It really was a much-win match after dropping points at home to Juventus. Chelsea don't have much margin for error in Group E, and if they want to top the group they were going to have to get all six points from minnows -- and Danish champions -- Nordsjaelland. The more difficult match was always going to be the away tie, and the Parken Stadium turned out to be a more significant challenge than in our last visit, which saw us dispatch FC Copenhagen with minimal fuss two seasons ago.
We still won by four goals this time around, mind.
The Blues started well, with Oscar and Victor Moses (Eden Hazard was rested) combining in the penalty box only to see the former shoot wide, and managed to rattle the woodwork after good work from Branislav Ivanovic. The fullback managed to burst into the area and set up Oscar for a cross, but a vital intervention by Jores Okore saw the ball ping off Jesper Hansen's right post and to safety.
The 20-year-old old Ivorian didn't emerge from his clash with Moses unscathed, however -- he picked up a nasty looking head injury and had to be stitched up on the bench. But it didn't force him off the pitch for long, much to Chelsea's dismay. While Nordsjaelland's defending was organised, Okore was the main force keeping Chelsea at bay for most of the first half, making repeated interventions to keep the Blues (especially Moses) off the scoresheet.
And at the other end of the pitch, the Danes were playing worryingly well. A vital block from Ashley Cole prevented Kasper Lorentzen latching onto a cross played in by Joshua John, and the midfield could seemingly exert no real pressure on the home side. Although there was plenty of time left, things were starting to get pretty irksome by the 30th minute. Chelsea were obviously the better side, but they'd yet to stoop so low as to actually show it. Were dropped points really on the cards?
Fortunately, Nordsjaelland then bailed us out of our slight conundrum. They insisted on playing the ball out of the ball with short passes, an admirable trait in a team which possesses the technical quality to do so. For Nordsjaelland, it didn't work out particularly well.
Fernando Torres didn't have his scoring boots on, but he was playing reasonably well. He managed to dispossess Enoch Adu deep in the opposition half, and instead of bearing down on goal and shooting (which hadn't worked on a previous attempt), the striker opted to square instead to the onrushing Frank Lampard at the top of the box. Lampard, making his first start since the 2-2 draw against Juventus, picked out Juan Mata with a perfect pass, and he duly slid the ball into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
Rout on? No, not so much.
Instead of adding to their lead, Chelsea ended up sitting on a one goal cushion for far too long. Granted, a lot was that was simple misfortune -- the Blues had no fewer than four goals disallowed between the opener and their extraordinary second, with Torres seeing a strike ruled out for offside (clear-cut), Oscar then being penalised for Torres straying off (less so), Moses being called back for a foul (soft) and then Oscar being denied again for a foul on Ramires in which the referee didn't both playing advantage (clearly nonsense).
And Nordsjaelland looked every bit as good as the Blues did for most of that spell. It was a little bit concerning seeing them cut through the midfield and defence -- Branislav Ivanovic was poor again at right back -- so easily, and I think every Chelsea fan watching saw their heart sink when John cut inside and unleashed a glorious shot that seemed destined for the top corner.
That Petr Cech was alert and agile enough to touch the 24-year-old loanee's effort onto the post did not diguise that Chelsea were essentially flailing around looking for the ball. Nor did Ashley Cole's block on the follow-up seconds later. The Blues looked awful, and they needed to settle down.
Torres and, weirdly, David Luiz, gave them the chance to do just that. Torres' driving runs had been the subject of much consternation in the Nordsjaelland defence all evening, and when he was felled by Michael Parkhurst 25 yards from goal it was clear that Chelsea would get the opportunity to add some much needed padding to the scoresheet.
Mata had already had his turn (and shot straight into the wall), so up stepped David Luiz. His right foot flashed, and the ball suddenly transported itself over the wall, past the stunned figure of Hansen, off his right-hand post and in. It was finally 2-0, and Chelsea could relax.
Their job was made even easier shortly thereafter, when a ricochet in the box fell kindly for Mata, who wasted no time in notching his brace, and then Ramires put some gloss on the scoreline after a brilliant interchange from Oscar and Torres set up the midfielder for a far-post tap-in.
The 4-0 win, combined with Shakhtar Donetsk's 1-1 draw in Turin, sees Chelsea rise to the top of Group E on goal difference. To make it count, they'll have to get at least four points from their next two matches. Let's see how it goes... but so far so good.