UEFA Champions League: Holders Chelsea hit six at the Bridge, but it’s in vain

Reuters, LONDON

Fri, Dec 07, 2012 - Page 18

Chelsea came alive too late to spare them UEFA Champions League humiliation on Wednesday as a 6-1 home defeat of Nordsjaelland failed to prevent them becoming the first holders to be eliminated at the group stage.

Juventus’ 1-0 away win at Shakhtar Donetsk condemned the London club to third place in Group E, but at least Chelsea departed on a high as Fernando Torres scored twice to give Rafael Benitez his first taste of victory since replacing Roberto di Matteo as manager.

Both sides had missed a penalty, before David Luiz showed how to do it from the spot in the 38th minute and Torres made it 2-0 on the stroke of halftime.

Joshua John scored for the visitors immediately after halftime, but Gary Cahill with a header, Torres again and Juan Mata with a close-range effort wrapped up the victory just past the hour.

Oscar ran through to make it 6-1, but the final 25 minutes of Chelsea’s Champions League campaign resembled a friendly as news from Ukraine filtered in and Shakhtar went through on a better head-to-head record against the Londoners.

A win would have put Chelsea through if Shakhtar had also won at home and when Torres made it 2-0, racing on to a Victor Moses through ball, the London club’s fans began to shout “Come on Shakhtar.”

They were silenced within a minute of the restart, though, as John went through to score.

Cahill’s towering header restored Chelsea’s cushion and Torres then combined brilliantly with Eden Hazard, toe-poking the ball high into the net after the Belgian had picked out the Spaniard in the penalty area.

A hush descended on Stamford Bridge as news of Juventus’ 56th-minute goal went round the crowd, although Mata and substitute Oscar warmed the crowd with further goals as Chelsea headed for the Europa League.

The match kicked off in a subdued atmosphere after some mild booing of Benitez as he took his seat in the dugout and virtual silence when Torres’ name was read out by the announcer.

Chelsea threatened early with Moses forcing a sharp, low save from Jesper Hansen after connecting sweetly with Ashley Cole’s cross.

There were ironic cheers when Torres had the ball in the net, but the Spaniard, who had managed just one goal in the previous two months, had already been rightly flagged offside.

A chorus of “Only One Di Matteo” echoed round the ground in the 16th minute as fans continued to back the man who steered them to unlikely Champions League glory 200 days previously.

Nordsjaelland had a let-off when Nicolai Stokholm sliced a Moses cross against his own crossbar, before the game entered a bizarre spell of three penalties, all awarded for handball.

There was stunned disbelief after 32 minutes when Gary Cahill was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area, but Petr Cech saved Stokholm’s penalty.

Three minutes later, referee Bas Nijhuis pointed to the spot at the other end when Mikkel Beckmann almost caught Cahill’s header, but this time Hazard’s weak effort was smothered by Hansen.

Luiz was the next to try his luck from the spot and the Brazilian made no mistake, firing high past Hansen after Mata’s shot had struck the arm of Stokholm.