"We have to man up," says John Terry. We have to man up. For goodness sake. Gotta love earnest macho banter!
He has a point, though. Chelsea's season is in grave danger of falling apart. They're out of the FA Cup, as good as out of the Premier League title race, currently not in position to qualify for next year's Champions League, and stand one disastrous performance away from yet another failed tilt at Europe's top prize. As Copenhagen gave Barcelona a good run for their money earlier in the season, the pressure will be on tonight, so as Terry says, it's time for Chelsea to man up. Sexxxxxx it up. Soap it up. Yes it is, yes it is.
FC Copenhagen: Wiland, Pospech, Jorgensen, Antonsson, Wendt, Bolanos, Kvist, Claudemir, Gronkjaer, Santin, Ndoye.
Subs: Christensen, Bengtsson, Kristensen, Zohore, Vingaard, Hooiveld, Delaney.
Sexxxxxxxchelsea: Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole, Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Anelka, Torres.
Subs: Turnbull, Drogba, Mikel, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Kalou, McEachran.
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Oldenzaal)
Kick off: 7.45pm.
The precise nature of JT's pre-match call to arms: a sober discussion. "Has JT turned into Dr Cox from Scrubs with his 'man-up' pep talk?" wonders Niall Mullen. "I imagine him collaring Torres with a 'hey Carol, why don't you stop moping around and start acting like you got a pair?'" Meanwhile Ian Copestake suggests Terry "may have kissed both his biceps during his man-up speech, while the rest of his fellow 'lady' players cowered around a shrine they've erected to Ray 'Butch' Wilkins to help them deal with the melancholy of it all." Let's face it, he could be taking any manner of approaches, couldn't he. It's 7.30pm now, and I like to think he's currently in the changing room belting out this number:
If that doesn't rouse the troops, I don't know what will.
Incidentally, apropos nothing other than the fact Chelsea are in Denmark tonight, an aside: anyone who missed Rob Smyth and Lars Eriksen's wonderful account of Danish Dynamite, the famous Denmark side of the mid 1980s, is strongly advised to catch up now. You won't regret it.
The atmosphere in Parken Stadion: It's really cooking. If very cold. On a clear night, it's four degrees centigrade below zero. The teams are out, Copenhagen in their all-white kit with blue trim, Chelsea in black and orange. "I cannot fully articulate how much I want to watch Scrubs as performed by Chelsea FC," writes Benjamin List. "Is Torres JD or Elliot? The blond hair is Elliot, but he seems delicate, like JD." Black and orange, though!
And we're off! Chelsea get the evening under way. They're on the front foot early doors: Torres wheechs down the right and stands the ball up to the far post, where Malouda shanks a terrible volley miles wide left and into the crowd. "If Chelsea are looking to 'man it up', why not start with a real man's accoutrement: dipping tobacco?" wonders Paul Szabo, who may or may not have a fully functional jaw and throat. "They could even 'snuff' the Danes with some Copenhagen, an American brand of dipping tobacco. It often causes the user to produce excess saliva while dipping. This is typically spat onto the ground; however, long-time users can swallow the tobacco-saliva with no ill effects. Enjoy!"
3 min: Lampard takes a pop from long range, after tucking in from the right. It's no use. But Chelsea will be pleased with the opening exchanges. "Niall Mullen and Ian Copestake are both wrong," writes the very perceptive Alex Hanton of our two hapless regulars. "Terry is far too manly to do something so effete as talking to his teammates about their problems. He's communicating with them purely through glaring, headbutts and furiously passive-aggressive DIY."
7 min: The first yellow card of the evening, as Zanka cynically runs into Torres as the striker chases a long ball from Cole down the inside-left channel. From the free kick, 40 yards out, the ball ends up at Torres's feet, eight yards out to the right of goal. Sadly for Chelsea, the £50m striker showcases that special first touch previously displayed at Fulham the other week, allowing Wiland to smother at his feet.
10 min: A lot of possession football by Chelsea. Copenhagen chasing shadows. Cole is released into the area down the left by a smart pass from Essien, but he's flagged up correctly for offside. "Last time those teams met, shortly after the game they swapped goal scorers, with Laudrup moving to Copenhagen and Bjarne Goldbæk going to Chelsea," notes Hörður Már Gestsson. "Are we going to see an Anelka for N'Doye swap?" Torres has got to be worth £500,000 or so on current form, maybe Chelsea could throw him in as well to get this deal done?
11 min: Of course, Torres is only going to be a figure of fun for so long. Here he pings a majestic 30-yard pass, inside-left to inside-right, to release Anelka in the area. The striker takes the ball down and shoots for goal in one smooth movement, but the angle's not the greatest and the ball's deflected out for a corner. Nothing comes from it, but this is a very good start by Chelsea.
13 min: Pospech cuts inside from the right and suddenly finds himself in acres of space, on the edge of the Chelsea area. He has a thrash for the bottom-left corner, but his effort is easily blocked by a dangling Chelsea leg. A follow-up effort from the rebound by Kvist is easily dealt with, too. But that's the first showing up front from the home side, who have been under the cosh a bit so far.
17 min GOAL!!! Copenhagen 0-1 Chelsea. Well this was pretty easy. Gronkjaer, formerly of Chelsea, plays a reverse pass down his left wing, the Chelsea right, without looking. The ball's straight to the feet of Anelka, who turns and hares straight down the inside-right channel and into the box, before lashing the ball past a not particularly impressive Wiland and into the net. A bit farcical, that, really, with very light shades of Jesper Olsen against Spain all those years ago, though Chelsea deserve the lead, so well have they started.
19 min: N'Doye picks the ball up and races at great speed straight at the Chelsea back line, straight down the middle of the pitch. He knocks the ball past Terry, and chases after it, but doesn't reach it, diving over Terry's outstretched leg instead. He looks for a free kick, but doesn't get it, the referee waving play on. Terry had made no effort to get out of the way, this much is true, but N'Doye had plenty of time to take action without clattering into (or diving over) the man. The referee got that right. "I was once given some dipping tobacco," writes Alexander Netherton. "It twirled me out for a loop and no mistake." Was it Copenhagen brand, Alexander? Maybe, as the man on the ad says, you should have tried Happy Days, for you boys starting out.
22 min: Some space for Torres down the inside-left channel. He glides towards the six-yard box, before slightly miscontrolling again, allowing Wiland to save at his feet at close range for the second time in the match. Torres isn't fully sharp, but there's the sense he's not far away from clicking again. His first goal in Chelsea colours isn't far off, I'll be bound.
25 min: Lampard and Malouda combine well down the middle of the park, slipping Torres free down the inside-left channel again. Once again, a miscontrol; that goal's not coming yet. "Man up!" cries Ben Dunn. It had to happen. I'm just surprised it took 25 minutes.
27 min: The home side look very nervous. They're struggling to put anything together in Chelsea's half. Gronkjaer drops a shoulder and swans down the left, but his cross is easily dealt with by Cech, on account of no Copenhagen player being within ten yards of the ball.
31 min: Copenhagen just can't get started at all. Twice Cole nearly breaks into the box, then Malouda has a go, then finally Anelka takes charge and bursts through the back line down the left. But instead of shooting for goal, as he surely should, he crosses for Torres in the centre, allowing Wiland to claim the softly floating ball. "Never mind a 'real Jesper Olsen'," writes Lars Eriksen, he of Danish Dynamite fame, "this is another case of a 'real Jesper Gronkjaer': this brings back memories of his disastrous backpass against Italy in a Euro qualifier in '99 after about 40 seconds which let Inzaghi through to score."
34 min: Five Chelsea players are caught offside, a couple of metres inside the Copenhagen half. Copenhagen are playing a dangerous game with this high defensive line; Ramires wasn't far from breaking through legally and finding himself totally free on goal. Chelsea are playing very well indeed, stroking the ball around very nicely, but the home side aren't helping themselves.
36 min: Torres finally makes his mark on the stats sheet, but it's by picking up a booking for a mistimed rake at the ball, the Chelsea man clipping Bolanos's leg instead.
38 min: Santin breaks purposefully down the left, checks, and strokes a pass inside for N'Doye. His striking partner miscontrols, though the ball rolls straight out right to Bolanos, who gifts the ball straight to Cole. That was very poor from both N'Doye and Bolanos, who between them extracted all the energy from a spirited spurt by Santin. Chelsea were light at the back for a split second there; Copenhagen can't afford to waste these chances.
39 min: Anelka, cutting in from the left, hoicks a decent shot goalwards. The ball clears the bar, but not by much. Chelsea really should be leading this by two or three, they're in total control.
42 min: Chelsea are stroking it around the middle at the moment, just because they can. They have quietened the home crowd considerably.
HALF TIME: Copenhagen [team yet to turn up]-1 Chelsea. The visitors have manned up, no question. They were very impressive in this half. Very impressive indeed.
Hallelujah for Chelsea!
And we're off again, Copenhagen having swapped Santin for Vingaard in an attempt to shake things up, because they were bloody awful in the first half. They set the ball rolling, and the sub makes an immediate impact, the new man taking a real thrash at the ball 20 yards from goal. Vingaard's effort is heading for the bottom-left corner, and though Cech was always going to get behind it, the shot may give the hosts heart. They've managed more in 18 seconds than they did in the entire first 45 minutes.
47 min: N'Doye goes down in the middle of a melee while challenging for a long throw that's been Delaped into the Chelsea area from the left. He likes going to ground, does this lad. For the second time this evening, the referee's not having a bar of it. Play goes on.
50 min: Copenhagen stroke it around the middle for a while, knocking it hither and yon, but eventually the move peters out, Gronkjaer passing the ball straight out of play. He's not enjoying this reunion so far.
52 min: N'Doye slides a lovely ball down the inside-right channel for Bolanos. The ball doesn't reach the Copenhagen man, as it's toed off its path by Cole, though it breaks to Vingaard on the edge of the area. He should either hammer a shot goalwards, or take it on a touch, but instead decides to attempt to dink the ball over Cech. He doesn't manage it, a lame effort going straight down the keeper's throat.
54 min: GOAL!!! Copenhagen 0-2 Chelsea. So simple. Lampard has the ball 35 yards out in the centre. He's facing left and has Torres to aim for down that wing, but instead plays a reverse pass down the inside-right channel for Anelka, who breaks into the box and dispatches a finish as crisp as the Copenhagen air into the bottom left. Chelsea are good for this lead, and should really add to it the way things have been going.
57 min: Copenhagen look, to their last player, thunderingly depressed. It's a wonder the ball doesn't sigh every time they prod it around the pitch.
59 min: Torres picks the ball up down the right and cuts inside. For a moment he's free in the box, one on one with the keeper, but hesitates and allows Antonsson to come back at him. Torres drops a shoulder and makes himself some more space, eventually getting a shot away, but the keeper's got time to position himself well and gets behind it. It's become a glaring confidence issue, this, but he's getting so many openings surely a goal isn't long in coming, and then we can forget all about it.
63 min: The atmosphere is dead here. Everyone knows Copenhagen don't have the tools to beat Chelsea over two legs. Didier Drogba is jogging up and down the touchline in trainers. Get your boots on, man, you're at work! In ten minutes, expect him to be pictured on the bench in a shapeless baggy sweater, picking at a huge bag of popcorn, and drinking rosé.
67 min: Lampard gives the ball away in the centre. N'Doye streams forward, then slides Gronkjaer free down the left. The former Chelsea man zips into the box and cuts inside past Terry, diving over his leg. For a second, it looks like the referee is going to award an erroneous penalty, but instead he gives a free kick for offside. Which he patently wasn't. All very odd. We move on. "I thought I was over my Torres break-up," sniffs Ian Copestake, "but I am clearly still not keen on seeing him happy with someone else and hoped he would never actually score for Chelsea in my lifetime let alone this match. But perhaps its best to just let go, so come on Torres." You're going to feel physically sick when this happens, aren't you?
70 min: Pospech is booked for clattering into Torres down the inside-left channel, just outside his own box. He'll miss the second leg, which may be sweet relief the way this is panning out. Lampard welts the set piece miles over the bar for three rugby points.
73 min: No popcorn or crisp, delicious rosé yet for Drogba, who comes on, wearing boots as well, to replace two-goal hero Anelka.
75 min: A beautiful flowing move by Chelsea sets Torres free into the area down the left. He holds off a challenge from Pospech and dinks the ball over the advancing Wiland towards the goal, but doesn't get enough weight on the shot. As the ball bounces towards the empty net, Wendt jogs across and clears. This search for his first Chelsea goal is now becoming farcical.
76 min: Wendt is replaced by Bengtsson. N'Doye lashes a hopeless shot miles wide right of the Chelsea goal. It's a wonder the ball doesn't emit a primal scream every time Copenhagen prod it around the pitch.
78 min: Bengtsson finds a bit of space down the left and gets a decent cross into the area, but Cech plucks it from the sky with only N'Doye in attendance. A few seconds later, Vingaard has a whack at the target, but it's more catching practise for Cech.
80 min: Now Claudemir arrives from the left and whips a shot straight at Cech. Another easy field for the keeper, but at least Copenhagen are putting a few moves together.
83 min: Torres has Malouda in acres down the left, waiting patiently for a pass to release him on goal. Instead, the striker embarks on a gymnastic programme of shimmies and dragbacks, in an attempt to worm his way past three players in the middle. The ball's whipped from his toe after one shimmy and half a dragback. On the left, so much steam parps from Malouda's ears, the temperature rises above freezing.
85 min: If Malouda was in a little mood back then, he'll now be in a proper full-on Bootsy Collins funk. He's substituted for Zhirkov. Then, taking an age to walk off, is booked for fannying around. His wild gesticulations of protest at least disperse some of his ear steam.
86 min: Terry is booked for upending Vingaard down the right.
87 min: Zohore comes on for Gronkjaer.
89 min: Torres rips down the left. He's got Drogba in the middle, but can't find him, sending in a hilariously poor low cross that's cut out by the first man, who is whistling and looking at his fingernails. Twenty seconds or so later, Drogba picks the ball up on the left himself, and preposterously decides to take a whack at goal from the best part of 30 yards, near the touchline. I'll do him a favour and not describe it.
90 min: I have no idea how many extra minutes there will be. We're sailing off into uncharted waters here.
90 min +2: Once again Torres fails to complete the full match, though at least he's done 90 minutes this time. Kalou comes on for the final throes.
FULL TIME: FC Copenhagen 0-2 Chelsea. And that's that. Altogether now...
A well-deserved result for a very impressive Chelsea, who coasted through that. And yet John Terry still finds a reason to argue with the referee at the final whistle. That's manly men for you!