One minute they had dreams of being world No 1, the next they were facing up to the reality of Capital One – and a cup-tie with Leeds that may not be entirely dissimilar to this gruelling final against Corinthians.
From Yokohama to Yorkshire – how fickle football can be. Interim Chelsea manager Rafa Benitez was hailed for his bold selection against Monterrey, but here he was fielding questions about disgruntled players and a season in danger of falling apart. Again.
Oscar, who began on the bench, was quoted on a Brazilian website saying his manager was "crazy" for leaving him out against his compatriots. A downcast Benitez shrugged: "Normally, with Twitter, Facebook, websites and bloggers, I don't trust too many people. Any player not playing has to be disappointed, but that's it."
However, the game wasn't won and lost on Oscar's omission or thrown away by Gary Cahill's moment of madness, when he kicked out at Emerson and was deservedly sent off.
The trophy was wrested from Europe's grip for the first time since 2006 because Chelsea were outmuscled. The Brazilians were more like the Premier League team. Bayed on by most of a near-capacity crowd, they were compact, organised and up for the fight against a side badly missing the injured John Terry.
How Chelsea could also have done with the physical prowess of the departed Didier Drogba. They missed a hatful of chances, with Fernando Torres particularly wasteful. He may have filled his boots with five against Danish minnows Nordsjaelland, Sunderland and Monterrey, but he needs to start scoring on the big occasions.
"He had the chances," said Benitez. "I agree that he has to take these chances in a final because it's not easy to create too many. If you have two or three you have to score."
Torres did have one rightly ruled out for offside at the death but should have equalised moments earlier when he had a one-on-one with goalkeeper Cassio, but shot at him.
Chelsea started sluggishly, but carved out the better chances and Cassio saved at full stretch from Victor Moses, and did well to gather a fierce Juan Mata volley. After the break, Mata slipped an exquisite ball through to Eden Hazard but the Belgian could not get his shot away. Slowly Corinthians tightened the screw. Emerson never stopped running, Paulinho grew in stature and Peruvian striker Paolo Guerrero would grace the Premier League. Guerrero's goal came when Cahill blocked Danilo's shot and the ball looped up for a simple header.
"They had one chance and scored, and we didn't take our chances," said Benitez. "That was the difference."
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