Brentford 3, Fulham 2

Image above: Bees v Fulham: it’s the big one

Second season: Derby Delight

What a season this is constantly proving to be. Unbeaten in a dozen matches, the Bees can look back on the dismantling of most of the Premier League front runners, starting with Manchester United in the second game of the season. Okay, 4-0 doesn’t look quite so glamorous following Liverpool’s 7-0 thrashing of United – currently third in the table – but let’s remember that Brentford beat the other Reds 3-1 in January – and that was without the injured Ivan Toney.

There’s more, including a 2-1 victory over current champions Manchester City, yet can any of these remarkable results taste more delicious than beating near-neighbours Fulham, who snatched a deciding goal in the dying seconds of their home fixture at Craven Cottage to send the Bees back to their bus stop in Hounslow with nothing but painful memory?

Certainly, the side selected by Thomas Frank for the return at the Gtech Stadium – only one change from the laboured performance to get a draw with Crystal Palace – went off like rockets. Mikkel Damsgaard, inserted in midfield for his debut in the starting line-up, wowed the home crowed straightaway, offering a contribution that ranged from twinkle-toed distribution to foraging fiercely for the ball whenever Fulham gained possession.

Not that the visitors did that very often during the first twenty minutes, when Bryan Mbeumo and Ivan Toney both came close to scoring and David Raya was able to brush the fine rain from his eyes while keeping them focussed on action that rarely entered the Fulham half.

Images above: pre-match excitement builds,  Mikkel Damsgaard takes a new leading role, 

The reward for such domination came after only seven minutes, when Ethan Pinnock plundered a goal with a shot that took a slight diversion before leaving goalkeeper Bernd Leno stranded.

Rarely do Brentford score early and the striking force of Toney, Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa promptly went searching for more, only for Fulham to shake themselves awake at last and begin to dominate in terms of possession.

It took until six minutes before the break for the visitors to get on terms, with their hotshot forward Manor Solomon – five goals in as many games – seizing on the rebound from an upright of Andreas Pereira’s free-kick to nod it beyond a flummoxed Raya.

Brentford must have welcomed the interval, although Toney, still waiting for the FA to complete its investigation into illegal betting charges, seemed unphased by potential suspension from playing and a punitive fine. The truth is that little-bordering-nothing phases Toney, other than being miffed when details of the expected punishments (he’s pleaded guilty to many of the charges) were leaked.

What was fed to the Bees at half-time must have been more than a slice of orange. They regained superiority from the get-go, both Toney and Mbeumo striking the woodwork with free kicks before Issa Diop upended Christian Nørgaard in the area with a tackle that after some pondering VAR branded illegal.

Image above: The big man on the big screen. Ivan Toney lines up for his 22nd Brentford penalty

Toney, displaying his usual stoic demeanour until the verdict was delivered, beat Leno comprehensively to register his fifteenth goal from 22 games this season. Thomas Frank was spot on (sorry about that!) when describing him as the best penalty taker in the world.

The Bees continued to press and put the result beyond doubt five minutes from the end of normal time when substitute Kevin Schade demonstrated his speed and accuracy by providing the cross that Matthias Jensen converted from close in.

Done and dusted? Not quite: with eight extra minutes added, Fulham bounced back for a second time and Carlo Vinicius snatched a goal so close to the final whistle that it was probably on its way to the referee’s lips as boot met ball.

Fulham head coach Marco Silva, already having suffered the indignity of a ticking off from the referee for high-volume interventions from the dugout, was not a happy man. Very sloppy and not aggressive enough was his verdict on his team and that last-gasp goal was of little consolation.

Image above: Ivan Toney and team captain Christian Nørgaard share that 3:2 moment with Bees colleagues

The home crowd had no doubt that the Bees deserved the three points that see them reinforcing ninth place in the table, level on points with Brighton and just a point behind and a game in hand over Fulham.

‘Revenge is sweet,’ said my mate Charlie.

Brentford: Raya; Hickey (substitute Roerslev 90+1 mins), Pinnock; Mee, Henry; Damsgaard (Janelt 76), Nørgaard, Jensen; Mbeumo (Dasilva 90+1), Toney, Wissa (Schade 77).

Fulham: Leno; Tete, Cédric Soares 83), Diop, Ream, Robinson; Read, Lukic (De Cordova-Reid 75); Willian, (Alves Morais 83) Pereira, Solomon (Wilson 75); Mitrovic.

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