In the end, it was as much as Nottingham Forest could achieve just to salvage some measure of pride from a match that served to illustrate, with an unforgiving harshness, the degree to which these clubs have drifted apart since they last met on level terms.
You could scarcely believe it is just eight years, given how hard it was yesterday to find any way in which to draw comparisons that even remotely favoured Forest. Then again, since Chelsea won the last Premier League fixture between the sides at the City Ground in February 1999, the former champions of Europe (twice) have dropped two divisions and Chelsea discovered a Russian oil baron.
Roman Abramovich, for reasons to which Chelsea insistently attach no mystery, could not make it yesterday but had he done so he would have been able to witness something money cannot buy in the fervently loyal support that accompanied Forest throughout their unequal struggle, even after a hopelessly one-sided first half killed off any hope that their team might finally give the Cup weekend an upset.
Around 6,500 travelled, effectively filling one end of the stadium, unfurling their banners and waving the inflatable replicas of the European Cup that some enterprising Nottingham business had made sure were in good supply. There were images of Brian Clough on some of the flags and the chants made it plain that, in their eyes, there is still only one "Special One".
If all this smacks of living in the past, you can ask whether there is any harm in that. History can be celebrated, too, and for the time being, at least, those two nights of glory with which the antecedents of this Forest team immortalised their club in Munich and Madrid more than a quarter of a century ago give the Nottingham name a market in tradition that Brand Chelsea has yet to penetrate.
It was a point not lost on the Forest manager, Colin Calderwood, although he will be quick to remind his players that they must trade in the present and focus their minds on the trip to Carlisle on Wednesday as they attempt to regain ground in the League One promotion race.
"We knew the supporters would be fantastic," he said. "They have been with us all season and, hopefully, they will get their rewards later in the season. It is disappointing we could not give them something to cheer today.
"But for the first 30 minutes we simply did not take part," he added. "When we had the ball we were reckless with it and the manner of the goals we conceded will drive us mad all the way back up the motorway.
"There was a bit of a reaction in the second half but you need to be competitive and do the basic things right at 0-0. We can look at what Chelsea did and realise that it is not incredibly complicated or intricate and that should encourage us."
As it happens, simplicity was the basis of Clough's winning game in his finest hours. The supporters who made their pledge of faith yesterday may see such days again but they could be a long time coming.Reuse content