Chelsea escape with draw against Schalke

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GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany, Nov 7 (Reuters) Group B leaders Chelsea rode their luck to escape with a goalless draw away to Schalke 04 in the Champions League.

Schalke, who had dominated throughout, came within a whisker of taking all three points when Peter Lovenkrands raced clear on the left and smacked a shot against the left-hand post of substitute keeper Carlo Cudicini in the dying moments.

The result meant Chelsea stayed top with eight points, one ahead of Rosenborg Trondheim who beat Valencia 2-0. Schalke climbed to third on four points, still with hopes of qualifying.

''It was not a bad result but not our best game,'' Chelsea coach Avram Grant told a news conference. ''We are in first place and everything is in our hands. I am very happy and confident about that.'' Chelsea went into the game on a run of seven successive victories but they needed two fine saves from Petr Cech in the first half and Schalke came even closer after the Czech had been replaced at halftime with a calf injury.

They almost went ahead when Rafinha hit the top of the bar in the 73rd minute and had Lovenkrands scored with his heart-stopping late chance it would have been well deserved.

''Luck was not on our side,'' Schalke coach Mirko Slomka said.

''We were a constant threat to Chelsea, we didn't let them get forward and we had a lot of chances.'' CHELSEA TROUBLE The best of the bunch was the Schalke full back Westermann, who caused Chelsea no end of problems down the left.

In the 19th minute he tested Petr Cech for the first time, sending a shot that bounced awkwardly in front of the keeper, who could only turn the ball round the post.

Four minutes later Westermann was at it again. This time he broke forward like Franz Beckenbauer, beat two challenges and cracked in a shot that Cech had to push over the bar.

Chelsea looked anything but comfortable but they still gave the home side a couple of nervous moments.

In the sixth minute a bad mistake from Bordon led to Drogba finding space in the penalty area and his shot brought a sharp save, low to his right, from Manuel Neuer.

Three minutes before the break Drogba had an even better chance when Frank Lampard played him through on goal, forcing Neuer to come out and block again.

A short corner at the start of the second half almost gave Schalke the breakthrough as Ivan Rakitic looked to surprise Cudicini at his near post.

Rafinha should have brought them an opening goal when Cudicini was unable to reach a cross. The Brazilian took his time but a deft finish just took too long to come down.

The English side did create a couple of late chances on the break but Schalke continued to look far more dangerous and they were almost rewarded at the death.

Reuters AB RN0945

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