Seven months after winning the Champions League, our hopes of being crowned world champions evaporated in Yokohama as we slipped to a 1-0 defeat against Corinthians.
Paolo Guerrero’s 69th minute header proved decisive, and while Fernando Torres had a late goal ruled out for offside, it’s the Brazilians who will fly home with the trophy.
Gary Cahill, who was sent off in the last minute for an incident on the halfway line, went close early on for the Blues, while Victor Moses was desperately unlucky shortly before half-time when Cassio turned his brilliant effort around the post.
Guerrero headed home from close-range with 21 minutes left to play after Danilo’s shot had deflected into his path off Cahill, before the Blues defender saw red late on.
There was still time for Torres to see his header ruled out and Juan Mata strike the woodwork, but the damage had already been done.
There is little time for the disappointment to fester, however, as we head home to take on Leeds United in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday, a game which has now taken on extra significance.
Manager Rafael Benitez made three changes to the team which beat Monterrey 3-1 in the semi-final on Thursday.
Frank Lampard made his first start since October and captained the side, with John Mikel Obi making way. David Luiz, who played in midfield against the Mexican side, moved back into the centre of defence, with Branislav Ivanovic reverting back to right-back and Cesar Azpilicueta dropping down to the bench. The sole change in attack saw Moses replace Oscar.
In stark contrast to our semi-final, there wasn’t a spare seat inside the stadium for the showpiece game, with the Brazilians backed by thousands of travelling supporters, and those fans who had made the trip from the UK bolstered due to our popularity with the locals.
Signed for his artistry in the final third, it was in our own half where Eden Hazard made a crucial interception inside the opening couple of minutes, robbing Paulinho as the Corinthians midfielder, who was unmarked in the box, looked to pounce on a Fabio Santos cross.
Our first opening came courtesy of a delightful pass on the turn by Lampard, straight into the path of Torres; the striker found Moses, whose cross was deflected behind for a corner, and from the resulting kick we almost took the lead.
Mata’s delivery was flicked on by Branislav Ivanovic to Cahill, and after his initial header had been saved, the defender smashed the rebound goalwards, only for Cassio to somehow claw the ball away and prevent it from rolling over the line.
David Luiz saw a powerful free-kick cannon straight against the wall after Hazard had drawn a foul from Chicao with a clever turn, while at the other end Paulinho fired over the bar with a speculative effort which never looked like testing Cech.
In the 25th minute, the Brazilian side were appealing for a penalty following a tussle between Guerrero and Cahill.
The Corinthians man neatly evaded Cahill by slipping the ball through his legs, before tumbling in the penalty area as the defender attempted to win it back.
At first glance, it looked a close one, but replays appeared to prove that the referee had called it correctly, to the relief of the Chelsea supporters inside the stadium.
Moses then saw a decent chance go begging after latching on to a great pass from Hazard, before Corinthians wasted the best chance of the game a minute later.
Cahill timed his tackle brilliantly to deny Guerrero, and as the striker’s follow-up rolled dangerously across the face of the goal, Emerson arrived at the far post and crashed his effort against the outside of the post as David Luiz narrowed the angle.
Lampard was head and shoulders above every other player on the pitch in terms of his passing, with the midfielder showing, on more than one occasion, just what we’ve been missing of late.
Torres, in particular, was reaping the benefits of having the 34-year-old back in the side, and the Spaniard was unlucky to see one effort well saved after he’d brought the ball out of the air brilliantly.
A quick break six minutes before half-time yielded our best opportunity of the game, as Moses got on the end of a move involving Lampard, Hazard and Mata, before seeing his wonderful curling strike expertly tipped away by Cassio, and as the referee brought the half to a halt, there was little to choose between the sides.
It was the Blues who forced the first chance of the second half soon after the restart. The persistence of Ashley Cole enabled him to get beyond Alessandro, before laying the ball inside to Mata, but his cross, seeking out Torres, was just behind the striker who was unable to connect.
Mata, after a quiet first half, was beginning to find more space, and minutes later he released Hazard with a perfectly-weighted pass; the Belgian raced away, but a poor first touch left him with too much to do, and his eventual shot was blocked by Cassio.
Given the tightness of the game, it was becoming clear that scoring first may well prove to be decisive.
Paulinho went close for the Brazilians, fizzing a strike inches past the post from Guerrero’s lay-off, while at the other end we were struggling to find an opening.
The Corinthians supporters were beginning to sense an opening, and with 21 minutes remaining it came.
Paulinho fed Danilo on the left-hand side of the penalty area, and as he came inside Cahill and fired towards goal, his shot deflected off the legs of the Blues defender, falling invitingly into the path of Guerrero, who headed beyond Cole and David Luiz – who were both on the goalline – and into the back of the net off the underside of the bar.
As an attacking unit, we hadn’t done enough, and Benitez, recognising the need for a change, replaced Moses with Oscar.
Azpilicueta was next to be introduced, coming on for Ivanovic in a straight swap as time ticked away.
Shortly after, Torres was presented with a golden opportunity to restore parity, but he could only fire straight at Cassio from point-blank range, and you wondered whether we would see a better chance.
Our final change saw Marko Marin replace Hazard, but if the task was already a big one, it was made all the more difficult when Cahill was dismissed amid controversial circumstances following a tussle with Emerson.
Torres headed home in added time from an Oscar cross, but the flag had already been raised for offside, while with virtually the last kick of the game Mata hit the outside of the post after rounding Cassio.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard (c); Moses (Oscar 72), Mata, Hazard (Marin 85); Torres.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Hilario, Ferreira, Bertrand, Azpilicueta, Saville, Mikel Obi, Piazon.
Booked David Luiz 71
Sent off Gary Cahill 90
Corinthians (4-2-3-1): Cassio; Alessandro (c), Paulo Andre, Chicao, Fabio Santos; Paulinho, Ralf; Danilo, J Henrique, Emerson (Wallace 87); Guerrero (Martinez 85).
Unused substitutes: J Cesar, F Danilo, Wallace, Douglas, A Polga, W Arao, Edenilson, Guilherme, Felipe, Giovanni, Romarinho.
Scorer Guerrero 69
Booked Henrique 55
Referee Cuneyt Cakir