With all the effort, sweat and many hours put in on the training pitches out in Asia, it would be a surprise if signs of the benefit weren’t there to be seen when it came to pre-season game number two.
Promisingly on the night, overlapping runs were found, offside traps were sprung and Malaysia XI attackers came up against some impenetrable blocks. That the Malaysians were less resolutely defensive than our opponents in Thailand was a contributing factor, but there was more creation from Chelsea at the attacking end of the pitch than four days earlier. Understandings, combinations, partnerships. Hard is work paying off.
In a new deep midfield pairing at the start it was Michael Essien on the right with Marco van Ginkel to the left of his more experienced team mate. Bertrand Traore, this time a starter following the trialist’s 15 minutes in Bangkok, was on the right of the attack.
Mark Schwarzer in his first game was sporting the No. 23 shirt – a familiar for one of a Chelsea keeper with Carlo Cudicini a previous wearer, although it must be pointed out this number has not been confirmed for the Australian for the season ahead. He would be tested near the end of the 45 minutes he played, dropping to the foot of the post to prevent a very well-guided 40-yarder.
Jose Mourinho was out in the stadium early, sitting on the bench as the crowd came in but it was not until kick-off that a big ‘Special One’ banner with his face upon it was passed over part of the crowd. The big blue shirt made up of small pictures of fans who uploaded their faces over the past few months was also there.
Kick-off was late in the day due to Ramadan, 9.45pm local time, but the temperature had not dropped at all.
Romelu Lukaku has been putting a lot of work into his left-foot shooting and it was with that boot he forced the first save of the game. That was a hard hit, in contrast to the one that Traore opened the scoring with only moments later – a careful guide into the bottom corner.
Mid-half breaks in play for fluid intakes are a regulation part of this tour. Seen in Bangkok, they were used again on an evening so hot in KL it even matched the UK at the moment. Malaysia wins for humidity though.
Refreshed, Kevin De Bruyne rifled the second goal home mid-air to a huge appreciative cheer, but he instantly signalled to the bench on landing that he was injured and was carried off. It was good to see him walk back to the bench under his own steam during the second half, albeit with a slight limp and an initial post-game assessment from Mourinho was promising.
Islam Feruz had his first taste of first team football as De Bruyne’s replacement but it was another youngster, Traore, who judged the pass that sent Lukaku behind the defence for a third before half-time.
Up the other end, John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic were clearly demonstrating to the Malaysia attackers that they couldn’t simply run past them with the ball.
Giant footballs in the crowd were a new feature of half-time and for the restart, there were again many changes to the Chelsea line-up although one of the players who did stay on, Marco van Ginkel, showed great pace and energy with a run from his own half to set up one of the best chances of the half.
It was another of the young players, Wallace, who played a pass inside the full-back for Moses to make it 4-0 and match the result last time we were in KL, but the symmetry was spoilt right at the end when the home team scored. For the local Chelsea fans who also love their national team players it was an unusual moment but one they didn’t have to experience a second time thanks to Ashley Cole. In the dying seconds he was given the chance to test whether his famous goal-line clearances are in order for the season ahead – and was able to mark down ‘check’.
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