With the team now in Malaysia and Sunday’s second pre-season game fast approaching, the official Chelsea website again enlists our expert on Asian football for details on the opposition we will face and background to the match.
Colin Pereira writes the regular View from the (Far) East Stand blog in chelseafc.com’s blog section and contributes to the Asian version of the club’s email newsletter.
Here he outlines Chelsea’s past matches in Kuala Lumpur, the venue for this weekend’s game and key personnel for the team we will take on.
Chelsea in Malaysia
Malaysia has been a popular pre-season destination for Chelsea in the past decade with this year’s Here to Play Here to Stay Tour match marking the club’s fourth visit to the country since 2003.
Kuala Lumpur was the venue for Chelsea’s first match of the Roman Abramovich era as Claudio Ranieri’s side met Malaysia’s national team in the semi-finals of the inaugural FA Premier League Asia Trophy at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on 25 July 25 2003. Frank Lampard’s opening goal was cancelled out late in the first half but second-half strikes by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Glen Johnson sealed a 4-1 win. The Blues would lift the trophy at the same venue two days later after beating Newcastle United in a penalty shootout following a goalless draw in the final.
Chelsea returned to the Malaysian capital in July 2008 on the Samsung Chelsea Asia Tour and beat a Malaysia Select XI 2-0 at the Shah Alam Stadium with goals by Nicolas Anelka and Ashley Cole.
Two years ago, they played in front of a capacity crowd at Bukit Jalil and were given a stern test by a youthful Malaysia XI, before winning 1-0 thanks to a late free-kick by Didier Drogba that was deflected into the net by Malaysian goalkeeper Izham Tarmizi.
The Venue – Shah Alam Stadium
Located in the Selangor state capital of Shah Alam, just a short distance from Kuala Lumpur, the Shah Alam Stadium is one of the largest football stadiums in Asia with a capacity of nearly 70,000.
Completed in 1994, the clam-shell shaped arena is the home of the country’s most successful club, Selangor. It hosted the FIFA World Youth Championship final in 1997 and it has also served as a venue for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup finals, the regional Asean Football Championship and several domestic cup finals.
The Coach – K.Rajagobal
A former Malaysia international striker, K.Rajagobal has revived his country’s footballing fortunes in recent years at the Under-23 and senior levels.
After retiring as a player in 1989, Rajagobal managed at club level for several years before he became coach of the Malaysia U-20 team in 2004. He would subsequently take charge of the U-23s in 2009 and guided them to the gold medal at the 2009 South-East Asian Games, which ended Thailand’s 16-year dominance of the tournament.
The 53-year-old used many of those youngsters in his senior squad for the Asean Football Championship the following year and despite losing 5-1 to Indonesia in their opening game, they came back to beat the same team 4-2 on aggregate in the final to lift the regional title for the first time.
Players to Watch
With Malaysia gearing up for crucial AFC Asian Cup 2015 qualifiers, the match against Chelsea serves as an important test for K.Rajagobal’s side before they face Bahrain and Qatar later this year. While he has kept faith with several of the players who brought success to the Harimau Malaya (Malaysian Tigers) at the 2010 Asean Football Championship, the Malaysia coach will also be taking a good look at some promising youngsters from the country’s leading clubs.
Having impressed under Rajagobal at the U-20 and U-23 levels, Safiq Rahim (pictured below) became captain of the senior side in 2010 at the age of 23 and repaid his coach’s faith by becoming the first Malaysian skipper to lift the Asean Football Championship that year. Despite his diminutive stature, the 26-year-old Darul Takzim player is a commanding presence in the Malaysian midfield and a dead-ball specialist who regularly scores or sets up goals with his pin-point free-kicks.
Strong in the air and possessing a fine finishing touch, Safee Sali is generally regarded as one of the top strikers in South-East Asia. The stocky 29-year-old, who is currently on loan at Darul Takzim from Indonesian club Arema Indonesia, played a key role in Malaysia’s Asean Football Championship triumph in 2010, scoring three of his side’s four goals in the two-legged final against Indonesia.
Norshahrul Idlan Talaha
A skilful attacker, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (pictured top left) often proves a handful for opposition defenders with his tireless running, fine dribbling ability, pin-point crosses from the right flank and his willingness to chase down lost causes. While he has a good scoring record at club level, the 27-year-old’s main value to the national team is as a winger or support striker who sets up opportunities for his fellow forwards.
A pacey and versatile player who can be deployed as a full-back or midfielder, Mahali Jasuli earned his first senior international call-up at the age of 20 after he had represented Malaysia at U-19, U-21 and U-23 levels. Solid in defence, the 24-year-old Selangor player is also a threat going forward with his accurate crosses, strong overlapping runs and his ability to get into the danger areas to finish off the opportunities himself.
At the age of 22, Fadhli Shas has already firmly established himself as a fixture in central defence for Malaysia’s senior side. The well-built Hariumau Muda player, who is a strong tackler and has good positional ability, played a key role in his country’s victories at the 2010 Asean Football Championship and 2009 and 2011 South-East Asia Games.