Thursday 06 December 2012
Rafael Benitez praised the "character and attitude" of his side after Chelsea completed an emphatic 6-1 rout of Nordsjælland only to miss out on the UEFA Champions League knockout stage.
"It was more than the win but the way we won: the character, attitude, intensity, chances we created"
Fernando Torres scored twice, while David Luiz, Juan Mata, Gary Cahill and Oscar also got on the scoresheet to condemn the Danish champions to a heavy defeat at Stamford Bridge that nonetheless fell short of sealing qualification for the round of 16 of the competition the Blues won last season.
Juventus's 1-0 defeat of Shakhtar Donetsk ensured these two teams progressed at Chelsea's expense, leaving the west Londoners with the consolation of a place in the UEFA Europa League.
"The other game was out of our hands; we just had to do our job," said Benitez. "As a manager, you have to be pleased with the performance: 32 attempts, 18 on target, six goals.
"So you think about the positives while being really disappointed that we didn't progress. People have asked if we'll take the Europa League seriously, but every competition is serious for us. We'll do our best."
Before the floodgates opened there were missed penalties for either side, with the visitors the first to pass up the chance to take lead when Petr Cech saved Nicolai Stokholm’s 32nd-minute spot-kick. Jepser Hansen followed suit three minutes later, denying Eden Hazard’s tame effort, but once another penalty had been awarded to the hosts David Luiz made no mistake. Torres then raced through to double their lead in first-half injury time.
Although Joshua John reduced the arrears in the first minute of the second half, it was but a brief respite from the onslaught that continued when Cahill sent a looping 51st-minute header past Hansen.
Five minutes later Torres finished off an excellent run and cross by Hazard from close range, before substitute Oscar and Mata added gloss to the scoreline.
"Now we are progressing, doing better things, and hopefully it will be better," added Benitez. "It was more than the win but the way we won: the character, attitude, intensity, chances we created.
"I'm really pleased for the club, the players, the fans and for me. Can we change the result of the other game? No. Can we change the situation? No. All we can do is try and improve and be ready for the next challenge."
Chelsea’s next test is a trip to Sunderland on Saturday before they head off to Japan to contest the FIFA Club World Cup next week.
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cahill, Cole (Bertrand 60); Romeu, Ramires (Oscar 65); Hazard, Mata (Ferreira 74), Moses; Torres
UEFA Champions League Group E results
Chelsea 6-1 Nordsjælland
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-1 Juventus
Sir Alex Ferguson was keen to focus on the positives as Manchester United suffered their first home defeat in Europe in three years, going down 1-0 to CFR Cluj.
"We gave some young players a bit of experience and that will hold them in good stead"
Sir Alex Ferguson
By his own admission Ferguson, whose side had qualified as group winners, fielded an experimental side that included nine players aged 24 or younger in United's line-up, the only exceptions being Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs.
And, having rested so many first-team regulars with the Manchester derby looming on Sunday, the United manager was sanguine about the defeat which came courtesy of a speculative long-range strike by Alberto.
"It was a wonder goal that beat us," said Ferguson. "We didn't deserve that, we created some good chances but when you lose a goal like that you can have no complaints.
"We had a young side out and they played very well at times; I am satisfied we put a decent performance in. We qualified earlier so it gave us a chance to experiment and play the players that needed a game. We gave some young players a bit of experience and that will hold them in good stead."
Manchester United: De Gea; Jones, Smalling, Wootten, Buttner; Giggs (Fletcher 86), Cleverley (Scholes 45), Powell (Macheda 73); Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck
UEFA Champions League Group H
Manchester United 0-1 CFR Cluj
Braga 1-2 Galatasaray