Torres stars as Chelsea sweep aside Schalke

Posted by Mark Worrall

Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty ImagesFernando Torres put forth a £50 million effort with two goals in Chelsea's 3-0 win at Schalke.

Chelsea underlined their credentials as one of the best club sides in Europe by coasting to a comfortable 3-0 away victory over Schalke 04 in the Veltins Arena Tuesday night and ascending to the top of Champions League Group E in the process. An early Fernando Torres goal unsettled the home side, and the dynamic Spaniard doubled the Blues' advantage in the second half with Eden Hazard rounding off an emphatic win with a classy goal just before the end.

- Match report: Schalke 0-3 Chelsea

Despite making five changes to the side that started against Cardiff City at the weekend, there was, with the exception of the injured Ashley Cole, a "this is my preferred team" flavour to Jose Mourinho's starting XI against Schalke. As expected, following a less than assured display against the Bluebirds, David Luiz made way for Gary Cahill. Cesar Azpilicueta was preferred to Ryan Bertrand and Oscar was rightfully restored to the infamous and highly coveted No. 10 position, while the fit again dynamic duo of livewire midfielder Andre Schurrle and born-again striker Torres were entrusted with the task of pressuring the Bundesliga outfit's defence.

It was Torres who gave the visitors the lead early in the fifth minute following a well-worked Chelsea corner. Branislav Ivanovic deftly flicked on an in-swinging corner that found Torres at the near post and the Spaniard timed his diving header perfectly to nod the ball beyond Timo Hildebrand in the Schalke goal.

As expected, the home side pressed forward with Blues keeper Petr Cech called into acrobatic action several times to prevent them from equalising. On 20 minutes, Julian Draxler split the Chelsea defence in half with a precision pass which found the marauding Dennis Aogo. Aogo unleashed a volley that seemed destined for the back of the net until Cech turned it away. The referee signalled offside, but it mattered little to Cech who'd made the save and drew confidence from it.

Chelsea counter-attacked with enthusiasm, Schurrle and Hazard both making buccaneering runs at the Schalke defence, but as the first half drew to a close, it was the Blues keeper Cech who was kept the more occupied of the two custodians as the German side continued to press to draw level. Shortly before the break, Kevin-Prince Boateng's fierce finger-stinging drive was tipped over the bar by Cech and the Blues were fortunate not to concede from the resulting corner following a goalmouth scramble which saw Benedikt Howedes back-heel the ball a couple of metres wide.

Reinvigorated at the breather, as the second half got underway, Chelsea wasted no time in taking the game to Schalke. Shortly after the restart, Torres nodded a trademark dipping Frank Lampard free-kick against the bar and it came as little surprise when the Spaniard, who was clearly enjoying himself, doubled the Blues advantage in the 68th minute. Having been inexcusably gifted the ball by the Schalke midfield, Oscar picked out Torres who coolly slotted the ball past Hildebrand.

At 2-0 there was no way back for the German side. Mourinho shored up the Chelsea midfield replacing Schurrle with John Mikel Obi and then bolted up the defence bringing on Luiz for the ever-excellent Oscar. For the fourth consecutive game the Special One got his tactics just right -- surely no coincidence and there was still time for the Blues to ripple the Schalke net once more, Hazard ruthlessly finishing off the German side with a consummate goal set up by a sterling pass out of defence by Ramires.

Mourinho and his Chelsea side had started the evening three points off the pace of Group E leaders Schalke and ended it topping the group on goal difference as a result of Basel only managing a 1-1 draw against Steaua in Bucharest, Romania.

While it maybe too early to talk of Mourinho's men as having laid their early season problems to rest, a tally of 14 goals scored and two conceded in their past four games is a resounding endorsement, if any was needed, that Chelsea are still a force to be reckoned with. With Torres finally looking every inch the £50 million striker that he is and a bejewelled midfield to tee him up, Mourinho's men look set to trouble opposition defences on a regular basis.

Next up is what promises to be an epic Stamford Bridge thriller against fellow Premier League title challengers Manchester City. Something has to give -- and the way Chelsea are playing right now, the probability is it will be the City defence. Tonight though, Mourinho, his Chelsea team and Blues supporters everywhere will bask in the glow of another great result -- Sunday can wait.

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