It WAS too little, too late for Rafael Benitez as he finally notched a win at Chelsea but was powerless to stop them becoming the first Champions League holders to crash out of the competition before Christmas.
The fact that Fernando Torres ended his goal drought in what was an expected romp against FC Nordsjaelland was also scant consolation for Benitez and the European champions, who were consigned to the Europa League after Juventus won at Shakhtar Donetsk to top Group E.
Torres even scored twice after David Luiz put Chelsea ahead from the spot at the end of a crazy spell of three penalties for handball in seven minutes that saw both Nicolai Stokholm and Eden Hazard miss.
Joshua John did make it 2-1 but Gary Cahill, Juan Mata and substitute Oscar ensured the holders at least bowed out with their biggest ever Champions League victory and ended their six-match winless streak, three of which were overseen by Benitez.
Chelsea fans’ reaction to their interim manager during games has already become a cliche, but amid the customary jeers, abuse and protest banners were newer placards declaring, “Bring Back The Special One”.
It is debatable whether even Jose Mourinho could manage Torres back to his best, the striker appearing fully aware last night’s game represented his best chance of ending his latest drought. He did so in style and could well have claimed a hat-trick but it was goals elsewhere Chelsea and Benitez needed.
Any joy to be had was tempered by the news Juve had taken the lead in Donetsk – in defiance of the “Come on Shakhtar” chants from Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea continued to attack and Torres was denied two penalty shouts but they were powerless to prevent their premature departure from Europe’s premier competition, with the damage being inflicted earlier in the campaign.