Brentford 1, Liverpool 4

Images above: Pre match nerves: with so much at stake even Buzz look pensive; Roeslev puts the boot in; photographs Liz Vercoe

Third season: No mercy Mersey

Some you win and some you lose and sometimes one or two or three other competitors can, without trying, form a cabal.

Hence Manchester City played Brentford at the Gtech Stadium just a fortnight after Liverpool rolled into town and now will meet Thomas Frank’s team again on Tuesday of next week, at the Etihad Stadium. Meanwhile Arsenal, having edged the Bees out 1-0 at home last November are poised to entertain them at the Emirates three weeks from now, when several key Bees will still be suffering from injuries that have blighted the club’s progress this term.

As you may have notices, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City occupy the top three places in the Premier League and are likely to be there still – shuffle the pack to see in which order – as the season ticks to a close.

No complaints. That’s the way it goes. And one can hardly blame the crème de la crème of the game – their own problems less devastating because of untold wealth – for taking advantage of football’s less glamorous clubs.

Images above: Second half greeting between Mo Salah and Ivan Toney; photograph Liz Vercoe; Toney attempts more flight bending magic; photograph Will Hagerty

Which is why Manchester City scored three times to Brentford’s once at the Gtech and Liverpool went one better in – let’s face it – what was a one-sided encounter on a day when the Bees were frustrated as the visitors showed their class with a faultless, almost, display.

It didn’t help that a series of errors opened the doors of success to the League leaders on the day, with defensive blunders occurring and chances missed from the start – witness Ivan Toney’s uncharacteristic scuffed shot rolling across the face of Caoimhin Kelleher’s goal early on. Brentford competed spiritedly, but soon it became obvious that even without Mo Salah in the starting line-up, this polished performance was the real deal. Rarely did a pass go astray, gaps were opened up almost at will, and after 35 minutes Darwin Núnez latched on to a Diogo Jota header to outwit the defence and float a lob over the advancing Mark Flekken. Perfect in all departments.

Curtis Jones had already received attention from the medics and was then substituted, but the Bees hung on tenaciously until Jota limped off and Salah made his first appearance since returning from the Egyptian squad at the Africa Cup of Nations. It took him the interval and ten minutes or so to settle in before laying on the pass that enabled Alexis Mac Allister to score a second goal. As if if Liverpool needed help from the bench!

Image above: Fast and furious to the finish; photographs Liz Vercoe

From here on it was mostly uphill for the Bees. Salah ghosted into the penalty area, where discomfort was almost visible on the faces of the defence, making his journey simpler than necessary to tuck the ball inside the far post. Then Cody Gakpo added a fourth for City, although not before a rare defensive mistake allowed Ivan Toney to seize a wayward ball and easily beat Kelleher.

It was some consolation to wrap up an unsatisfactory afternoon for Brentford, but not much of one considering the game as a whole.

Nothing to add really, other than a word for referee Michael Oliver, who at time appeared determined to keep the match moving no matter what. His few firm decisions earned Brentford two yellow cards and Liverpool one, but more interesting was – among others – a blatant, illegal and unacknowledged charge in the back that floored Toney. Check out Facebook if in doubt.

Image above: A tale of two managers – Klopp triumphant (right); Frank lost in thought (left); photograph Will Hagerty

The two or three knocks suffered by manager Jürgen Klopp’s talented players were a couple that might mean time out for them to heal and, therefore, matches to be missed. We know the feeling, what with first-teamers Aaron Hickey, Rico Henry, Bryan Mbeumo, Kevin Schade, Josh Dasilva and – the latest – Ethan Pinnock all in treatment and several of them already on the long-term injury list.

It’s a tough old game, observed my mate Charlie. ‘Yes, and at the end of every game, sometimes you’re smiling and sometimes you’re crying,’ I told him.

‘I’m not smiling’, said Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Collins, Ajer, Mee; Roerslev (substitute Lewis-Potter 63), Jensen (sub Damsgaard 74), Nørgaard (sub Onyeka 63), Janelt, Reguilión (sub Ghoddos 85); Toney, Maupay (sub Wissa 63).

Liverpool: Kelleher; Bradley (sub Gomez 83), Konaté, van Dij, Robertson; Mac Allister (sub Elliott 83), Endo, Jones (sub Gravenberch 34); Jota (sub Salah 44), Núnez (sub Gakpo 45), Diaz.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Bees United website.  Bill, who lives in Chiswick and is a former Fleet Street editor, was named Journalist Laureate 2023 the London Press Club awards:

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