MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 6 FC NORDSJAELLAND 1
A record Champions League victory, complete with some sparkling football, was not enough to see us through to this competition's knockout stages.
The fact Juventus won at Shakhtar Donetsk means we finish third in Group E, and will now take part in the reformatted Europa League for the first time.
It renders an impressive display at Stamford Bridge relatively meaningless, though we did for the first time score six in a Champions League fixture, with goals coming from a David Luiz penalty after both sides had already missed from the spot, two from Fernando Torres, who had not scored in a month, and one apiece from Gary Cahill (pictured below), Juan Mata and Oscar, following four goals in 20 second-half minutes after Nordsjaelland had pulled one back immediately from the kick-off.
The result brings a first win for Rafael Benitez, but the night will be remembered as the one the previous season's Champions League winners bowed out for the first time at the group stage.
That meant no place for Cesar Azpilicueta, who was on the bench, while Oriol Romeu replaced John Mikel Obi in midfield. The front four was unchanged, with Victor Moses keeping his place ahead of Oscar.
Ashley Cole was playing the 100th Champions League game of his career.
As much as we needed the result in Donetsk to go our way, there was a job to be done at home too. Failure to qualify for the knockout stages would be one thing, but failure to beat the group's weakest side at the Bridge quite another.
The early stages were interrupted with an injury to Nordsjaelland's Ivan Runje, but when it resumed Chelsea looked dangerous, first when Moses's powerful volley was saved at the near post by the visiting keper Jesper Hansen, and then after Fernando Torres had burst into the box and fired hard and low.
Hansen then saved from David Luiz before the defender was forced to divert the ball behind at the other end, only for the Blues to break as Torres brought the ball forward and played in Juan Mata, whose square ball was diverted goalwards by Eden Hazard, the goalkeeper once again able to save.
It was certainly entertaining as Chelsea sought to bring some warmth to a bitterly cold London evening.
Romeu, Hazard and Mata all combined and almost played in Torres, before Moses squared across goal and Nordsjaelland captain Nicolai Stokholm diverted over via his own crossbar.
The away side were riding their luck, and they were given a huge boost on the half-hour when Cahill was adjudged to have handled inside the area. There was little the defender could do, though his arm was raised, yet repays showed he had been outside the penalty area.
Stokholm stepped up, and sent the kick to Petr Cech's right, but not many spot kicks seem to beat our number one these days, and he pushed it away to safety.
Three minutes later and we had a penalty of our own, Cahill winning it this time as sub Mikkel Beckmann was penalised for handball. Hazard claimed the ball, and confidently placed it low to the keeper's left, but Hansen guessed right and was able to save.
Staggeringly, five minutes later we were awarded another penalty as Beckmann blocked Mata's drive with his hand, and this time David Luiz took responsibility, and fired high into the top corner of the net.
For all the showmanship and enterprising play of the first half, it had taken a penalty to put us ahead.
The wait for a second would not be a long one, coming in first-half injury time as Moses threaded Torres through, and the striker tapped into an empty net after Hansen had saved his initial effort.
Chelsea looked well in control, but Shakhtar and Juventus were still level out in Ukraine.
Nobody in west London would have predicted what happened at the start of the second period, as within 20 seconds Nordsjaelland struck back, left-winger Joshua John latching on to Kasper Lorentzen's lofted pass to clip over Cech and into the net.
The goalkeeper will be frustrated at losing his clean sheet but concern for the result did not last long, as Cahill leapt high to head an inswinging Mata free-kick into the corner of the net just moments later, restoring the two-goal lead.
The goals kept coming.
The lead became three five minutes later, as Hazard progressed down the left, as he had done numerous times already, and got to the bye-line, squaring for Torres to prod home a fourth of the night, and a second for himself.
Then Ramires won possession as Nordsjaelland tried to break, and with the Danes low on numbers at the back, the Brazilian fed Mata who drove forward, exchanged passes with Hazard and shot, seeing his first effort hit Hansen's leg before firing in the rebound. If the Blues were going out, we were going to do so with a show.
Mata was gifted possession midway inside the away side's half, and he was able to instinctively pick out substitute Oscar's run, and the Brazilian made no mistake as he side-footed past the keeper and into the bottom corner. Celebrations, however, were subdued, with the news having filtered through that Juventus had taken the lead in Donetsk.
Mata was brought off to rapturous applause after another night of playmaking perfection, and the change saw Paulo Ferreira introduced, with perhaps more interestingly David Luiz pushed forward into midfield alongside Romeu, who had been faultless all evening.
Torres might have had a penalty after being bundled over inside the area while Oscar's drive was tipped over by Hansen and David Luiz looped a free-kick just too high as Chelsea looked for more. Already we had scored a club record number of Champions League goals in one night.
Torres and Mata combined with a rabona and a back flick to work Hansen some more, but that was the end of the excitement, and a fine display was met with applause, but an overall feeling of disappointment at the final whistle.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole (Bertrand 60); Ramires (Oscar 64), Romeu; Moses, Mata (Ferreira 74), Hazard; Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Azpilicueta, Mikel, Marin.
Goals David Luiz (pen) 38, Torres 45+1, 56, Cahill 50, Mata 63, Oscar 70
Booked David Luiz 89
Nordsjaelland (4-2-3-1): Hansen; Ticinovic (Issah 64), Parkhurst, Runje (Beckmann 9), Mtiliga; Stokholm (c), Adu; Gundelach, Christiansen (Kildentoft 60), John; Lorentzen
Unused subs Jensen, Maxso, Laudrup, Lindberg.
Goal John 46
Booked Christiansen 36, Parkhurst 50, Mtiliga 84
Referee Bas Nijhuis from Holland