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Plucky Schalke earn Stamford Bridge draw


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Klaas-Jan Huntelaar netted a second-half equaliser to earn injury-hit Schalke a deserved share of the spoils against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea took an early lead through Cesc Fabregas' first goal for the club, as the Spaniard took Eden Hazard's clever back heel in his stride before finishing past an exposed Ralf Fahrmann.

But the former Barcelona star was amongst a host of Blues players to miss crucial chances to kill off the game, allowing Huntelaar to rescue his side with a composed finish on the hour mark.

Injury-hit Schalke, who have started their domestic season woefully - notably being dumped out of the DFB Pokal by third division Dynamo Dresden - defended manfully and showed considerable resolve to repel wave after wave of Chelsea pressure late on.

Even the free-scoring Diego Costa, on as a substitute, failed to show the Blues the path to victory as they drop points for the first time in any competition this season.

There were shades of last season's opening night loss to Basel in the way Schalke continued to grow as the game progressed, and Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was forced to make a number of saves from testing efforts as the German team sensed an unlikely win.

This Schalke side, struck by injury problems and a bout of flu that has devastated their first-team squad, impressed for large periods of the game and the draw is by no means a flattering reflection of the evening's proceedings.

The German side, who finished third behind Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund last season, were well beaten the last time they visited Stamford Bridge thanks to a Samuel Eto'o brace, but this performance was testament to the unity in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

It might have seemed a formality for Chelsea once Fabregas strolled in to swipe the hosts ahead, but when the Spaniard smashed over a shot from Branislav Ivanovic's clever cut-back ten minutes before half-time, there may have been one or two Blues supporters fearing that that sort of missed opportunity would come back to haunt José Mourinho's men.

And when Didier Drogba, on his first appearance for Chelsea in the Champions League since his winning penalty in the Allianz Arena in May 2012, side-footed wide a glorious chance served to him on a plate by Hazard, it seemed the Schalke sucker-punch would become something of an inevitability.

Huntelaar duly obliged, converting smartly past the wrong-footed Courtois after Fabregas had been robbed of possession in midfield by the impressive Max Meyer, who has already reportedly courted interest from the Blues.

Mourinho turned to Loic Remy and Costa to dig his side out of a hole, but when Remy, with his first touch, saw his goalbound effort superbly turned off the line by Roman Neustädter, it became clear that this was simply not to be Chelsea's evening.

There were further late chances spurned as Hazard produced a good smothering save from Fahrmann and John Terry had a header cleared off the line as the Blues pressed for a late winner.

Hazard also blazed over a volley from twelve yards after he was picked out by a sumptuous Fabregas through-ball as the German side battled through to full-time.

Thanks to a late Maribor equaliser against Sporting Lisbon elsewhere in Group G, this result will most likely only prove a minor set-back as the Blues now turn their attention to a potential title-defining trip to Manchester City - beaten late on in Munich by Bayern - on Sunday.

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