Champions League: Chelsea out as Juventus, Galatasaray, Celtic advance
Less than seven months after celebrating a first Champions League triumph to satisfy owner Roman Abramovich's thirst for continental dominance, Chelsea became European chumps on Wednesday despite a rip-roaring but irrelevant finale.
A 6-1 rout of Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge handed beleaguered interim manager Rafael Benitez some respite but it came with the unwanted distinction of becoming the first Champions League holders to exit at the group stage.
Chelsea's victory, their first since the Spaniard replaced the sacked Roberto Di Matteo a fortnight ago, mattered little with Juventus reaching the last 16 thanks to a 1-0 win in Ukraine over Shakhtar Donetsk.
A second-half own goal was enough for the Italians to secure top spot in Group E and progress alongside Shakhtar.
Chelsea, who needed to win and hope Juventus lost, head into the Europa League with the West London aristocrats unlikely to be celebrating Thursday night football that Europe's second-tier competition will bring in the new year.
Galatasaray and Celtic claimed the other two knockout stage places decided in the final round of group matches and there were injury concerns for Barcelona after Argentine World Player of the Year Lionel Messi suffered a bruised knee.
Chelsea finally found their stride following two draws and a defeat under Benitez, but the Spaniard was still subjected to occasional jeers by fans still unhappy at popular Di Matteo's exit.
Fernando Torres scored twice in an entertaining clash that featured three penalties, all awarded for handball and two of which were saved, in six first-half minutes.
David Luiz, Gary Cahill, Juan Mata and Oscar also netted to leave Benitez optimistic that brighter days lie ahead.
"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," he told reporters.