Jittery start for Chelsea

Update: 2:33AM LONDON – Chelsea have made a spluttering start to their Champions League campaign as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s second-half equaliser earned Schalke a surprise 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho’s
side had been in dominant mood in the early weeks of the season and they looked
well in control of their Group G opener after an early strike from Spain
midfielder Cesc Fabregas.

But
Fabregas’s first goal since his pre-season move from Barcelona was the prelude
to a frustrating evening for the Blues, who wasted a string of chances to
finish off Schalke and were made to pay when Huntelaar fired home to give the
Germans the point their perseverance deserved.

The
Premier League leaders will still expect to qualify from a group also including
Sporting Lisbon and Maribor, but this was hardly the kind of ruthless
performance required to go one step further than last season’s semi-final.

“I’m
frustrated because we had very good chances to make it 2-0 and after the 1-1 we
had a fantastic reaction and had more chances to win the game,” Mourinho
said.

Schalke
manager Jens Keller by contrast was ecstatic with his side’s performance.

“I’m
very proud of what we did against such a top team. Our plan went
perfectly.”

Fuelled
by the predatory finishing of Spain striker Diego Costa, who has scored seven
times in four matches since arriving from Atletico Madrid, Mourinho’s men had
reeled off four successive victories.

But
despite Costa’s impressive form, Mourinho opted to rest the Brazil-born star
and handed Didier Drogba his first start since his return.

Stretching
to win possession, Fabregas lunged in on Max Meyer, missing the ball and
leaving the Schalke midfielder writhing in agony.

With
furious Schalke players appealing for the foul, Croatian referee Ivan Bebek
instead waved play on and Fabregas sprinted to receive a clever back-flicked
pass from Eden Hazard in the area before guiding a cool finish past Ralf Faehrmann.

Schalke
gradually came into the match and Ghana midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng lashed
in a fierce long-range effort that brought a fine save from Thibaut Courtois.

In
a reversal of Chelsea’s goal, Fabregas was dispossessed after a possible foul
from Huntelaar, whose pass released Draxler to launch a rapid counter-attack
that ended with Dutch striker Huntelaar planting a clinical low strike past
Courtois to stun the Bridge into silence.

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