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Schalke stalemate for Blues
06 Nov 2007 - 21:58:51
Chelsea survived a battering in Germany to secure a goalless draw against Schalke and inch closer to a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Avram Grant made two changes from the team which won 2-0 at Wigan, bringing back Joe Cole and Claude Makelele for Shaun Wright-Phillips and John Obi Mikel.
Schalke enjoyed the better of the opening minutes, but Chelsea should have gone ahead six minutes in. Cole played in Didier Drogba, but his left-foot shot from 15 yards was superbly turned away by home keeper Manuel Neuer.
After that the home side began to dominate, with Petr Cech forced to turn away a couple of stinging drives from Heiko Westermann, who was proving a handful rampaging forward from left-back.
After 24 minutes an unmarked Marcelo Bordon somehow headed over from six yards following a corner, with Cech caught out at his near post.
Soon after Cech, who was struggling with an injury, flapped at a corner and was rescued by Juliano Belletti, as he blocked Westermann's close-range effort right on the goal-line.
Shortly before half-time Cole's lunging pass played in Drogba in the inside left, but Neuer stood up strong to block the striker's shot at his near post.
Cech failed to re-appear after the restart and Chelsea continued to struggle, with Rafinha becoming a prominent force down the right for the home side.
Just before the hour Cech's replacement, Carlo Cudicini, made a smart, low save at his near post as Ivan Rakitic tried to catch him out following a corner.
Seventeen minutes from time the Blues were saved by the woodwork for the first time, as Peter Lovenkrands got a ball in from the left and Rafinha's lob back in hit the crossbar, before the follow-up header from Lovenkrands was cleared away from near the line.
Chelsea continued to hold out as time ticked away, but they were nearly undone in the final couple of minutes.
Former Rangers winger Lovenkrands was clean through on the left and slammed his shot against the foot of the far post with Cudicini well beaten.
That proved to be the final chance, as Chelsea secured a scarcely deserved share of the spoils.