Chelsea continued their strong preseason with a 4-1 win over Malaysia XI on Sunday afternoon.
With any kind of preseason friendly, it's not a huge deal if a club wins or loses. You can't read too much into the matches, so it would be foolish to get too excited or disappointed by a result. It is encouraging for Chelsea supporters, though, to see how well the Blues are linking up on the pitch.
Jose Mourinho is integrating a lot of new players, whether they be summer transfers or players returning from loan. You've got the likes of Andre Schurrle, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne and Marco van Ginkel all fighting for places in the team.
One of the names that was largely unknown before the preseason was Bertrand Traore. The 17-year-old looked good against Singha All-Stars, and he scored Chelsea's first goal against Malaysia XI.
In the fifth minute, Kevin de Bruyne got free down the right flank. He delivered in a cross that went past both Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. In came Traore, who ran to the ball and hit a well-placed left-footed shot into the bottom-right corner.
Traore continued playing very well for the rest of the first half. The Guardian's Dominic Fifield was very impressed with the young midfielder:
Any aspirations #CFC had of keeping Traore a secret before signing being blown away here. The kid looks quick, sharp and skilful.— Dominic Fifield (@domfifield) July 21, 2013
De Bruyne was again at the fore, this time finishing off a move and scoring Chelsea's second goal, in the 28th minute. Lukaku did a great job of heading a long ball on to de Bruyne, who fired in a vicious right-footed volley.
It was not all good for the Blues as de Bruyne landed awkwardly on his right foot. He looked to have sustained either an ankle injury or hyperextended his knee.
He was carried off on a stretcher, which is never a good sign, especially in the preseason. Only time will tell how serious, or minor, the injury is.
Eurosport summed up the situation well:
Kevin De Bruyne has scored a STUNNING goal for Chelsea against Malaysia XI but seemed to injury his knee in the process and has gone off.— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) July 21, 2013
Right before halftime, Lukaku managed to pick up the supporters' spirits with a goal. It was a brilliantly timed run, as the striker looked to have just been onside before he received Traore's pass. From there it was an easy one-on-one finish with the keeper.
As expected, Mourinho made a lot of changes at halftime. It was an almost entirely new starting XI on the pitch for the second 45.
Going back to de Bruyne, Fifield had an update in the second half regarding the midfielder, and it sounded good for the player's health.
Kevin de Bruyne walks gingerly back to the dug-outs, which actually bodes well I'd suggest. Now sitting with other players.— Dominic Fifield (@domfifield) July 21, 2013
The Blues had a much harder time in the second half creating much in the attack. You had a lot of the more-established players coming out, so they had much less to prove. The likes of Ashley Cole, Ramires, Gary Cahill and Demba Ba have already proven themselves enough. They're not exactly fighting for a place in the team in the same way the younger players are. These friendlies are about getting to match fitness for the experienced first-team players.
Victor Moses added a fourth for Chelsea in the 89th minute. He had a lot of space down the left side and ran into the 18-yard box. He seemed to have bungled any scoring opportunity, but he was able to regain control of the ball and knock it past Farizal Marlias. It wasn't the prettiest goal you'll ever see, but it still counts all the same and summed up what was an underwhelming second half from Chelsea.
Malaysia XI did manage to get a goal in the 90th minute, courtesy of Mohamad Fadhli Shas. They almost got a second, but Cole made a clearance a yard or two in front of the goal line to force the corner.
Overall, it was an encouraging match for the Blues, if only for how well the younger players did in the first half. The injury to de Bruyne was a dampener, though.
Kevin de Bruyne: B+
The only reason Kevin de Bruyne doesn't get a higher grade is because he only managed to play 31 minutes before having to come off.
De Bruyne looked great against Singha All-Stars, and he continued that form against Malaysia XI. The 22-year-old Belgian provided plenty of width when he was out wide yet could also run at goal when through the middle, as evidenced by his goal.
Here's to hoping de Bruyne will not be out for a long period of time. He looks like an exciting young player who's only going to improve with more time in the first team. If anything, it's probably best that he pick up an injury in the preseason. Now he's got time to recuperate without missing any vital matches.
Romelu Lukaku: A
Is there any doubt Romelu Lukaku will be a key player for Chelsea this season? He spent last year on loan to West Brom and did very well for himself. His physical play was something to watch as he would be able to dismiss a defender with the shrug of the shoulder.
Far from just being a battering ram, though, Lukaku is skilled on the ball, as evidenced by his goal. He made some nice runs as well, and his assist for de Bruyne's goal was the exact kind of header you want to see from your big target man.
Bertrand Traore: A-
It's unlikely Bertrand Traore will make much of an impact at Chelsea this season. He's too young and there's too much ground to make up in a short amount of time to become a regular first-team player. If anything, Traore would benefit from a loan deal, much like Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Josh McEachran and Thibaut Courtois have.
Traore is definitely one of the future, though. In a couple of seasons, he could be a key player for the Blues. This preseason has helped to get the midfielder a ton of momentum going into the future. Traore has looked composed on the ball and capable of making dangerous runs through the middle.
|Mark Schwarzer (off '46)||B-|
|Branislav Ivanovic (off '46)||B|
|John Terry (off '46)||C+|
|Nathaniel Chalobah (off '46)||C|
|Ryan Bertrand (off '46)||C|
|Michael Essien (off '46)||C+|
|Marco van Ginkel (off '66)||C+|
|Kevin de Bruyne (off '31)||B+|
|Bertrand Traore (off '46)||A-|
|Eden Hazard (off '66)||B-|
|Romelu Lukaku (off '46)||A|
|Islam Feruz (off '46)||D|
Malaysia XI Grades
|Nik Shahrul Azim||C+|
Chelsea continue their tour of Asia on Thursday, July 25, when they take on BNI Indonesia All-Stars in Jakarta, Indonesia. Then the Blues are off the United States for the International Champions Cup at the beginning of August.