6-1 win over Danes not enough to save Chelsea's blushes
Champions League holders are out of the contest despite goal spree - including two from Torres
Chelsea 6 Nordsjaelland 1. Never can such a victory have been as hollow as Chelsea's thrashing of Nordsjaelland last night. For despite hitting the Danish champions for six of the best, Chelsea are the first Champions League holders to be eliminated at the group stage.
Juventus's 1-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk meant that the Italians topped group E with the Ukrainians in second spot, level on points with Chelsea but ahead in the table because of their better head-to-head results against the Blues.
It's a disastrous outcome for Chelsea, financially and in terms of their reputation, and coming on the back of Manchester City's exit from the same stage of the Champions League, it says little for the standing of the Premier League's two richest clubs.
Manchester United and Arsenal are England's sole representatives in the Last 16 while City and Chelsea have the Europa League to look forward to next year.
Asked afterwards if the club will take the Europa League seriously, bearing in mind that seven months ago they beat Bayern Munich to be crowned champions of Europe, Rafa Benitez replied: "We think it is an important competition. We want to go as far as we can. If we can win the competition that is what we will try to do."
At least there were some plus points for Benitez in what was his first victory as manager since taking over last month from Roberto Di Matteo. Fernando Torres scored twice for the Blues, his first goals in 562 minutes of football, and there were also goals for David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata and Oscar.
However, the match wasn't without it scares for Chelsea with the Danes missing an opportunity to take a first-half lead when Nicolai Stokholm's penalty was saved by Petr Cech. Within a couple of minutes Chelsea were awarded a spot-kick themselves but Eden Hazard was similarly wayward as Jesper Hansen blocked his attempt.
When Chelsea were award a second penalty on 39 minutes Luiz stepped up to make no mistake and thereafter the result was never in doubt. "At least the team showed the level and quality we were looking for," Benitez reflected later. "It is always important to win but the way you win is also important and we won with attitude, character, commitment, intensity and good play. It was everything you are looking for and I was pleased for the club, the fans, everyone."
Despite the win, Benitez was booed by a section of Chelsea fans, some of whom also brandished banners calling for his sacking. The Spaniard was philosophical about the continued resistance to his presence at the Bridge, saying: "Can we change the situation? No. So we have to think about what we can change, which is improving and be ready for the next challenge."
The immediate challenge for Chelsea is the visit to Sunderland at the weekend. Then the Blues travel to Japan next week to compete in the FIFA Club World Cup, a dubious honour accorded to the winners of the Champions League.
It's a competition the Blues could do without, but then so is the Europa League.