LONDON (Reuters) - Samuel Eto‘o rolled back the years to score two different types of goal as Chelsea beat Schalke 04 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to virtually guarantee their place in the knockout rounds of the Champions League.
Eto‘o, 32, who has won most of the major honors in the game - including the Champions League with current Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho when they were at Inter Milan - gave his best Chelsea performance yet since his summer move from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala.
He pounced on a mistake by Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand to put Chelsea ahead after 31 minutes and showed composure to add the second in the 54th minute. Demba Ba, who replaced Eto‘o after 77 minutes, completed the scoring with a mis-hit volley six minutes later.
The result means Chelsea need just one point from their final two Group E matches to reach the last 16. Schalke remain in second place with the knockout rounds still a realistic target.
Mourinho, who made six changes from the side that lost 2-0 to Newcastle United in the Premier League on Saturday, brought in Eto‘o because Fernando Torres was injured, and was full of praise for him afterwards.
“My favorite players are the players that win matches for me, not the ones that lose them, and Samuel worked with me in the best season of my career when we won everything. So he is in a good position,” the Portuguese said.
”For two years he was playing without a big motivation, and when you play without motivation you train without motivation and you lose condition and sharpness and your appetite, so it was not a surprise for me that he arrived not in the best condition after two years in Anzhi.
“Now step by step he is good, and naturally he is a fit, slim guy, and he is intelligent and goals give you confidence. The first goal was a fox goal, the second is a very good collective goal, and Samuel’s movement was brilliant.”
Chelsea weathered an early storm after Schalke started the brighter, but the match tipped Chelsea’s way when Eto‘o pounced to score after Hildebrand took too long to clear, allowing Eto‘o to stick a boot in the way of the ball, which shot past the keeper and into the net.
Eto‘o made it 2-0 in the 54th minute with a well-taken goal after a swift break and a neat final pass from William before Ba wrapped it up.
Although Schalke continued to search for a goal after going two behind, they lost much of their impetus when their most dangerous player, Julian Draxler, was replaced after an hour with a knock.
Yet the Bundesliga side, beaten 3-0 at home by Chelsea two weeks ago, could have been three goals clear after 15 minutes, with Draxler and Adam Szalai both going close with fierce low drives that sped just wide of Petr Cech’s goal.
Christian Fuchs also curled a shot just wide of the other post, and for much of the opening 30 minutes Chelsea were second best.
Their coach, Jens Keller, said: “We had three good chances to score before they did, but if you do not take chances like that in a match like this you will not win it. Still, our fate is in our own hands and all is not lost yet.”
Chelsea lead the group with nine points from their four matches, followed by Schalke on six, FC Basel on five and Steaua Bucharest on two.
Editing by Stephen Wood