Chelsea Fail To Impress In Malaysia

The locals had considered this akin to an international fixture, a crowd of 84,980 whipped into a frenzy to the drone of the Chelseavuvuzelas, but there is too much rustiness to Chelsea at present for this team to scintillate. Liverpool and Arsenal may have run riot here, but the latest Premier League club to visit these parts spluttered in the muggy heat. André Villas-Boas is still experimenting and will not be alarmed, but even he will hope his side discover some slickness in the weeks ahead.

The new manager is still considering those at his disposal, though quite what he could have learned from this occasion is open to debate. There were 12 substitutions in all, including the anticipated new line-up after the interval, to suggest this was more a fitness exercise. But, if Chelsea inevitably dominated possession, they laboured to prise apart a Malaysian XI devoid of the regulars to play in Singapore on Saturday.

The shape was solid enough, a customary 4-3-3, but there still lacks a spark. If those already at the club cannot provide evidence of one soon, then Chelsea will have to step up the search for new invention.

It is dangerous to read too much into pre-season friendlies, particularly those played in such alien conditions, but familiar concerns continue to surface. Fernando Torres was denied by Mohamed Farizal Marlias after 109 seconds and later steered a shot from closer range wide of a post. His only reward in pre-season to date was against Wycombe behind closed doors. The Spaniard is hoping this season will be a new start after one goal in 18 competitive fixtures since his £50m record transfer from Liverpool, but he still does not seem at ease within the system.

He had started flanked by his former Liverpool team-mate Yossi Benayoun and Salomon Kalou, with Florent Malouda employed on the left of a midfield trio and Frank Lampard on the right. The significance of that might be the England midfielder’s deployment given that the ambition remains that Luka Modric, who thrives on the left, can be prised from Tottenham Hotspur. Yet the tempo was never upbeat enough to expose the Malaysians. The pace in possession was stilted, the creativity too rare.

Chelsea were marginally more threatening as this contest drifted, with Daniel Sturridge injecting some pace and thrust up front. Yet Marlias turned his shot behind and it was left for good fortune to provide a victory. Didier Drogba’s free-kick cannoned back from a post and on to the diving Mohamed Izham Tarmizi, the ball bouncing back towards the goal before the substitute goalkeeper could claim it. The linesman was eager to flag that it had crossed the line, though the decision appeared somewhat dubious. That, at least, provided the locals with something to shout about.

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