substitute Loic Remy and Fährmann had to be fully alert to thwart Hazard in the closing stages, but the Royal Blues held on for a share of the spoils.

Line-ups:

Chelsea: Courtois - Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (C), Filipe Luis - Matic, Fabregas, Ramires (Oscar 67') - Willian (Remy 74'), Hazard - Drogba (Diego Costa 74')

Schalke: Fährmann - Höger, Ayhan, Neustädter, Fuchs - Boateng, Aogo - Sam (Barnetta 78'), Meyer (Choupo-Moting 74'), Draxler (Obasi 86')- Huntelaar.

Goals: 1-0 Fabregas (11'), 1-1 Huntelaar (62')

Matthew Howarth