Eto’o opened the scoring for the hosts when he blocked Hildebrand’s attempted clearance with half an hour gone. The Cameroon striker grabbed his second of the evening ten minutes after the restart and Demba Ba volleyed in a third in the closing stages to seal victory for the hosts.
Having lost 3-0 to the West-London outfit two weeks ago, Schalke seemed determined not to allow Chelsea to get into their stride early on. The Royal Blues could even have taken an early lead themselves when Julian Draxler fired wide from just outside the penalty area. Moments later, Adam Szalai failed to hit the target from a similar position after running onto Draxler’s through ball.
The hosts slowly started to exert some authority, however, with former Bayer 04 Leverkusen star Andre Schürrle at the heart of most of their attacking play. The 23-year-old forced a good save out of Hildebrand with a curling free-kick midway through the first half, before Schürrle tried his luck with another bending effort moments later which flew just wide of Hildebrand’s goal.
The Schalke custodian was caught out just after the half-hour mark, however: The 34-year-old dallied on the ball inside the area, allowing Eto’o to charge down his attempted clearance, which trickled into the unguarded net to give Chelsea the lead. The Cameroonian star could have doubled his tally for the evening six minutes before the break but, this time, Hildebrand did well to smother the shot.
Jens Keller’s team started the second period in similar fashion to the first and almost found an equaliser eight minutes after the restart. Draxler received the ball from Jermaine Jones, before cutting inside onto his left foot and bending a shot towards the far corner of Petr Cech’s goal, but the veteran stopper managed to palm the 20-year-old’s effort behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
Eto’o at the double
Moments after Draxler’s opportunity, Chelsea doubled their lead. Kevin-Prince Boateng lost the ball in midfield to Willian, whose through ball found Eto’o just outside the penalty area. The 32-year-old made no mistake, finishing with aplomb into the far bottom corner to double his personal tally for the evening.
Eto’o’s second goal seemed to deflate Schalke and Schürrle almost took full advantage, but his shot was well-held by Hildebrand. Two Chelsea substitutes combined to seal victory for José Mourinho’s team with seven minutes remaining: Frank Lampard chipped the ball over the Schalke defence and former 1899 Hoffenheim striker Ba volleyed the ball into the back of the net to leave Schalke’s qualification hopes hanging in the balance.
Chelsea: Cech - Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta - Mikel, Ramires - Oscar (Lampard 81'), Willian, Schürrle (de Bruyne 78') - Eto'o (Ba 77')
Schalke: Hildebrand - Uchida, Höwedes, Matip, Aogo - Neustädter, Jones - Draxler (Clemens 62'), Boateng (Kolasinac 76'), Fuchs (Meyer 67') - Szalai
Goals: 1-0 (Eto'o 31'), 2-0 (Eto'o 54'), 3-0 (Ba 83')