Chelsea 1 Schalke 1: Three talking points as the Blues are held
Chelsea 1 Schalke 1: Three talking points as the Blues are held by their German opponents
Fabregas opens Chelsea account
It is a mere four weeks into the Premier League season, and Cesc Fabregas has seamlessly made the transition back from La Liga to English top-flight football. The 27-year-old continued his fine form for his new London club, Chelsea, in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Whilst question marks remain whether the Stamford Bridge fan-base will truly adore the former Arsenal captain in blue, there is no doubt Fabregas is becoming the heartbeat of this Chelsea side. He was the focal point in Jose Mourinho’s midfield against Schalke, spreading play out to Eden Hazard or Willian, or working the ball out of tight spaces with delightful one-touch football. Fabregas already has six assists in the Premier League to his name, and the £27m signing ended his wait for a first Chelsea goal. Helping to win the ball back from Schalke, Fabregas timed his run into the box to fire past Ralf Fahrmann. He struggled at Barcelona playing the false number nine role after making his name as a box-to-box midfielder at the Gunners. And in his favoured role, Fabregas looks capable of tearing opponents apart, both domestically and in Europe. He missed a glorious chance to double his tally on the night, firing over from close range to leave Mourinho’s head in his hands. It proved the game’s turning point.
Schalke; Premier League stars past and future
Kevin Prince Boateng will be remembered by Premier League fans for his brief spells at Portsmouth and Tottenham Hotspur. The Ghana international is a journeyman of European football, representing seven clubs and still only 27! It is no surprise that Boateng has failed to fulfil his unquestionable talent, and is running out of time to prove the class act that he can occasionally look. What can’t be doubted is his desire to create chances, constantly demanding the ball from his Schalke team-mates. It was no surprise that Nemanja Matic clattered the former AC Milan man on a couple of occasions, looking to disrupt his growing rhythm. Boateng attempted a number of long-range efforts, but it was Arsenal target Julian Draxler who wasted the best chance for the visitors. When Gary Cahill and John Terry were finally caught out, the 20-year-old dragged his finish wise. Draxler became more and more of a menace as he grew into the Champions League clash. For a tall forward, the Schalke man has nimble feet. But it was another striker who has been long-linked with the Premier League who scored a 62nd-minute equaliser. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, linked with Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United in the past, showed strength to hold off a Chelsea opponent and composure to drill a low finish past Thibaut Courtois. It was richly deserved, too.
Legend returns but new hero missed
When the Champions League draw was made last month, there were groans at the familiarity of the groups. Chelsea were 3-0 winners against Schalke home and away last season, but the Blues never looked like racking up a comfortable victory at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday. Eden Hazard and Fabregas were the west London side’s best men, but when the latter missed a glorious first-half chance, Mourinho’s men appeared to lose their way. Mourinho, who doesn’t appear to be a man too willing to accommodate sentiment, handed Didier Drogba his first Chelsea start in the competition since scoring the winning penalty to hand the Blues their first Champions League trophy. But the Ivorian had little impact in this group opener, raising the question as to whether Mourinho should have stuck with Diego Costa or at least played Loic Remy? The pair are mobile, unlike Drogba, providing the movement that makes the likes of Fabregas and Hazard look like footballing wizards. Overall, though, it is far from a disaster for Chelsea.