Didier Drogba scored for the second successive UEFA Champions League game to build on Florent Malouda's early strike as Chelsea FC took a positive stride towards qualification for the knockout rounds yet again.
The Premier League side always had too much strength and know-how for an FC Schalke 04 team who received a setback before the start and were unlucky to hit a post as they tried to reduce the two-goal deficit. It leaves Chelsea with a three-point advantage at the head of Group B and extends new manager Avram Grant's 100 per cent record in the competition since succeeding José Mourinho.
Schalke's prospects were not helped when Kevin Kuranyi failed a fitness test on the knee he hurt in training on Tuesday and was removed from their lineup. Søren Larsen took over which meant the visitors, already disrupted by injuries, could only name five substitutes. Chelsea immediately set about making their task even more difficult by snatching an early lead as young goalkeeper Manuel Neuer allowed Malouda's shot to slip through his grasp. Having received a clever knockdown from Drogba, the Frenchman turned Rafinha inside out before unleashing a drive which caught out Neuer.
Now Schalke had to abandon any cautious instincts and they showed, through some tidy combinations, that they could take the fight to Chelsea's back four. Without Kuranyi, however, they lacked a strong focal point though Gerald Asamoah did escape to send one header off target. Nearer to half-time, Carlos Grossmüller beat Petr Čech at his near post yet he had already been flagged offside.
Neuer saveVisitors threaten
That was followed by a delightful Malouda cross from which Michael Essien headed on and Neuer regained some confidence with an agile save. The same pairing had produced an earlier opportunity which Essien nodded wide while Frank Lampard was also unable to direct his header following Drogba's centre.
The first period ended in a flurry of attacks which saw Grossmüller extend Čech and Fabian Ernst come close with a swinging drive, while at the other end Joe Cole demanded another stop from Neuer. At that stage Schalke appeared to be still in contention but within two minutes of the second half the contest slipped further away from the Bundesliga club.
Chelsea's crossing had maintained a high standard and the ball dispatched by Paulo Ferreira, making a right-sided break, was centimetre-perfect for Drogba who dived to glance it away from the goalkeeper. The centre-forward and the fans behind the goal then indulged in mutual acclaim; recent reports in which it was said he wanted a move away from Stamford Bridge seemingly forgotten. Schalke did not give up, but on a night of many headed chances there was only frustration for Larsen on the hour as he got a good connection to Rafinha's delivery only to see his effort come back off the upright and into Čech's arms.