Chelsea 6 Nordsjaelland 1: Rafa's first win tarnished as Blues crash out of Europe
01:13 GMT, 6 December 2012
The new curse for Fernando Torres is to be the scorer of goals that don't matter.
He can add two from Wednesday night, as Chelsea slipped into the Europa League and out of the Champions League, to his one against Barcelona in the Nou Camp in last season's semi-final: also irrelevant, once the dust had settled.
Yet, if the worst defence of the title in tournament history – out at the group stage – can have a positive gloss, it is that Torres at last found his touch in the penalty area again.
Over you go: Fernando Torres scores his first goal of the night
No smile Torres is congratulated by Juan Mata (left) and Eden Hazard
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole (Bertrand 60), Romeu, Ramires (Oscar 65), Hazard, Mata (Ferreira 74), Moses, Torres
Subs not used: Turnbull, Mikel, Marin, Azpilicueta
Goals: Luiz 39 pen, Torres 45, 56, Cahill 51, Mata 63, Oscar 71
FC Nordsjaelland: Hansen, Ticinovic, Parkhurst, Runje, Mtiliga, Gundelach, Stokholm, Adu, Christiansen (Kildentoft 61), John, Lorentzen
Subs not used: Jensen, Beckmann, Laudrup, Issah, Lindberg, Maxso
Booked: Christiansen, Parkhurst, Mtiliga
Goal: John 46
Referee: Bas Nijhuis (Holland)
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Goals either side of half-time gave
the first inkling that Rafael Benitez may be the man to get the best
from the striker, as hoped.
Then again, the opposition was Nordsjaelland, group whipping boys and significantly inferior to the European champions.
If there was any match that Chelsea could win in style under Benitez, and any in which Torres could make hay, it was here.
So it proved. This was Chelsea's biggest Champions League victory, eclipsing 5-0 wins over Galatasaray and Genk.
A pity it was rendered meaningless by
events in Ukraine. Just a point would have suited Juventus against
Shakhtar Donetsk and they got all three.
Updates from the east suggested a
largely one-sided affair and the frisson of tension – as Nordsjaelland
were awarded a first-half penalty and later pulled a goal back at the
start of the second hal f – was short-lived.
Chelsea were in control here once
David Luiz had broken the deadlock and the second half was a mismatch of
the kind that does the competition little credit. Imagine the jeers if
Chelsea had messed up.
Absent: John Terry watched the match from the stands
Off we go: David Luiz scored the first of Chelsea's goals from the spot
HOLDERS GO OUT ON AWAY GOALS
An own goal from Shakhtar Donetsk's Aleksandr Kucher gave Juventus a 1-0 win which saw them finish top of Group E and sent Chelsea out of the competition.
Shakhtar and Chelsea both finished on 10 points but the Ukrainian side qualified for the next round on head-to-head results.
Shakhtar took second spot on away goals after winning 2-1 in Donetsk and losing 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea needed a Shakhtar win to qualify.
Just breaking even with a big win and
two goals was enough for Benitez and Torres. Events in Donetsk were
beyond the manager's control, the damage already done with two defeats
and a draw in the matches against the qualified teams.
The last time Torres got on the
scoresheet this season was in Europe, courtesy of a handy deflection
against Shakhtar Donetsk, and he rode his luck a little for the first
Victor Moses put the ball just where
he likes it and Torres strode on, getting a neat rebound from floored
goalkeeper Jesper Hansen before finishing with a flourish into an
The deployment of Moses is arguably
the second tactical triumph of the Benitez reign – a more disciplined
David Luiz at the back is the first – and brought in to take some of the
heat off the striker, he did just that.
It is unlikely we will see Eden
Hazard, Juan Mata and Oscar operating together again. Oscar made way at
the start last night and Benitez could be preparing to rotate his
supporting forwards while keeping Moses as Torres's hard-working foil – a
blue-shirted Dirk Kuyt.
Chopped down: Torres goes to ground
Another one: Torres, who has struggled for goals, but in his second for the night
It certainly worked last night, but
will the Premier League clubs find the combination similarly
irresistible Torres's second – Chelsea's fourth – came after a superb
run by Hazard along the left, his cutback cross met by Torres at the
near post to end any wild fantasies of a Danish revival.
Yet it could easily have been first
blood to the Danes – a bizarre exchange of penalties in the firsthalf
the prelude to an otherwise uncomplicated evening.
It was left to Dutch referee Bas
Nijhuis, perhaps as bored with Champions League matchday six as the rest
of us – Glasgow aside – to enliven proceedings with three penalties,
split in Chelsea's favour, in the space of seven minutes.
That the score after this little exchange was only 1-0 to Chelsea is to the credit of goalkeepers Petr Cech and Hansen.
There were two saves before Luiz scored and why they didn't give it to the Brazilian from the off, who knows
Ref Victor Moses appeals to the officials
Close: Patrick Mtiliga slides in on Moses
A samba option was unavailable to
Nordsjaelland, who were first to feel the benefit of Nijhuis's largesse
after 31 minutes when a shot from Anders Christiansen struck the
outstretched arm of Gary Cahill.
It looked harsh on the defender,
whose feet were certainly planted outside the area and whose arm only
travelled to its borders from the force of the ball.
Captain Nicolai Stokholm stepped up
but his effort was too near Cech, who parried it confidently. Justice
was done. From the next attack, Torres forced a corner, taken by Hazard
and met by Cahill in the air.
Nordsjaelland substitute Mikkel Beckmann appeared to get the ball trapped between an arm and his body, to huge Chelsea appeals.
Nijhuis was unsighted but his
linesman was not and a second penalty was awarded. Hazard assumed the
position and while his shot was an upgrade on that of Stokholm, it was
not hit with sufficient venom and goalkeeper Hansen kept it out.
Chin up: Fans held out a banner for former striker Didier Drogba
Enjoying it Rafa benitez watched his first win at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea manager
Battle: Paulo Ferreira (left) vies with defender Patrick Mtiliga
And so it was left to the much
maligned Luiz to do the job after a Juan Mata shot was handled by
Patrick Mtiliga and Nijhuis passed sentence again. This time there was
Luiz began his run just outside
Fulham Broadway station, hit Mach 1 by the time he arrived at the ball
and planted it in the top right corner with the confidence of a man
applying for the job permanently in the knowledge he had all the
qualifications, three top class references and was going out with the
He doesn't do things by halves, that
boy. From there, Chelsea should have been coasting. Yet this is still a
damaged club and strange, random things happen to it.
From the second- half kick off, an
angled ball into Joshua John caught Branislav Ivanovic napping. Cech
dashed from his area, suddenly vulnerable, John teased the ball past him
and Ivanovic lost his footing trying to recover on the goal-line, the
Not you again! Rafael Benitez was criticised by his own fans again
With scores still tied in Donetsk,
some feared the worst: the Ukrainians would do their job, but Chelsea
would not. Instead, it unfolded all too predictably.
Chelsea won, but so did Juventus and
Nordsjaelland collapsed in a sorry heap. The two-goal advantage taken
into half time was quickly restored by a looping Cahill header from a
Hazard free-kick, Nordsjaelland's spirit waning with each fresh wave of
Torres added the fourth, then Mata
played a one-two with Hazard before hitting a shot which Hansen saved,
only for the Spaniard to snaffle the rebound.
The sixth came after Oscar had been
introduced, running onto a perfect ball from Mata. It was impressive
stuff, even if it had a little of the flat-track bully about it.
Given a sterner test by Sam
Allardyce's West Ham United last Saturday, Chelsea's courage failed
them. It is Sunderland next; even in crisis, they will provide grittier
opposition than Chelsea faced here.
On Saturday, a Torres goal could be vital.