Champions Chelsea ousted from Europe

JUSTIN PALMER AND MARTYN HERMAN
Last updated 10:57 06/12/2012
Fernando Torres
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TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: Fernando Torres scored twice in Chelsea's 6-1 victory over Nordsjaelland but it could not see them through to the Champions League knockout stage.

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Chelsea came alive too late to avoid Champions League humiliation today as a 6-1 home thrashing of Nordsjaelland failed to prevent the ignominy of becoming the first holders to be eliminated at the group stage.

Juventus's 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk condemned the London club to third place in Group E but at least Chelsea departed with some pride as Fernando Torres scored twice to give Rafael Benitez his first taste of victory since replacing Roberto Di Matteo as manager last month.

Benitez was again heckled and Di Matteo's name was sung around the stadium on a subdued night that came to life with a burst of three penalties in the first half.

Both sides missed one 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, the 50 million-pound ($80 million) striker netting only his second goal in two months.

Joshua John scored for Nordsjaelland immediately after halftime but Gary Cahill with a header, Torres again and Juan Mata with a close-range effort put Chelsea in control before Oscar ran through to score as Nordsjaelland capitulated.

It was all academic, though, and 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.

Rarely can a 6-1 victory have been celebrated in near silence as fans drifted away to contemplate Thursday nights watching their side in the Europa League for the first time.

"We had to do our job and as a manager you have to pleased with the performance of the team," interim manager Benitez, who had managed two draws and a defeat in his first three games in charge, told reporters.

"We had 32 attempts at goal, 18 on target and six goals so there are a lot of positives but we have to be disappointed because we wanted to progress in the Champions League."

"I'm not surprised Juventus won because they are a good team. It was out of our hands.

"It was important to win but also the way we won and the way we played. We saw character, attitude, commitment and intensity so I'm pleased for them, for the fans, and for me."

A win would have put Chelsea through if Shakhtar had also won at home against Juventus and when Torres made it 2-0, racing on to a Victor Moses through ball before scoring at the second attempt, the fans began to shout "Come on Shakhtar".

FORLORN HOPE

It was a forlorn hope, though, as Chelsea paid the price for their 2-1 defeat in Donetsk and conceding twice in a single-goal victory at home to the Ukraine champions when Di Matteo, the man who led the club to their first European Cup, was in charge.

"We can't turn the clock back," Benitez said. "Now we'll go and try to win the Europa League."

After a run of six games without a win the match kicked off in a strange atmosphere after mild booing for Benitez as he took his seat and virtual silence when the goal-shy Torres's name was read out by the announcer.

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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 he 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 the club to European glory 200 days ago but Nordsjaelland's Nicolai Stokholm did his best to take the heat off Benitez when he sliced a Moses cross against his own crossbar.

A freakish spell of three penalties in six minutes then followed - all awarded by Dutch referee Bas Nijhuis for handball.

There was stunned disbelief after 32 minutes when Cahill was harshly adjudged to have handled in the area but Petr Cech salvaged the situation, plunging to save Stokholm's penalty.

Three minutes later 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.

After John had briefly threatened to pile on the misery for Chelsea by clipping past Cech immediately after halftime, the hosts moved up a gear, scoring four times in 20 minutes to score six in a Champions League fixture for the first time.

Cahill continued his eventful night with a textbook header and Hazard tormented the Danish side's defence to set up goals for Torres and Mata.

Oscar completed the rout but it was all a little too late.

 

JUVENTUS RUIN CHELSEA'S DAY

Juventus went through to the last 16 of the Champions League with a 1-0 win at Shakhtar Donetsk that put them top of Group E.

Defender Olexandr Kucher deflected a cross intended for Juve's Sebastian Giovinco into his own net in the 56th minute to give the Italians the win.

Juventus defender Kwadwo Asamoah nearly got an own goal himself later in the second half as he turned to deal with a Razvan Rat cross, but the ball struck the post after coming off his thigh.

The victory gave Juventus 12 points and took them through with Shakhtar. Holders Chelsea finished third, despite having the same points as the Ukrainians, thanks to a poorer head-to-head tally, and were sent off to the Europa League.

Andrea Pirlo had his claims for a penalty ignored following an apparent handball by a Shakhtar defender in the penalty area before Juventus missed a chance to go ahead when Giovinco, alone against the goalkeeper, narrowly missed the target on 29 minutes.

Mirko Vucinic shrugged off his marker and passed to the unmarked Giovinco from the right but his shot went just wide.

Pirlo hit the far post from the edge of the area before Juventus's constant pressure paid off with the goal as Kucher tried in vain to deflect a low cross from the right by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

- Reuters

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