There were siren calls for José Mourinho again at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night – sweet serenades that grow louder by the game, even as the wins keep coming and the possibility of trophies looms larger. But in a game where Chelsea only belatedly delivered a scoreline that reflected their dominance two moments stood out.
The first was Fernando Torres, the man in the mask, laughing at his good fortune after opening the scoring with a close-up swipe at a loose ball after he bundled messily with the Rubin Kazan captain, Roman Sharonov. Suddenly confidence ran through him like a river.
After that Torres was bold enough to attempt a rabona, and then shortly afterwards, step expertly inside an opponent's outstretched boot with little more than a shuffle of his hips – a move straight out of a coaching manual. He was bold enough, too, to score a second, 20 minutes from time, leaping fearlessly to head home Juan Mata's cross to make next week's trip to Moscow appear a little less fraught. Still, it is probably premature to regard this as a possible rebirth: these were just Torres' third and fourth goals in his last 23 games.
The other moment that stood out was the decision of the referee, Gianluca Rocchi, to award Rubin a penalty for a John Terry handball. The Chelsea captain arrived on to the pitch in short sleeves, as if to dare the elements as well as his opponents to take him on – but it was Rocchi who did so instead, ruling that he had handled a full-blooded drive from Cristian Ansaldi.
Given that the shot thudded into Terry's armband at close range, while his hands were close to his body, it seemed harsh – and the yellow card that followed only added insult. It may yet make a difference in the return leg.
During that game Terry is likely to make his 100th appearance in Uefa club competition. Frank Lampard (112), Petr Cech and Ashley Cole (both 102) have played more European matches for Chelsea but arguably no one has been as influential as Terry –at least not until this season.
This was Chelsea's 55th game of 2012-13 but Terry has played in only 21 – a steep decline for someone for whom 50-game seasons have been the norm in every campaign but one since 2002-03. Partly that is due to the knee injury that kept him out from mid-November to late January – 16 first-team games in all – but it is also a reflection of his waning talents and influence. The man who was Chelsea's beating heart has become their appendix.
The visit of Kazan, fourth in the Russian league, 11 points behind CSKA Moscow, played to Terry's strengths. Kazan are not a side of noticeable attacking intent: in their previous nine matches they had scored eight goals and conceded two. Safety is not only their first option but usually their second too. They sit deep in a rigid 4-2-3-1, attacking only sporadically.
Their main danger was expected to come via the Venezuelan José Rondón, the second top scorer in this season's competition. Instead Vladimir Dyadyun, a lank-limbed Russian international, was given the call. He threatened little, was well handled by Terry and his partner David Luiz, and was taken off after half-time.
Critics often carp at Terry's lack of pace but that is like bemoaning Quentin Tarantino's lack of subtlety. Pace is not what Terry's game is about. Instead he espouses more traditional, sleeves-up virtues. Although rarely troubled, he still did the basics well. He won the headers that he needed to win, recycled the ball effectively and applied added muscle when necessary.
There was the odd flash of guile too. In the fifth minute a long cross-field pass found Victor Moses on the right and midway through the second half he scooped the ball off his studs towards Mata to loud cheers from the home support.
After the penalty decision he also did his best to make amends at the other end, repeatedly pushing forward when the opportunity arose and nearly scoring after beating the Kazan keeper, Sergei Ryzhikov, to a Mata corner only for the ball to loop over the bar.
This result means that Chelsea could yet become the first side to win the Europa League the season after winning the Champions League. And while Terry's season has been bumpy – and his future at Stamford Bridge remains uncertain – he arrives at the business end of the campaign with more silverware in sight. There may yet be one last triumph.