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Further friendly fortune for Villas-Boas


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Malaysian XI 0-1 Chelsea

Further friendly fortune for Villas-Boas

21st Jul 2011, In Match Reports, by Alex Hinsley

Drogba-large.jpgThankfully, Didier Drogba may have saved new Chelsea coach André Villas-Boas from the wrath of over-zealous journalists and supporters alike with his 80th-minute free-kick.

Yet an admittedly disappointing performance, notably lacking the much-craved incisive football promised by the current incumbent in the Stamford Bridge hotseat, will have done little to detract from criticisms of our Portuguese boss, with further calls for fresh blood surely still ringing in his ears.

In a game that never threatened to be the enticing contest promised by such a wealth of attacking talent boasted by the West London side, Chelsea were indeed the dominant side; bossing proceedings from the first whistle to the last. Fortune certainly favoured the Blues as they profited from another own goal – this time Didier Drogba's dipping free-kick hitting the post and seemingly bouncing over the line thanks to a ricochet off the unlucky Malaysian goalkeeper. Replays suggested otherwise.

But something that is usually missing amongst supporters this time of the year is something that must now be heavily invested in – and that something is perspective. There were far too many demands for five-star performances and six-goal thrashings heading into this match. The manager has made it clear he will use these pre-season exhibition games as the means to improve fitness and build on confidence, and after run-outs for 23 members of the squad to add to another clean sheet, the team are slowly but surely working towards those aforesaid targets.

Playing in difficult conditions in nigh-unbearable humidity, Chelsea's flair players will have found the bumpy turf of the Bukit Jalil Stadium an even greater opponent than the youthful Malaysian select XI facing them, with the poor quality of the surface largely demeaning the Blues' attempted attacking endeavours. Credit where it is due, the hosts gave a good account of themselves, with their vastly superior physical fitness giving Villas-Boas' charges a worthy challenge.

Unfortunately, the near-capacity crowd of almost 85,000 spectators will no doubt feel disappointed – but with sterner tests approaching with the impending Barclays' Asia Trophy just around the corner, Villas-Boas will be pleased to have seen his side come through another 90 minutes unscathed and maintaining their perfect record under his reign.

Ignoring claims to the contrary, Chelsea's performance was nowhere near as bad as some will make out. Despite the humidity and the groundsman's best attempts at preventing the Blues from playing their trademark style of patient build-up football, the visitors were not without goalscoring opportunities – and both Fernando Torres and Patrick van Aanholt produced fine saves out of home goalkeeper Marlias. Some stout defending denied Torres on a further two occasions, whilst both Lampard and Kalou were guilty of passing up opportunities with wayward finishing.

At the other end, Hilario was largely untroubled – though Ryan Bertrand had to be alert as he dispossessed the marauding Hairudin Omar early on. The Portuguese goalkeeper had already felt the ball early on; Omar had tried his luck from the halfway line straight from kick-off as the Malaysian XI sought to impose themselves on a largely second choice Chelsea side.

But that effort proved to be something of a false dawn. Instead of signalling the hosts' ambition to attack, it only provided an anti-climatic feeling to the match – defying the cacophonous wall of sound created by the fervent supporters who were in high spirits coming into the game. Rather than seeing their side ask the questions, they were instead treated to a stubborn defensive display that repelled wave after wave of Chelsea blue.

That pattern seemed to continue in the second half, with the manager opting to offer further match practice for his squad. Yet the legion of changes only added to Chelsea's impotency as the chemistry gradually built up in the opening exchanges was swapped for an altogether-new eleven. Reduced to audacious long-range efforts, Drogba tried his luck from 50 yards but the ball sailed comfortably wide of the target, whilst Mikel also attempted to provide something from out of the very top drawer when he flashed just wide with a stunning volley. The home side were becoming more and more desperate with their blocks and challenges, but the last-ditch defending was still keeping the tourists at bay.

Things did seem to improve in front of goal for a short while, thanks to the emergence of John Terry as an impromptu attacking outlet; first the Chelsea skipper combined well with Nicolas Anelka but just failed to get on the end of the Frenchman's return pass inside the box, before he twice headed over from deadball deliveries supplied by Yury Zhirkov. That came moments before an opportunity for Sturridge – but again the goalkeeper came to his side's rescue with a fine save one-on-one.

Yet there was to be no denying Drogba, who picked himself up following a hefty challenge to caress the ball into the net via the goalkeeper. This was to be the first of two lucky breaks for Chelsea in the space of five minutes; as the ball fortuitously cannonned back off the post, hit the goalkeeper and seemed to trickle over the line. The goal was given, yet replays suggested the whole of the ball had not crossed the whole of the line. Cue the debate on goalline technology re-emerging.

The second stroke of good fortune that befell Villas-Boas' men saw Thamil Arasu waste a glorious opportunity to level; carelessly placing the ball wide of the post after a breakdown in communication at the back between John Terry and young Nathaniel Chalobah. Following moments of haphazard goalkeeping by Messrs Hilario and Turnbull against Portsmouth at the weekend, the return to fitness of the commanding figure of Petr Cech cannot come soon enough.

And whilst the game – a largely unenthralling contest – petered out to a dull conclusion, there was no such lifelessness amongst the vociferous crowd; Malaysian supporters had certainly done themselves proud.

Though a win was always expected, Chelsea were indeed good value for the victory. Having dominated the match and seen 23 members of the squad given opportunities, most of which for 45 minutes, Villas-Boas can be happy with his side's pre-season preparations as the Blues look forward to a clash with the Thailand All-Stars on Sunday – a match that will hopefully herald a return to more incisiveness in front of goal.

It is clear that Chelsea need fresh blood to reinvigorate the squad and inspire a title challenge, but let's not blow this out of proportion. This was a friendly match, and the most important objective is attaining fitness. At this stage, perspective – and patience – is the key.

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Very good as usual Alex. I would say, " the current incumbent of the SB hot seat", but both are probably correct.

However, I am one of the supporters who was underwhelmed by today's performance. I wasn't expecting 6-0. I was just expecting some periods of good football and some initial signs of change under AVB, neither of which we got imo.

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Thanks for the report Alex, well written and very informative as always. Hope someone will post extended highlights as I had to miss the game.

you have all the luck ...blink and you will miss the highlights

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Nice report Alex. Missed the game mostly, so thanks.

Nice to see Villas-Boas is using Terry and Chalobah together as like a mentor. Though the problems of miscommunication again aren't a good sign in consecutive games. However that's over analysing, it's not like the conditions were swell :lol:

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