Read a full match report of the Champions League Group E game between Schalke 04 and Chelsea at the Veltins-Arena on Tuesday Oct 22, 2013, kick-off 19:45 BST.
Jose Mourinho laid a ghost to rest. And Fernando Torres no longer looked a shadow of his former self.
Torres scored twice — on his 100th start for Chelsea — and this was the man for whom Roman Abramovich paid £50 million, the man Sir Alex Ferguson said had “borderline Machiavellian” cunning, rather than the pale version of one of Europe’s most lethal strikers.
The Chelsea manager was so content that he announced he would not be fighting the Football Association charge levelled at him for being sent to the stands during last Saturday’s match against Cardiff City. Pre-match and Mourinho had railed against what had happened but said afterwards that he would simply cough up the £8,000 fine.
“There are two important things,” he explained. “One thing is what the referee [Anthony Taylor] wrote in his report, which I read. And he is honest and fair. What he wrote is exactly what happened and is exactly why I didn’t understand why I went to the stands, and exactly why the punishment is justified and not to be suspended from the next match.
"I was not offensive or aggressive; I didn’t use offensive words. I just had a bit of a disagreement so I accept the fine and, against Manchester City, I can work.”
City at home is next up for Chelsea and it will be interesting to see if Torres retains his place.
Records and achievement have tumbled before Mourinho throughout his career but there is one strange anomaly: he has never before won in the Champions League on German soil. In six previous visits, he had six defeats with Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
Unsurprisingly Mourinho saw it differently. When reminded of his record, he said: “I knew if someone asked me, it’s only about half the record. The record is only about defeats in Germany, but I’ve never lost at home against a German team. So if anyone asked me it would only be half the story.”
This victory, with a home game against Schalke to come next, meant that Chelsea are now halfway through the group campaign, having turned around their opening round home defeat with two away wins.
“Because of my experience I was not in hell after the first game and I’m not in heaven today,” Mourinho said. “We have two matches at home, and normally we are going to get enough points to qualify.”
There was a debt, as so often, to Petr Cech who was at his formidable best in the Chelsea goal repelling Schalke, for whom the highly-rated and coveted Julian Draxler was a constant threat in possession, and who have scored in their last 11 Champions League ties.
But this Chelsea side is coming together with a burnishing resilience. It may not have been a squad that Mourinho would have selected, rather one he largely inherited, but it is beginning to appear in his image with Ramires a powerful midfield runner and Oscar the quicksilver playmaker aided by Eden Hazard’s trickery and André Schürrle’s directness.
For Juan Mata, again, it was the bench but there can be few complaints when the return is so resounding and the machine is starting to purr quite so efficiently although it helped that Schalke — hit by injury — spluttered and stuttered and, at the start, stalled.
From the first five minutes, to be precise. By the time the clock ticked round they were behind with Torres stooping to head home at the far post after Branislav Ivanovic had flicked on a Frank Lampard corner. It was not just the goal but the ease of scoring that shocked Schalke who had to work hard to manage their way back into the contest.
Draxler pulled the strings and opportunities came with Cech denying Dennis Aogo, clear on goal and turning away his shot, before turning over Kevin-Prince Boateng’s fierce shot and tipping away Benedikt Höwedes’ header and an effort from Roman Neustädter while goal-bound shots by Draxler and Max Meyer were blocked.
After Torres hit the crossbar with a fine header from Lampard’s free-kick, the Spaniard struck again. Schalke pushed and Chelsea broke with Hazard finding Oscar who showed pace and strength to hold off Jermaine Jones and roll the ball to Torres.
Calmly he rounded goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand and scored. It was a dazzling counter and then there was another. This time, Ramires found Hazard inside his own half but he ran unopposed. Torres made the decoy run and Hazard easily beat Hildebrand with a low shot.
Schalke (4-2-3-1) Hildebrand; Uchida, Howedes, Matip, Aogo; Jones (Kolasinac 70), Neustadter; Clemens, Meyer (Goretzka 78), Draxler; Boateng (Szalai 70). Subs Fahrmann (g), Hoogland, Santana, Fuchs. Booked Neustadter, Jones.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Lampard, Ramires; Schurrle (Mikel 72), Oscar (Luiz 83), Hazard (Eto’o 88); Torres. Subs Schwarzer (g), Bertrand, Willian, Mata. Booked Cahill.
Referee V Kassai (Hungary).