LONDON – Fit-again Fernando Torres sparkled on his 100th start for Chelsea, scoring twice to help the 2012 winners outclass Schalke 04 3-0 to go top of Champions League Group E on Tuesday.
Torres produced a flying header at the far post after Branislav Ivanovic had flicked on a Frank Lampard corner in the fifth minute.
The Spain striker, back in the starting line-up following a knee injury, struck again in the 69th minute when he raced clear to beat keeper Timo Hildebrand after earlier rattling the bar with a powerful header.
Eden Hazard made it 3-0 after running half the length of the field as Chelsea, who last played on German soil when they beat Bayern Munich in the 2012 final, took their points tally to six, level with Schalke but with a much better goal difference.
Basle drew 1-1 with bottom club Steaua Bucharest and are in third place on four points.
"I feel we are improving as a team and the last few games I have felt very sharp," Torres told Sky Sports television.
"We were lucky to score the first goal early. In the second half our individual quality made the difference.
"To have got six points away from home is very important," added Torres, referring to Chelsea's previous victory in Bucharest.
It was also coach Jose Mourinho's first away win against a German team, having lost all previous six visits in his career.
The Portuguese opted to start Torres up front instead of Cameroon international Samuel Eto'o who was on target in the Premier League last Saturday.
"I put faith in Fernando and he answered well. It's a good feeling to score winning goals in the Champions League," said Mourinho.
"That was an important victory for us. I told my players after the Basle defeat that the performance was garbage and we had to clean it up and we have done that with two consecutive victories away.
"We were under pressure after the first game but now, after this result, we are in a good position," added Mourinho.
Schalke, who had won their first two games, had the lion's share of possession but, hampered by a string of injuries that kept several players out including forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, they lacked bite up front.
"It was very unfortunate to concede first from a set-piece," said coach Jens Keller. "We had chances and we should have taken one of them because you don't get many against a quality side like Chelsea."
Chelsea started brightly and looked menacing in the opening 20 minutes although Schalke threatened to equalise after fighting back towards the end of the first half.
Petr Cech was called into action as he palmed a rocket shot by Kevin-Prince Boateng over the bar and the keeper then denied Roman Neustaedter, punching away his venemous close-range header.
Chelsea took control again at the start of the second half and it was no surprise when the dangerous Torres walked the ball around Hildebrand after an excellent breakaway raid by Hazard and Oscar.
The Spain striker also headed the ball against the underside of the bar after a clever free kick from Frank Lampard.
Hazard put the icing on the cake for Chelsea when he sprinted clear in the 87th minute and calmly slotted the ball past Hildebrand.
"After the opener Chelsea contributed little to the game but defended their lead. We weren't able to break through," said Schalke captain Benedikt Hoewedes.
"We risked more in the second half and it was then that Chelsea made some brutal breaks. They took crucial advantage from their counter attacks and made the most of our mistakes." – Reuters