Brentford 1, Manchester City 0

Goalkeeper Raya, team captain for the day, v City’s Walker

Second Season: Glorious Finale

So near, but oh, so far. Brentford would have to beat the Premier League champions, and then Spurs and Aston Villa lose, for them to be leapfrogged into a position that would deliver a place in next season’s Europa Conference League.

With manager Pep Guardiola allowing some of his key players having a rest day and others to sit on the bench, the Bees duly delivered. Spurs and Aston Villa duly didn’t, both achieving last-day victories. But were the home side, and the Gtech Stadium home crowd, disappointed? Not a bit.

The post-match celebrations of ninth place in the League, and now the only team to have beaten City home and away during a spectacular season, might easily have served for topping the table while also winning both the cup competitions on offer (less to be said about the latter, what with them exiting both while still on no more than casual acquaintance).

As it was, the Brentford faithful behaved impeccably in refraining from rushing on to the pitch – not one interloper, let alone a swarm – and then waiting for the jubilant players to fulfil ‘media duties’ before remerging to bathe in the all-round glow of achievement that settled on them, the coaching staff, the spectators the stewards and, for all I know, the ladies who sell the samosas in the Dugout lounge.

 (L) Frank says thanks…to the team, to the owner, to the fans; (R) A rare moment in front of the cameras for owner Benham, with Frank

It was not just the almost last-gasp match-winning goal that sparked such merrymaking. Club captain Pontus Jansson, off to Malmo after the four ‘best years of my life’, blubbed as he told the crowd ‘Brentford football club, you have been my passion, now you have won by heart’ and the crowd chanted ‘He’s one of our own’.

Pontus also waxed vociferous about club ambassador Peter Gilham – ‘Mr Brentford’ – and the crowd responded warmly to Saman Ghoddos, off to pursue his career elsewhere, and Thomas Frank, even if his emotional message of the Bees as ‘the best f—–g team in West London’ had anxious parents reaching too late to put fingers in the ears of their offspring.

Mingling on the pitch with players, their families and members of the coaching staff was owner Matthew Benham, resplendent in green shirt and green sunglasses perched back on his head. Quite rightly, everyone else concerned thanked him. Famously reserved, today he looked pleased bordering on euphoric. Long may he remain so.

All that remained was for Ted Lasso to turn up, such was the dramatic recognition of a season that for Brentford had been written off by many pundits before a ball had been kicked.

 Mbeumo and  Damsgaard mark City’s Foden

Prior to the carousing on and off the pitch, there had been a football match.

Early on, there were those who greeted the news that midfielder Mathias Jensen had joined Christian Norgaard in the injury department with some dismay. Certainly, Mikkel Damsgaard, Vitaly Janelt and Frank Onyeka looked a makeshift midfield engine room and David Raya – captain for the day – was kept watchful, especially by the energy of Phil Foden, one of the City stars to have avoided the cut.

Apart from a claim for a rejected claim for a penalty by the Bees, the most notable incident of the half was Ben Mee’s collapse and subsequent medical attention for three or more minutes. Come the break, and the one additional minute awarded was a puzzlement to us all.

Brentford winning goalscorer Pinnock puts his back into defence

In the second period, Brentford established a rhythm that unsettled the visitors, even though referee John Brooks did his best to interrupt their momentum with a cluster of yellow cards, four in all by the end.

Raya was still required to intervene in City’s sporadic attacks – only a full-stretch dive foiled Cole Palmer and, later, a double-save again prevented the ever-dangerous forward from scoring.

One goal by either side would probably settle the outcome, I told my mate Charlie.

And so, five minutes from the end of normal time, it came to pass: substitute Kevin Schade supplying a fine cross that was nodded into the path of Ethan Pinnock by Bryan Mbeumo. A goal scored with Pinnock’s feet rather than his head is not exactly unknown in this particular bus stop in Hounslow, but this one – left boot, in case you’re wondering – made the five minutes of added time especially pleasurable.

And it makes next season look even more welcome, I told Charlie.

‘Europe, here we come’, said Charlie.

Brentford: Raya; Hickey (substitute Dasilva 70), M Jorgensen, Mee, Pinnock, Henry; Damsgaard (Schade,70), Janelt, Onyeka (Baptiste 81); Mbeumo (Ghoddos 89), Wissa (Roerslev 89).

Manchester City: Ederson; Aké (Charles 63), Laporte, Walker; Phillips, Foden; Palmer, Lewis, Gómez, Alvarez; Mahrez.

(L) “We want you to stay” the fans sang to Raya, but will he? (R) And now for season 23-24. Come on you reds!

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

Pictures by Liz Vercoe

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