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Dec 5, 2012

Chelsea crash out

Chelsea secured their first victory of the Rafael Benitez era with a 6-1 win over Nordsjaelland, but they will have to content themselves with Europa League football as Juventus beat Shakhtar Donetsk to deny them a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League.

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You would have got long odds at the start of the season that Celtic would go further in the Champions League than Chelsea, but that is the case as the Bhoys beat Spartak Moscow 2-1 to progress alongside Barcelona. Chelsea did all they could by thrashing Nordsjaelland, with Fernando Torres ending his barren run with a brace of goals, but they become the first defending champions not to get out of the group stage.

The Blues made a fine start, with a flowing move involving Torres and Ashley Cole to allow the latter to fizz in a cross for Victor Moses. He set himself and unleashed a crisp volley that was well saved by Jesper Hansen.

Hansen was extremely busy and he beat out a stinging drive from Torres who did well to win the ball on the edge of the box.

Nordsjaelland offered little going forward in the first 30 minutes, but they were given a chance when Gary Cahill was penalied for handball. But Petr Cech plunged to his right to save the penalty from Nicolai Stokholm.

Shortly afterwards Chelsea were awarded a penalty of their own, as a Cahill header hit the arm of Mikkel Beckmann. Eden Hazard stepped up with no real conviction and Hansen saved to his left.

A second penalty came Chelsea's way on 38 minutes, again for handball. Luiz took responsibility and slammed the ball beyond Hansen.

Torres' workrate was excellent and his endeavour was rewarded in first-half injury-time as he latched on to a pass from Moses, got a bit of luck as his initial shot rebounded back into his path and he clipped the ball home.

A mere 21 seconds into the second half, Nordsjaelland grabbed a foothold as Joshua John sped on to a pass from Kasper Lorentzen and flicked the ball over Cech.

Chelsea nerves were eased when Cahill headed home on 50 minutes, but even before Torres flicked home his second the mood round Stamford Bridge had dulled with the news Juventus were ahead in Donetsk.

Juan Mata and Oscar also found their way onto the scoresheet as Chelsea romped to victory, but Olexandr Kucher's own goal handed Juventus a 1-0 win at Shakhtar which took the Italians through as group winners alongside their beaten hosts who had already qualified.

Celtic needed to better Benfica's result at Barcelona to progress and they did that with a 2-1 win over Spartak Moscow. Gary Hooper latched on to a poor pass to fire the Bhoys ahead, but they were pegged back when Kelvin Wilson headed into his own net.

Roared on by a rocking Parkhead crowd, Celtic won a penalty through Giorgios Samaras and Kris Commons held his nerve to slam the ball home off the underside of the crossbar.

Benfica had their chances again Barcelona, but a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou was enough to send Celtic into the knockout stages of the Champions League.

A much-changed Manchester United side were beaten 1-0 at home by CFR Cluj, but they still topped the group.

A goal from Luis Alberto handed Cluj the three points, but they were denied second place in the group as Galatasaray snatched it after rallying to beat Braga 2-1.

Elsewhere Bayern Munich ensured their safe passage as winners of Group F by beating BATE Borisov 4-1, while Valencia joined them in the knockout stages with a 1-0 win at Lille.

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