Eto'o is Chelsea's cure

GROUP E

CHELSEA 3

(Samuel Eto'o 31, 54, Demba Ba 83)

SCHALKE 0

It has been 10 years since Samuel Eto'o won his first of four African Player of the Year awards.

Age, though, doesn't diminish instincts.

The 32-year-old Cameroonian rolled back the years on Thursday morning (Singapore time) with a well-taken brace to pave the way for Chelsea's 3-0 home win over Schalke.

Demba Ba's late goal completed the comprehensive win that took the Blues to the top of Group E in the Champions League.

But in Chelsea's latest renewal project, it may well be the veteran's shoulders on which the club's progress rests.

The return of Jose Mourinho for his second stint at Stamford Bridge ranks as a major transfer coup, but even the superb managerial skills of the Portuguese can't plaster over the massive crack up front.

In four Champions League group matches, the three out-and-out strikers - Eto'o, Ba and Fernando Torres - have managed five goals altogether.

But in the bread and butter that is the English Premier League, only two goals have been scored between them in a total of 16 appearances.

Torres continues to blow hot and cold - brilliant on the rare occasions but mediocre most of the time. Patience is wearing thin.

Ba is increasingly getting found out as a one-trick pony of brute strength and dash.

Eto'o, however, has the capacity to improve.

Like many footballers, the lure of money from the backwaters of world football triggered a decline of prowess.

Two years in the Russian league, where he plied his trade for Anzhi Makhachkala as the world's highestpaid player, chipped away at his competitiveness.

TRUST

After the game, Mourinho addressed the issue: "When you play without big motivations, you train without big motivations, you lose condition.

"But step by step he is learning. He is a naturally fit guy."

Mourinho's trust in the man transcends words.

Eto'o played an integral part in what Mourinho called the "best season" of his career, in 2010 when he guided Inter Milan to a terrific Treble - the Series A, Coppa Italia and Champions League.

The respect is mutual.

"There is only one Jose Mourinho," said Eto'o three months ago, when he made known his desire to leave Anzhi for London.

Judging by his display against Schalke, he may yet play a starring role for the Special One again.

His first goal unearthed a hunger to return to the high level he used to dance on.

Sensing goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand's hesitancy, he zipped into the box and quite skilfully stuck out a foot to deflect the goal-kick into the back of the net to give Chelsea the first-half lead.

The second was a delightful blend of precision and decisiveness.

Breaking to his right, he collected former Anzhi teammate Willian's pass, before expertly picking out the far post with aplomb for his 29th Champions League goal.

His chance for a hat-trick evaporated when Mourinho decided that it was time to give his tiring legs a rest, with Ba coming on for him in the 77th minute.

Ba's volley on the turn six minutes later capped a solid outing for the Blues. But the match belonged to Eto'o, the ageing star looking for the second spring of his career.

Mourinho is keeping his fingers crossed.

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