Holders bow out as six of the best not enough for Chelsea
Chelsea 6 FC Nordsjaelland 1: The death knell for Chelsea fell just before 9pm. Gary Cahill had just made it 3-1 when the news came through that Juventus had taken the lead against Shakhtar Donetsk in the Donbass Arena and that, really, was it.
Chelsea have become the first holders to go out of the competition at the first stage the following year and, though Rafael Benitez can reflect on his first victory with them, the goal-fest felt almost incongruous when considering the significance of the two results.
The celebrations had to be subdued when the club currently in ownership of the most prized trophy in European football had been plonked into the Europa League. Fernando Torres at least reminded himself of what it is like to find the net, scoring in each half.
David Luiz’s penalty started the rout, after both sides had missed from the spot, and there were second-half goals as well for Juan Mata and the substitute Oscar.
But, ultimately, there was little to celebrate, with Juventus and Shakhtar both qualifying from Group E, and another reminder for Benitez about his unpopularity in these parts.
The jeers are nowhere near as vicious, no longer so raw, but they are still loud and prolonged. Benitez was booed as soon as he walked out of the tunnel before kick-off. Within four minutes the crowd were singing in support of Roberto Di Matteo.
Stamford Bridge felt on edge and Benitez will probably not want to contemplate the reaction if the visiting captain, Nicolai Stokholm, had taken his chance from the first of the penalties, just after the half-hour.
Cahill had thrust out an arm as he tried to charge down Anders Christiansen’s shot. Cahill was outside the area but Petr Cech, diving to his right, made sure it did not matter.
This was the start of a bizarre seven-minute period featuring three penalties. Within three minutes Cahill had headed Eden Hazard’s header towards goal and the ball struck Mikkel Beckmann on his chest and rolled down on to his left hand.
Hazard’s kick was not struck with any great conviction and goalkeeper Jesper Hansen, turned it away.
Bas Nijhuis, the Dutch referee, was not finished, though. Four minutes later Mata fired in a shot from 20 yards, the ball ricocheted off Patrick Mtiliga from close range and, for the third time, a penalty was given for handball. David Luiz showed Hazard how it should be done and fired home.
Chelsea should probably have made their superiority count before then. Nordsjaelland had the look of obliging opponents.
Torres’s goals should soothe his confidence a little. Victor Moses set up the Spaniard’s first goal, driving forward on the right and then spotting Torres’s run inside the defender. The striker’s first effort came back off Hansen but the ricochet was kind and his follow-up attempt exhibited none of the recent awkwardness as he clilnically took his chance.
Twenty seconds after the interval Branislav Ivanovic was caught out of position and Kasper Lorentzen’s pass behind the defence was weighted beautifully. Joshua John ran through and prodding the ball past the oncoming Cech.
Within five minutes Chelsea had scored again. Mata curled a free-kick into a congested penalty area and Cahill’s looping header dropped into the corner. Torres made it 4-1 soon afterwards, stabbing in Hazard’s low cross, but the news had just filtered through of Juventus scoring in Ukraine and the celebrations were subdued.
Hazard added the fifth in the 63rd minute, following up the rebound to his own shot, but Stamford Bridge knew its fate by then.
The final act saw Mata tee up Oscar to complete the scoring with a right-foot shot.