There was indignity amid all the goals, a John Terry rallying cry and Didier Drogba banners on display as Chelsea crashed out
It took the Chelsea owner, Roman Abramovich, upwards of £1bn and nine years crammed with near misses for Chelsea to win the Champions League, but only six matches for their defence to peter out. This was a trickier group than had initially been envisaged but the Italian champions, Juventus, twice, and Shakhtar Donetsk, in Ukraine, had exposed the holders' fragility. There is an indignity in becoming the first defending champions to fail to emerge from the group stage in the competition's history, and presumably a dread of the Thursday night football in the Europa League to come in the new year. There will be implications, too, for the balance sheet just as things had started to look more promising. Uefa's secondary competition resumes in February on Valentine's Day, though the champions of Europe will find no romance in their involvement.
Even back in May this team had been driven by sheer strength of will down its spine. That same character is what has been missing most of all over recent weeks, with the injured John Terry's patience having clearly snapped. "Let's not beat around the bush: no wins in six games is simply not good enough and since I have been here I have not experienced a run like this," wrote the captain in his programme notes. "We, as players, have to stand up and take responsibility – stand up and stay together. We demand a lot of ourselves and we have to focus on rediscovering the winning habit. Let's show some fight and desire for our club and for the shirt." Given the traumas of recent weeks, it was almost reassuring to read the 31-year-old's trademark rallying cry. Chelsea have missed him most of all.
There was certainly more urgency to this Chelsea team, the hosts pouring forward even if they had to endure the fright of Bas Nijhuis' penalty award for handball against Gary Cahill. The flurry of spot-kicks awarded at the other end within minutes restored the holders' momentum but, while this was all very welcome, some perspective was still required. Nordsjaelland are neat in possession but the plunder Chelsea registered in the first period took the number of goals shipped by the Danes in this group to 18, a reflection of their deficiencies. Kasper Hjulmand's team are second in their domestic league but nine points adrift of FC Copenhagen. Theirs will be a fleeting visit to this competition and the Premier League side were always expected to swat them aside and they did just that after the break.
Rafael Benítez had praised the £50m forward's defending at corners as "amazing" in the buildup, but here at last he could make an impact at the other end. Even a player with one goal since 6 October could sense the vulnerability of Michael Parkhurst, Ivan Runje and co in the Nordsjaelland defence. For a while it seemed the half-chances would continue to go awry. Then he burst around Parkhurst on to Victor Moses's pass and, when Jesper Hansen saved his first attempt, clipped the follow-up home with ease. His second, a tap in from Eden Hazard's pass, even provoked some celebration. Such rewards were timely. Didier Drogba has been training back at this club with the Chinese season concluded, and the supporters even unfurled a fluorescent "Drogba legend" banner on the Shed End's upper tier. Torres simply has to stir if they are to recover some poise.
The Spaniard now knows what he must always have suspected: even in riotous victory, his presence at this club will not be appreciated by the support. Benítez had emerged from the tunnel prior to kick-off to the usual murmurings of dissent in the stands, the first chorus of "One Di Matteo" going up at virtually the first break in play and bellowed most passionately, as ever, in the 16th minute. There were banners here fluttering in support of "the Special One" in the vain hope José Mourinho might be tempted back. Heaven knows what would have happened had Nicolai Stokholm actually put the visitors ahead with his penalty. Yet, even as the fourth, fifth and sixth flew in, acceptance felt like a pipe-dream in the dugout.