Chelsea Routs Nordsjaelland 6-1 but Exits CL
Fernando Torres rediscovered his goal-scoring touch too late for Chelsea's Champions League hopes on Wednesday, with the English side becoming the first holders to exit at the group stage despite a 6-1 thrashing of FC Nordsjaelland.
On a bittersweet night 200 days after winning the competition, Torres ended a month-long goal drought, and Rafa Benitez claimed his first win in his fourth match in charge.
"He showed his desire today and his quality at the same time," Benitez said. "And if he plays at this level he can score more goals."
Chelsea went ahead in a frenzied spell in which both sides missed penalties before David Luiz scored from the spot in the 39th minute.
Torres netted in first-half stoppage time and, although Joshua John canceled it out 20 seconds after the break, Gary Cahill's 51st minute-header sparked the second-half goal spree.
Torres drove in his second goal, the first time he has scored more than once in a match this season, before Juan Mata and Oscar added further gloss to the win.
But however stylish the performance, making the Blues the biggest scoring team in the group stage with 16 goals, they will have to settle with a Europa League consolation place.
"The Europa League is not important if you don't win," Benitez said. "But if you are in the semifinal or final, everyone wants to win."
Chelsea finished third in Group E as Juventus' 1-0 victory at Shakhtar Donetsk ensured both sides advanced in the Champions League.
The trophy Roman Abramovich had targeted since his 2003 takeover and won unexpectedly for the first time in May has been surrendered like no team before it, and led to manager Roberto Di Matteo being fired last month.
"You have results where we lost away to Donetsk and Juventus but I think the main difference was the draw against Juve at home," Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech said. "We were 2-0 up and then ended 2-2. If you drop too many points in the group then you can't go through."
Chelsea's failure to progress owes much to Torres' inability to justify his $80 million-plus price tag with goals, with only one in Group E before Wednesday.
Such is the Spain striker's decline, Benitez was left extolling the merits of his contribution in defense on the eve of the match.
But Torres was at the heart of the powerful start by the energetic hosts, who were ripping through the Danish champions with ease.
Torres had a shot pushed round the post by goalkeeper Jesper Hansen, and put the ball through to Mata who set up Eden Hazard but the resulting shot was easily saved.
There was a let off for the visitors when Nicolai Stokholm turned the ball onto his own crossbar from Victor Moses' cross.
The first penalty was awarded by referee Bas Nijhuis in the 31st after Cahill handled, but Cech dived correctly to his right to save from captain Nicolai Stokholm.
Almost immediately at the other end, Cahill's effort was handled by Mikkel Beckmann. But Hazard was no better from the spot than Stokholm, as he struck low to the right and Hansen saved.
Chelsea, though, got another chance when Mata struck into Joshua John's arms. This time, Luiz found the net on his return from suspension, sending Hansen the wrong way.
Torres produced a morale-boosting goal in stoppage time after first clattering an effort against Hansen but then lifting the rebound into the net.
Chelsea was sloppy at the start of the second half as John surged past Branislav Ivanovic and beat Cech.
But Chelsea's two-goal cushion was restored after Torres won a free kick and Mata curled the ball in for Cahill to head powerfully into the net in the 51st.
Torres' second came five minutes later, driving into the net after Hazard cut the ball back to him.
"We helped him get back on track," Nordsjaelland coach Kasper Hjulmand said.
Chelsea was rampant and Mata played a one-two with Hazard before turning the ball into the net in the 63rd after his first effort was blocked by Hansen's legs.
Gaps in the tiring visiting defense were exploited again as Oscar picked up possession and slotted in the sixth in the 71st.
"The tempo they were playing we couldn't match it," Hjulmand said. "Chelsea today was very motivated ... and we didn't have a chance."