Just as Avram could be forgiven for taking management for Grant-ed; a stern footballing lesson. This was substandard in every aspect from Chelsea – apart from the result. As the temperature plummeted, a minus performance.
And when Peter Lovenkrands raced past Michael Essien, a make-shift right-back to replace the woeful Juliano Belletti, in the 88th minute, hearts were in mouths. The Dane's shot was fierce and beat Carlo Cudicini but cannoned back off the far post. If he had scored, then who knows? Chelsea's qualification for the knockout stages would have been far more in the balance.
An eighth successive win for Chelsea would have secured their passage. But it was an evening to forgot – especially for the Brazilian defenders Alex and Belletti, while Wayne Bridge walked away accused of elbowing an opponent in frustration. Chelsea may also have to contend with the loss of Petr Cech. The goalkeeper damaged his calf in a first-half scramble and had to be replaced by Cudicini.
"He couldn't continue. How bad is the injury? We'll have to see," Grant said.
The damage could have been far worse had Schalke taken their chances. It certainly makes Chelsea's next encounter, away to Rosenborg, who were victorious in Valencia, a little tastier.
"We wanted to win but it was not easy," Grant said. "A draw for them wasn't good enough so it wasn't a bad result, although it wasn't our best game. After so many good games in a short time we can play a game that is not at the high level. We are still in first place. We started the tournament not very well, but it's still in our hands."
As early as the sixth minute, Didier Drogba almost scored but his shot was pushed away by Manuel Neuer and from then on Chelsea struggled.
It was another Dane, the Schalke striker Soren Larsen, who caught the eye. Twice he cut inside Belletti only for Cech to push away his shots while, from one of a series of corners, Marcelo Bordon stole in front of Drogba but headed over. He should have scored.
The pressure rose. Cech flapped at another corner, the ball fell to Larsen, again, and he hooked it goalwards only for Florent Malouda to clear off the line while Ricardo Carvalho, charging back, dispossessed Mesut Ozil.
Chelsea were in desperate need of respite and almost secured it when Joe Cole squeezed a pass to Drogba. Through again, his shot cannoned off Neuer's chest. Cudicini, soon after his arrival, performed a similar save from Ozil and the second-half pattern took on an even more lop-sided feel. Schalke attacked, Chelsea retreated and, from one more corner, Cudicini was alert to prevent Ivan Rakitic's fierce inswinging shot from dipping inside the near post.
By now, the alarm bells were not so much ringing, as rapidly increasing in decibels. In defence Chelsea were ragged, as yet another cross was bounced along the six-yard area before Cudicini was deceived by Rafinha's lob. And then Lovenkrands almost won it at the death. But Chelsea escaped. "It wasn't a bad game for us," Grant said. However, it was certainly a bad performance.
Schalke (4-2-3-1): Neuer; Rafinha, Krstajic, Bordon, Westermann; Bajramaovic, Jones; Ozil (Lovenkrands, 60), Rakitic, Asamoah; Larsen. Substitutes not used: Schober (gk), Grossmüller, Howedes, Azaouagh.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech (Cudicini, 46); Belletti (Mikel, 64), Alex, Carvalho, Bridge; Essien, Makelele, Lampard; J Cole, Drogba, Malouda (Wright-Phillips, 78). Substitutes not used: Shevchenko, Pizarro, Kalou, Ben Haim.
Referee: M Busacca (Italy).
Results: Chelsea 1 Rosenborg 1; Schalke 04 0 Valencia 1; Rosenborg 0 Schalke 04 2; Valencia 1 Chelsea 2; Chelsea 2 Schalke 04 0; Rosenborg 2 Valencia 0; Schalke 04 0 Chelsea 0; Valencia 0 Rosenborg 2.
Remaining fixtures: 28 November: Rosenborg v Chelsea; Valencia v Schalke 04. 11 December: Chelsea v Valencia; Schalke 04 v Rosenborg.Reuse content