Brentford 0 Chelsea 1

Image above: Brentford v Chelsea Carabao Cup – No 8 v No 8 Jensen v Kovacic

There was little preventing Brentford scoring against what is possibly the best team in the Premier League; little except Edouard Mendy, Chelsea’s Senegalese goalkeeper, and those sundry defenders who put their lives on the goal-line to keep out a marauding Bees side determined to plunder a point.

What a strange, if fascinating, game this was. Chelsea went off at a furious lick, looking to unzip the Bees’ defence with pin-point accurate passing and a speed quite likely to shatter the sound barrier. Having seen off West Ham with a last-gasp goal from Yoane Wissa clinching a 2-1 victory at the London Stadium in their last outing prior to the international break, Brentford’s Yes We Can confidence could surely deal with any opposition.

Unless that opposition turned out to be a whirlwind, that is.

To begin with, the home side’s own resolute defence kept Chelsea at bay, just, but almost visible nervous tension suggested they might have welcomed some nifty time-wasting even though only ten minutes or so of the ninety had elapsed. Then a Bryan Mbeumo shot hit a post, having crossed territory unfamiliar to a team so far on the back foot that one suspected they might be anchored in their own half unless supplied with a map.

Something had to give and it was that resolute home defence, taking a few seconds’ break from the dazzling domination of the opposition. With Romano Lukaku out of contention, midfielder Ben Chilwell met a César Azpilicueta cross with a first-time shot that took a feather of a diversion to beat David Raya on its velocity.

Image above: Brentford v Chelsea Carabao Cup – Who’s fastest? Chelsea on the break

Glum were the faces of the home crowd at the break, but they were about to witness a turnaround in fortune that would shake Chelsea so forcibly their teeth could well have rattled.

The visitors started off in the manner in which they had finished. But soon Chelsea were dropping deeper and deeper into their own half as the Bees established a rhythm that went from a brisk quickstep to a full samba without bothering to take in a polka.

Another post-thumping effort from Mbeumo – it’s beginning to be a habit – signalled a renaissance that saw the Bees rack up 15 shots in a non-stop barrage that intensified as the minutes ticked by. They threw everything at a wearying defence that managed to block those Brentford efforts that Mendy couldn’t deal with, which was a rarity – in remarkable acrobatic form, the keeper even finger-tipped away a picture-book overhead kick from Christian Nørgaard. Had a kitchen sink been available to toss into the penalty area, Mendy would have stopped that too.

Three substitutions by head coach Thomas Tuchel, including that of the largely ineffective Lukaku, allegedly the most feared striker in the League, supplied fresh legs to visitors hanging on grimly to retain the three points that would take them back to the top of the table. Then Mendy yet again pulled off a crucial save, this time from Brentford sub Marcus Forss, before Brentford ran out of time faster than Chelsea ran out of puff.

Image above: Brentford v Chelsea Carabao Cup – Wizard Wissa being closed down by Sarr

It was a sensational game to watch, even if the Bees were denied the point they so clearly deserved. Both teams ended up exhausted, with the apparent exception of match-winner Mendy. If he plays like that every week from now until next May, the Premier League title will be Chelsea’s, proving they are much more than a bus stop on the Fulham Road.

They were very lucky, said Thomas Frank, adding, ‘It’s crazy. Four months ago they won the Champions League on the day we got promoted to the Premier League through the play-offs!’

‘The last twenty minutes was hell on earth,’ said Chilwell.

‘Champions League champions, top of the Premier League,’ I said to my mate Charlie. ‘What do you think?’

‘Let that be a lesson to them,’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Raya; M. Jorgensen, Jansson, Pinnock; Canós, Onyeka, Nørgaard, Jensen, Henry; Mbeumo, Toney. Substitutes used: Forss, Ghoddos.

Chelsea: Mendy; Chalobah. Christensen, Barr; Azpilicueta, Kanté, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Chilwell; Werner, Lakaku. Subs used: Mount, Havertz, James.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group.

Photographs by Liz Vercoe