Chelsea’s worst run of form for 17 years came to a halt, as Rafael Benitez recorded his first win for the European Champions.
The Blues’ rot of six straight games without a win ended, though with results elsewhere not going their way, this outcome was rendered irrelevant.
The Blues are the top scorers in the group stages this season with 16 goals, and it is no more than pitiful that they have all been in vain.
Luiz, Torres, Cahill, Mata and Oscar all joined in on the fun on this particular cold Wednesday night in west London, but the thrashing of the Danish champions only confirmed the Blues’ place in the Europa League, the first Champions League holders to be knocked out at the group stages.
It was 200 days ago exactly when that magical night happened, and though this early exit may not have been expected this time last year, neither was the Munich win, especially in such fashion.
It was a wonderful start from the home side, who clearly understood the importance of an early goal. Chelsea have won 12 out of 14 times they have scored first in a Champions League game, and it will have been pleasing to see the positive attitude put in place by the Blues.
Oscar’s Champions League expertise has been well-documented, but it was Victor Moses who was entrusted with the right-wing role, able supported by Juan Mata and Eden Hazard.
The Blues knew they could still go out even if they won, but concentration was firmly on their own game, even if the fans had one eye on the Juventus game.
Victor Moses sought to vindicate Rafael Benitez’s decision to start him, hitting a volley on target from a high Ashley Cole cross, which the keeper saved to his near post.
Chelsea had another couple of chances as the game turned 10 minutes old, and both for Fernando Torres. The first effort was a delightful chip, full of confidence and skill, but any initial euphoria was wiped out with the sight of the linesman’s flag raised. The second, onside, was well stopped by Hansen.
And the pressure kept on coming, without the goals. Wonderful play involving Mata, Torres and Ramires found Hazard, but to no avail.
It was the Belgian’s 25th Blue appearance, and he continued to play to his abilities, toying with the Danish defence by weaving past three.
Speculation has been rife over the last few weeks that even Torres’ team-mates had lost faith in him, and this was swiftly dismissed, with Luiz and Moses constantly trusting the Spaniard by playing him the ball, and even though a long-ball to the Spaniard was met with good chest control, the 28-year-old fell on the floor having lost his footing.
The best chance of the game fell once again to the home side, but thanks to an opponent. Good work by Victor Moses confused the Nordsjaelland back-line, and a lucky swipe at the ball cannoned off the crossbar for a corner.
But as seen too often, Chelsea nearly conceded against the run of play. A Danish counter-attack, led largely by Joshua John, meant Gary Cahill was always back-tracking, and feeling compelled to stick his hand out, the referee gave the spot-kick after much deliberation, although replays show the point of contact may have been outside of the box.
Petr Cech, a penalty hero in Munich, showed his worth from 12 yards again, intimidating the Danish Player of the Year Nicolai Stokholm, whose commendable hit was parried wide and clear in the 31st minute.
And that stop brought the game into life.
Chelsea went up the other end and were awarded a penalty for themselves. This one was more clear-cut, with again hand-ball being the reason. Chelsea had scored all six penalties awarded to them this season, and the onus was on Eden Hazard to continue the record, but the playmaker’s weak hit lacked pace and power.
Four minutes later, another penalty, again in the Blues’ favour. David Luiz was handed the duties and his longer run-up provided the jewels and Chelsea went one-up.
So often in Chelsea’s play have they failed to see off the game with the second goal, but they did with the last real chance of the half.
Nordsjaelland’s defenders looked jaded and were caught waiting for the half-time whistle, as Victor Moses set Torres off. The former Liverpool man appeared to regain his pace and powered his way past his marker, before striking home to double Chelsea’s lead.
But if it was the visitors who switched off as the first half ended, it was the Blues who failed to wake back up properly for the start of the next 45 minutes.
Joshua John, Nordsjaelland’s biggest threat, beat the offside trap to lift the ball past Petr Cech, immediately cancelling out all the hard work shown in the first half.
The fans became jittery again as another goal conceded would see the European Champions go out, without even needing to look at any favours from Shakhtar Donetsk.
But Gary Cahill reassured the home support, leaping highest from an inswinging Mata free-kick to restore Chelsea’s two-goal lead.
Torres got his second and Chelsea further increased their lead. It was mesmerising work from Eden Hazard through the middle of the park, who trickled his way past Nordsjaelland players, and laid the ball on a plate for Torres to poke home.
But the goal was greeting in subdued fashion, with news breaking out around the stadium that Juventus had taken the lead in the other group match, when they only needed a draw to progress at Chelsea’s expense.
With the game all but secured and spirits deflated, Ashley Cole’s 100th Champions League appearance came to an end on the hour-mark, with the England left-back replaced by Ryan Bertrand, who made his debut on that unforgettable evening in Germany. Ramires also made way for Oscar.
Juan Mata put daylight between the two sides with 25 minutes still left to go, forcing home after a neat one-two with Eden Hazard.
The Spaniard then turned provider for Oscar, whose shot went across Hansen, who failed to react after his defenders had been sliced apart.
It was Oscar’s first real touch, and Mata’s last meaningful contribution, as Benitez opted for another conservative approach, bringing on Paulo Ferreira for his season debut.
It was beginning be child’s play for Chelsea. Neat and intricate play, reverse pass by Torres, back-heel by Victor Moses, all played under very little pressure as the crowd went home by their thousands. It was like a training game. The only trouble was the result was also meaningless, but played for mere pride.