Champions League holders Chelsea out despite rout
LONDON - Chelsea became the first Champions League holders to go out in the group phase despite a resounding 6-1 win at home to FC Nordsjaelland in their final Group E game on Wednesday.
The much-maligned Fernando Torres scored twice, with David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata and Oscar also on target, but Juventus’ 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk in the other group game put the Italians in the last 16 at Chelsea’s expense.
Chelsea finished their group campaign with 10 points — level with Shakhtar, but below the Ukrainian champions by virtue of an inferior head-to-head record.
The result gave interim coach Rafael Benitez his first win in four games at the Stamford Bridge helm, but Chelsea’s only hope of securing silverware in Europe for a second successive season now lies in the Europa League.
“The other game was out of our hands, so we couldn’t do anything about it,” said Benitez.
“I said before that we just had to do our job. As a manager, you have to be really pleased with the performance of your team.
“Thirty-two attempts at goal, 18 on target, six goals, a lot of clear chances. You have to think about the positives, even though we’re disappointed we can’t progress in the Champions League.
“People ask about the Europa League. Every competition is important for us. We will try to challenge and win where we can.”
Ashley Cole was making his 100th Champions League appearance and he crafted the game’s first opportunity by teeing up Victor Moses for a volley that visiting goalkeeper Jesper Hansen blocked at his near post.
Hansen also saved from Torres, twice, and Eden Hazard, although the chants of ‘Come on Shakhtar!’ from the home support suggested Chelsea’s fans were keeping half an eye on events 1,700 miles away in Ukraine.
Chelsea came within inches of taking the lead in the 26th minute, with Nicolai Stokholm slicing an attempted clearance against his own crossbar from Moses’ low centre.
In reply, Kasper Lorentzen and Enoch Adu chanced their arm from range for Nordsjaelland, before a curious seven-minute spell that saw three penalties awarded for handball, but only one converted.
Chelsea were incensed when referee Bas Nijhuis awarded a penalty against them after Cahill appeared to handle Anders Christiansen’s shot outside the area, but Stokholm’s penalty was saved by Petr Cech.
Three minutes later, Hazard fluffed his lines from 12 yards after a handball by substitute Mikkel Beckmann, before Luiz showed him how it was done by confidently scoring from the spot following yet another handball by Joshua John.
Torres’ previous goal, in the 3-2 home win over Shakhtar, owed much to a fortunate ricochet and there was a touch of luck about his first goal in first-half injury time.
After racing onto Moses’ through ball, the Spaniard saw his shot blocked by Hansen but the ball rebounded against him and he steadied himself before finding the empty net.
Chelsea were on course to complete their side of the bargain in comfortable fashion but they allowed their opponents to pull a goal back within 21 seconds of kick-off in the second period.
Lorentzen picked out John’s run with a lofted pass and the on-loan FC Twente forward held off Branislav Ivanovic before hoisting the ball past Cech.
It took barely five minutes for Chelsea to restore their two-goal cushion, however, as Cahill met Mata’s deep free-kick with a strong header that looped over the despairing Hansen.
It was Chelsea’s 200th European Cup goal, and Torres poked in Hazard’s low cross in the 56th minute to make it 201, but by that stage Juve were ahead in Donetsk.
Mata added a fifth, following in after Hansen saved his first attempt, and the former Valencia man then teed up substitute Oscar to score Chelsea’s sixth.
The celebrations, though, were subdued — 200 days on from their historic triumph on penalties against Bayern Munich in last season’s final, this was a very different kind of Chelsea victory.