Well then. A year ago we were snickering as Manchesters United and City fell into the knockout rounds of the Europa League. Now Chelsea will be competing in a tournament that has inherited the Ottoman Empire's mantle as the sick old man of the continent. How the wheel turns.
We knew that this game was mostly irrelevant. Chelsea beating Nordsjaelland at home would only matter if Shakhtar Donetsk did the same to Juventus. They didn't, of course, and so the fact that the Blues absolutely hammered our Danish friends counts for very little in the end. It's kind of fitting that the first victory of Rafa Benitez's Chelsea career felt like a wake.
In truth, the match was a lot of fun. The first half hour was stressful, but as soon as David Luiz broke the deadlock with a well-taken penalty, the doubts flowed away and Chelsea started playing some excellent football -- they scored more goals in the second half than in the previous ten combined.
It's strange to remember how nervy they looked in the early exchanges. Nordsjaelland were obviously on the back foot, but they nearly took the lead when Gary Cahill conceded a spot kick 32 minutes in with a handball on the very edge of the box. Fortunately, Petr Cech was in a penalty-saving mood, blocking off Nicolai Stokholm's weak effort to keep the game scoreless.
And then we got a penalty of our own three minutes later. That one was missed as well, the first time in his professional career that Eden Hazard had failed to convert from the spot. Not to worry, however, because the penalty flurry wasn't done yet -- a dubious handball was called against Nordsjaelland and David Luiz duly rammed home to open the scoring.
After that... well, there were some notable moments. Fernando Torres had a well-taken brace. Juan Mata got a goal, as did Oscar and Cahill. Branislav Ivanovic had a major meltdown to start the second half, which resulted in the visitors briefly making the score 2-1. David Luiz ended up playing in the midfield and kicking a dude in the face. Chelsea will play in the Europa League next year.
The game itself was fun, but the day's gloomy undertones (and the calibre of opposition) made it difficult to really enjoy. Chelsea are the first holders to go out in the knockout round, which means we'll be the target of some un-pleasant jibes over the next month or so. But if this was the price we had to pay for Munich, so be it.
Bring on the Europa League.