Chelsea romped into the last 16 of the Champions League, securing top spot in Group G, thanks to an emphatic 5-0 win over Schalke in Gelsenkirchen. After failing to secure progress in Maribor last time out, Chelsea made no mistake this time around, and went ahead in just the second minute through captain John Terry. By halftime the advantage was 3-0 after a strike from Willian and calamitous own goal from Jan Kirchoff. Schalke coach Roberto di Matteo was enduring a night to forget against the club he led to Champions League glory in 2012 and things got no better after the interval as he watched the man who fired home the winning penalty in Munich, Didier Drogba, score again in Germany. Fellow-substitute Ramires then quickly got a fifth to equal Chelsea’s record away win in the Champions League and leave Schalke to go into the final round of group fixtures needing to beat Maribor away and hope that Chelsea do them a favor by beating Sporting Lisbon at Stamford Bridge.
It remains to be seen just what kind of team Jose Mourinho will put out for that fixture. With eight matches upcoming in December, the Chelsea boss was understandably keen to get everything wrapped up before the final match. And his side, building on a fine performance against West Brom on Saturday to extend their lead atop the Premier League, scarcely looked in danger of doing anything other than steamrolling yet another opponent in a season that promises so much. With the Premier League title already well under their control, Mourinho will surely already be consumed of thoughts of replicating Di Matteo in leading Chelsea to European glory.
On the evidence of this display, even accounting the woefully inadequate offering from Schalke, they will certainly take some stopping. Diego Costa could have put Chelsea in front in the opening minute, having got in behind the Schalke defense for the first of several occasions. Goalkeeper Ralf Fahrmann stopped the Spain striker on that occasion, but he was found slow to react when Terry headed into from the resulting corner.
Chelsea started with furious intent and could have been further in front in the opening exchanges. Schalke offered signs that they were beginning to settle and Eric Choupo-Moting, their only real forward threat, hitting the crossbar in the 13th minute with a shot that deflected up off the boot of Gary Cahill and over Thibaut Courtois.
It was to be the last occasion that Schalke were a meaningful factor in the contest. With 29 minutes on the clock, Chelsea went in front with a goal that cast even more scrutiny upon Schalke’s goalkeeper than the first. Still, the error at the end of it should do little to detract from the quality of the move that led to the goal. A long passage of passing suddenly received an injection of pace thanks to an incisive pass from Cesc Fabregas, a clever flick by Willian and a return ball from Eden Hazard to allow the Brazilian to drill a low shot through the suspect dive of Fahrmann.
Schalke’s keeper partly redeemed himself to deny Oscar, but could do nothing to prevent being beaten by his own defender to make Chelsea’s lead 3-0 by the break. Only Kirchoff will know quite what he was doing when he leaped relatively unpressured from a corner and headed into his own net.
The start of the second half saw Schalke briefly up their level, but Chelsea continued to expose their substantial flaws. Time and again Chelsea players ran forward to meet passes behind the home defense, and, in truth, the final score could have been even more demoralizing for Schalke. In particular, Branislav Ivanovic met a cross from Willian with a rasping volley that missed the top corner of the net by the finest of margins.
But a similar move saw Chelsea extend their lead with 14 minutes remaining. Willian ran onto a long pass over the top and could have finished himself, but instead nudged the ball to his side, taking out the goalkeeper and leaving Drogba with the simplest of finishes 10 minutes after coming on. A minute later it was 5-0. Ramires had only just made his way onto the pitch when he arrived at the back post to meet Drogba’s cross as Schalke capitulated and Chelsea added to their European-Cup-winning credentials.