LONDON (AP) — Samuel Eto'o scored for a fourth team in the Champions League, helping Chelsea beat Schalke 3-0 on Wednesday to strengthen its position as Group E leader and close in on the knockout phase.
The Cameroon striker has struggled to display his goal-scoring instinct since joining from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala in August, but his double against Schalke took his Chelsea tally to three. "He was for two years playing without big motivations and when you play without big motivations ... you lose condition, you lose sharpness and you even lose appetite," Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said.
"So it wasn't a surprise to me he arrived here not in the best condition after two years in Anzhi." Now the 32-year-old Eto'o is regaining his confidence and back scoring again in the Champions League — just like he has done for Barcelona, Inter Milan and Mallorca previously.
His first goal in Europe's elite competition came in September 2001 for Mallorca — against Schalke. Twelve years on, Eto'o fortuitously claimed another against the German side. Goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand's clearance was intercepted and the ball bounced off Eto'o's shin into the net in the 31st minute.
The second goal came nine minutes into the second half, with Willian slipping the ball through and Eto'o clipping a shot past Hildebrand. "The first one was a fox goal and the second one was a very good collective goal," Mourinho said.
After Eto'o made way for Demba Ba, the Senegal striker soon opened his account for the season with an 83rd minute-volley completing a comfortable win for Chelsea. After missing out on the knockout phase last season, and dropping into the Europa League, Chelsea just needs one point from the last two Group E games to advance.
Chelsea is three points clear of Schalke, and four clear of Steaua Bucharest, which drew 1-1 at Basel. Basel stunned Chelsea by winning their Group E opener in west London and the opening minutes against Schalke suggested another upset could be on the cards here.
Had Schalke's early attacking threat been as effective as its fans, who were louder than the far bigger home contingent throughout, it might have been a different story. Julian Draxler, who rejected a summer move to England, was at the heart of the initial danger from Schalke.
The visitors went close to taking the lead twice in the opening minutes, with Draxler curling wide and then breaking forward to set up Adam Szalai, whose final touch in front of goal could not match the build-up play.
Schalke would pay for squandering those openings — Christian Fuchs also struck wide — as the Chelsea lineup gradually began to impose itself. "If you have three chances, you have to use those chances," Schalke coach Jens Keller said through a translator.
Draxler was booked for dragging Cesar Azpilicueta back, and Andre Schuerrle's free kick was batted away by Hildebrand. Schuerrle curled another attempt wide before the breakthrough was gifted by a combination of Hildebrand's blunder and the goal-poaching instinct of Eto'o.
Hildebrand had no trouble collecting a more direct shot from Eto'o before the break. Schalke was presented with a chance to level at the start of the second half when Jermaine Jones played in Draxler, but after cutting inside the resulting shot was turned wide by Petr Cech.
When the Schalke resistance was broken through again in the 54th, there seemed little prospect of a comeback. "Everyone worked hard, especially the wingers," Mourinho said. "When we recovered the ball we were always aggressive. That was important for us."
Schalke lost its most dangerous player in the 61st minute when Draxler went off with a bruised shin and Christian Clemens took his place. The Chelsea substitution — Ba for Eto'o — was more effective in the 77th as the newcomer hooked a shot into the net after Lampard slipped the ball over the defense.
Chelsea defender David Luiz had been spotted yawning on the bench just before the goal — reflecting how routine this win seemed to be after the shock of losing in the Premier League at Newcastle on Saturday.
"We wanted to respond (to that) and I thought we did," Chelsea captain John Terry said.