Chelsea’s second friendly in their 2013 summer tour of the Far East, saw them up against a Malaysia XI and playing in a tropical humid heat in the Shah Alam stadium on the outskirts of Kaula Lumpur, and in front of noisy Asian supporters mostly donning the familiar blue strip.
Chelsea took to the pitch with 11 players, of which only one Marco van Ginkel was meant to play longer than 45 minutes.
In a 4 –2 – 3 – 1 formation, Chelsea lined up with Australian Mark Schwarzer in goal, Bertrand, JT, Chalobah and Ivanovic across the back 4, the aforementioned Van Ginkel and old hand Michael Essien in front of them, and a midfield trio of De Bruyne, Traore and Hazard providing support to former West Brom loanee Romelu Lukaku up front.
Chelsea went about their task with some gusto. Early on the Malaysian XI found themselves chasing shadows and seeing little of the ball as Chelsea’s superior passing meant they kept much of the early possession.
On 6 mins, Chelsea were ahead. A lovely sweeping move saw playmaker Kevin De Bruyne running into acres of space on the right wing. His hopeful low cross diagonally into the box was meant for the feet of Lukaku but instead found Bertrand Traore behind him who instantly sent the goalkeeper the wrong way with a tidy finish low to the keeper’s left. It was a sweet strike and the confident Traore went on to celebrate with some panache by the corner flag.
Chelsea were playing with some confidence. Michael ‘the bison’ Essien was running the show in midfield, breaking up a lot of the Malaysian XI’s attacks and in turn feeding the likes of De Bruyne and Hazard to create more chances for Lukaku. The increasingly confident Traore was also proving a handful to the extent that he even tried to audaciously lob the keeper ‘Beckham style’ on 19 mins, the ball sailing just over the bar from all of 35 yards.
The Malaysians were determined not to let Chelsea have things all their own way and a sustained attack on 23 mins led to Schwarzer in the Chelsea goal having to make a save.
Both teams were grateful for a drinks break on 26 mins, a sensible move instilled in such humid conditions.
On 28 mins, Chelsea extended their lead. A fine through ball from midfield, a lay off from the increasingly influential Lukaku into the path of De Bruyne, and the blonde diminutive Belgian was away from the last defender. He still had a lot to do, but De Bruyne sent a rasping shot from all of 20 yards that fairly flew past shocked goalkeeper Farizal.
It was a brilliant shot, the pick of Chelsea’s goals, and marred only by the fact that in landing, De Bruyne fell awkwardly and was instantly calling for attention from the bench, with pain to the right knee. He was stretchered off with Chelsea physios fearing the worst but later was seen walking unaided to the dugout, the injury seemingly not as bad as first feared.
De Bruyne was replaced by young rookie Islam Feruz, one of Chelsea’s reserve prodigies, eager to make his presence felt in front of the expert eye of Mourinho.
The Malaysia XI still tried to make an effort to half the deficit, forcing Schwarzer to make a hurried save across goal on 39 mins, but 9 mins later on the stroke of half time, Chelsea were to take themselves out of sight of their opponents, when Romelu Lukaku broke the offside trap and finished a fine move involving the lively Traore, with a left foot shot into the bottom corner past a stranded keeper. 3-0 and a fine first half display from Chelsea.
After the break, Chelsea’s personnel changed markedly. Van Ginkel was meant to be the only player staying on but he was joined by Belgian Eden Hazard, and in a new look Chelsea team, Cech took over in goal, the backline of Wallace, Cahill, Kalas and Cole were joined by the likes of Ramires, Schurrle and Moses in midfield and Demba Ba took over the no 9 duties from Lukaku.
Chelsea lost a bit of momentum at the start of the second half which was played at a slower pace than in the first, but the play was enlivened on 65 minutes, when Josh McEachran, fresh from his loan spell at Middlesborough, took over in midfield and young Brazilian Piazon joined him, Van Ginkel and Hazard making way.
Ba was looking lively up front, having a few chances when he was able to test the keeper. On 76 mins, McEachran fed him with a particularly fine through ball but the keeper was again up to the task and saved Ba’s shot.
Lucas Piazon initially played quite deeply but became braver and was more dangerous as the half wore on.
At the back, Chelsea were a little uncertain, and it was no surprise when a casual back pass from Kalas to Cech, left the unfortunate keeper having to kick the ball upfield hurriedly.
On 89 mins, another McEachran assist fed Victor Moses and although initially it looked like the chance had gone, Moses determinedly moved the ball onto his right foot in the penalty area and a scuffed shot found the net off the defender’s leg and the goalkeeper’s left hand for 4-0.
To give credit to the Malaysians, they never stopped trying even with their manager making many changes in personnel in the second half.
It was not a great surprise therefore when from a free kick on the left hand side, a searching cross found the head of Fadhili Shas in the penalty box on 90 mins and his header to Cech’s left made it 4-1. It was a deserved consolation and was met with suitable elation from all parts of the ground.
The Malaysians could have had a second in the dying seconds when a testing shot beat Cech, only for the keeper to gratefully see Ashley Cole making a last-ditch clearance off the line.
The game finished 4-1 soon afterwards and represented a second win for Chelsea on their tour of the Far East. A final game on Thursday, sees them playing the BNI Indonesia All-Stars at 2.30 pm BST.
Overall this was a good run out for Jose Mourinho’s team in which 23 members of the squad got to play at some point in the proceedings. Missing were the likes of Mata, Luiz, Mikel, Oscar, Azpilicueta, Lampard and Torres, senior players due to return to the starting line-up on July 28 as the Chelsea squad moves on to play more testing friendlies in the US. Lampard has been part of the pre-season squad but has been nursing an injury.
It will leave ‘the Godfather’ of the Premier League, Jose Mourinho having to make some testing decisions ahead of the team’s first premier league match vs Hull City on Aug 17th, but by then at least six of the younger players are likely to have gone out on loan, leaving Jose with an approximately 25-man squad to form an assault in all competitions.
On today’s evidence, things are moving in the right direction. Of course there are minor things to sort out but today’s performance albeit against not particularly testing opposition, showed evidence of a Chelsea team going through the gears, beginning to find greater fitness levels, passing the ball quickly and showing evidence of intuitive play going forward.
Other premiership teams may well find Chelsea to be tough opposition in the coming months, and Chelsea will be hoping they can keep their influential players, the likes of De Bruyne, Hazard, Mata, Lukaku and Oscar free from injury in a crucial and testing pre-season programme.
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This article was first posted on July 22, 2013