Brentford 2, Chelsea 2

Third Season: Magic moment

Head coach Thomas Frank was gushing in his praise following a second-half thrilling performance by his makeshift team. Understandable, for Brentford dominated play for every minute at the Gtech Stadium other than that when Chelsea scored an equaliser against the run of play to hand the visitors a precious point.

How about the first half, do I hear you ask? Well, would it be all right if we didn’t discuss the first half?

It wouldn’t be all right? I see. So here is a brief résumé – composed from Brentford’s point of view – of a little over 45 minutes: Yoane Wissa had a shot blocked by Chelsea goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic, Zanka cleared a goal-bound ball when Mark Flekken was beaten all ends up, and Nicholas Jackson met a cross from Malo Gusto to give the visitors a thirty-fifth minute lead.

There was what might be considered an incident, when Petrovic handled the ball inches outside his area and many any of the home crowd developed instant hypertension when referee Jarred Gillett displayed no more interest in this misdemeanour than he would the price of fish. The Bees’ players didn’t seem to be bothered, either, but what with the visitors pounding them until their teeth shook they didn’t really have time.

Whether or not the booing emitting from sections of the home supporters during the break was to show dissatisfaction with Franks’s team selection, or the referee’s remote way of controlling the game, is hard to know, although it is unlikely to be a comment on the coach, what with him struggling to field a full side without drafting in some of those on the treatment tables.

And so to the second half and – strange but true – the emergence of a Brentford team reborn and Chelsea’s hit-and-miss season suddenly entered the miss category.

Toney strayed wherever the action was, leading Chelsea a merry dance and plugging any holes in their own rearguard. Wissa sped around like a torpedo looking for a vulnerable ship. The midfielders and wing-backs began to venture out of their usual territory without a pass.

Their dividend came after 50 minutes when Brentford pressed threateningly and discovered some space from which the ball mysteriously emerged to engage the vision of Mads Roerslev. His raking on-the-run shot beat Petrovic, only the second goal the wing-back has scored since joining the club in 2019.

Only the intervention of an upright prevented Vitaly Janelt to score a second shortly afterwards – Sergio Reguilón appeared a little huffy at not having a shot himself, a good sign when everybody’s tails are up – and Wissa looked certain to score but failed to capitalise on a fine chance by shooting wide.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic: Cole Palmer’s exploitation of a grand chance whistled wide and Nicholas Jackson was a constant threat to the three-man last ditch defence, composed of the Zanka, Ajer and Collins trio, the only fit players left to fill the positions.

The Bees continued to surge forward – dangerous but exciting – and were rewarded after 69 minutes when Reguilón launched a penetrative cross into the Chelsea penalty area. Frank Onyeka was on hand to flick the ball up for Wissa who, back to goal, launched a bicycle kick – or was it a scissors? – that gave Petrovic no chance as it whistled past. A magic moment that will be remembered fondly by everyone present, apart presumably from the visiting team and their sizeable following.

A goal down, Chelsea decided to wake up and Brentford once again had their backs to the wall. Nail-biting stuff but rewarding seven minutes from the end of normal time when Christian Nøgaard lost possession and then Flekken needlessly gave away a corner. Palmer’s cross was made to measure for Axel Disasi, who outjumped the defence to head the ball home.

Won’t it be refreshing when Thomas Frank can select a side from a fully-fit squad, I asked my mate Charlie? Who is the latest first-team regular to be out through injury?

‘Meeeeee!’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Zanka, Ajer, Collins; Roerslev, Onyeka (substitute Jensen mum), Nørgaard, Janelt (Yarmoliuk 87), Reguilón, Toney, Wissa (Maupay 87).

Chelsea: Petrovic; Disasi, Chalobah, Colwill (Sterling 79), Gusto; Gallagher, Caicedo, Fernndez (Mudryk 71), Chiswell; Palmer, Jackson.

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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