Stern Double In Four Star Show

MALAYSIA 0 BLUES 4

Blues completed their FA Premier League Asia Cup campaign with a convincing victory over the Malaysian national side. A confident Blues outfit took full advantage of the fact that their opponents had played merely 24 hours beforehand, and cruised to a 4-0 win thanks to a brace of goals from Stern John and late strikes from Stephen Clemence and Bryan Hughes.

Steve Bruce took the opportunity to give one or two so-called 'fringe' players a run out in this 3rd Place Play-Off. With Kenny Cunningham suspended and Matthew Upson on the bench, Darren Purse and Olivier Tebily took their places at the heart of the defence, with Jeff Kenna returning to their right. In midfield, Darren Carter started on the left with Paul Devlin on the right, whilst David Dunn and Robbie Savage teamed up in the centre, and Stern John started in place of Christophe Dugarry up front. Geoff Horsfield, Jamie Clapham and Ian Bennett all retained their places.

Following their tremendous endeavours against Chelsea the night before, it was always going to be difficult for the Malaysians to trouble Blues in the same way. Indeed, it took Blues just 8 minutes to find the back of the net, after a lively start to proceedings. John, who has adopted cult hero status in these parts for his incredible miss against Newcastle, made no mistake on this occasion with a terrific 20 yard drive which flew into the back of the net.

Blues continued to impress in the first half, though their tempo began to drop as the half neared its conclusion. Dunn and Horsfield both went close, whilst a Devlin volley was incredibly kept out by the Malaysian goalkeeper when it clipped his ankle when he wasn't even looking at the ball. Dunn was again impressive in midfield, whilst John and Carter also gave excellent accounts of themselves.

At half-time, Upson and Stan Lazaridis entered the fray, replacing Purse and Dunn respectively. It didn't take long for Lazaridis to influence the game as, on 50 minutes, he crossed superbly, and John finished first time with a close range left-footed effort. By now the Malaysians appeared to have lost all heart and, understandably, were showing signs of being shattered.

Clemence, Hughes and Damien Johnson all came on as substitutes as Blues continued to pressurise Malaysia. Carter wasted a good chance, but from the resulting corner, on 76 minutes, it was 3-0. Devlin and Lazaridis worked a short corner, and from the resulting Devlin cross, Clemence glanced the ball home with a well timed header. By now the impressive travelling contingent were in good heart, and the local fans were taking to them by asking for photos with Blues fans, and displaying their own slightly unofficial Blues merchandise.

Bruce took the chance to introduce young Colin Doyle in goal, replacing Bennett, for the final ten minutes, and the Irishman had only been on the pitch for two minutes when Hughes made it 4-0. Johnson collected an overhit Lazaridis cross, and crossed expertly himself for Hughes to rise and finish well with a good header. Blues even then continued to search for a fifth goal, showing just how good their energy level is for this stage of pre-season.

Overall, there seems little doubt that the workout over here will have done the players some good. The game against Newcastle was disappointing in its outcome, but was no doubt a good performance, whilst the Malaysia game gave players the chance to really shine. Training and playing out here in the stifling heat will really benefit the players upon their return to England.

On a final note, tremendous credit must go to the travelling fans. With Chelsea and Newcastle fans understandably saving for the Champions League (Chelsea have around 60 fans here and Newcastle around 80-100) it has really been left to the 400 or so Blues fans in Kuala Lumpur to give the locals a real taste of what English fans are like - and purely in a positive way. The Malaysians have really taken the Blues fans to heart, and seemed genuinely thrilled to have such a great set of fans making a lot of noise in their stadium. They may never have head of us before we came out here, but mark my words, they'll always remember us from now on.

TEAMS

BLUES: Bennett, Kenna, Clapham, Tebily, Purse, Devlin,Savage, Dunn, Carter, John, Horsfield. Subs: Clemence, Hughes,Upson, Damien Johnson, Lazaridis, Doyle.

MALAYSIA: Aziz, Misbah, Mohamed Nizaruddin Yusof, Mahayuddin,Rakhali, Hasan, Shahbuddin, Talib, Omar, Dermaraju, Nanthakumar. Subs: Sulong, Jamil, Fadzli, Marzuki Yusof, Manaf, Fadli, Rajan,Ismail, Samion, Mustaffa, Adan.

REFEREE: A.Muppet (Hampshire)


GOAL WATCH:
John 8, 50, Clemence 76, Hughes 82