FROM GTECH COMMUNITY STADIUM – Brentford saw off west London rivals Fulham to give themselves momentum in the race for Europe.
The two neighbours on the River Thames have emerged as genuine contenders for Europa League or Europa Conference League football, with Thomas Frank’s men out-schooling Marco Silva’s on a bitter Monday night.
Brentford’s first half-sight of goal came within the opening two minutes when Ivan Toney dropped deep and let fly from 25 yards, forcing Bernd Leno to a low save to his right.
60 seconds later, they should have been in front. Mathias Jensen’s clever free-kick set Rico Henry racing down the left, and he put a cross on a plate for Bryan Mbeumo, who somehow missed the target from mere yards out.
The Cameroon international was then thwarted by Leno moments later when one on one with the German as the Bees’ incredibly fast start continued.
And they took the lead after six minutes. Fulham failed to clear a corner, with the ball falling to Aaron Hickey on the edge of the box. He swivelled and fired across to Ethan Pinnock, whose shot from just inside the box deflected in off Tim Ream.
After a quiet middle period of the first half, Toney got fans off their seats when his driven free-kick clipped the top of the crossbar.
Fulham found a leveller out of almost nothing just before the break. A free-kick from Andreas Pereira on the very edge of the Brentford box rattled the post, and Manor Solomon reacted quickest to head in the rebound, scoring for his fifth game in a row.
Just after the interval, Brentford were awarded a penalty when Issa Diop kicked Christian Norgaard’s foot when trying to defend a long throw-in from Mathias Jensen. Toney stepped up and scored from the spot, maintaining his perfect penalty record for the Bees.
The talismanic striker then nearly added a third for Brentford when he tried to lob Leno from just inside the Fulham half, with his audacious effort landing on top of the net.
The hosts sealed the points with five minutes remaining. Fulham substitute Cedric Soares hoofed a loose ball backwards and straight to Toney, who slipped in Kevin Schade, twisting and turning his way past Antonee Robinson to tee up Jensen at the near post.
Fulham did pull one back deep into eight minutes of stoppage time when a speculative strike from Pereira was punched away by David Raya, only for Carlos Vinicius to come in and score the rebound, but that was the final kick of the game.
Ninth-placed Brentford are now just two points behind Fulham in seventh but with two games in hand – if they’re really dreaming, they’re seven of fourth-placed Tottenham with that same deficit of matches to make up.
GK: David Raya – 5/10 – Swept up well and claimed several crosses. Should probably have done better with Fulham’s second goal.
RB: Aaron Hickey – 7/10 – Grabbed an assist and was an asset going forward. Had to react sharp to try and keep Solomon quiet.
CB: Ethan Pinnock – 8/10 – A large bit of fortune about his goal but hey, they all count. He and Mee kept Mitrovic under wraps.
CB: Ben Mee – 7/10 – A seemingly never-ending source of blocks and tackles.
LB: Rico Henry – 7/10 – Stretched play with his pace and width.
CM: Christian Norgaard – 7/10 – Reliable as ever in the middle of the park, sweeping up play effortlessly.
CM: Mathias Jensen – 8/10 – His switches of play and long throws troubled Fulham, ultimately leading to Toney’s penalty. A great run for the clincher.
RM: Bryan Mbeumo – 6/10 – Somehow wasn’t the one to break the deadlock. A little bit lucky those misses didn’t come back to haunt him.
AM: Mikkel Damsgaard – 7/10 – A surprise starter who made the most of it, dropping into central midfield when needed and driving at Fulham. Only blemish was giving away the free-kick which led to Solomon’s equaliser.
LM: Yoane Wissa – 6/10 – Struggled to consistently get on the ball. Swapped places with Toney at times but his teammates failed to pick out his runs.
CF: Ivan Toney – 9/10 – Put in major work at both ends and Fulham couldn’t deal with him. Nerves of steel from the spot as per, his 22nd successful penalty in a row.
Vitaly Janelt (76′ for Damsgaard) – 7/10
Kevin Schade (76′ for Wissa) – 8/10
Josh Dasilva (90′ for Mbeumo) – N/A
Mads Roerslev (90′ for Hickey) – N/A
Thomas Frank – 8/10 – Brentford were ruthlessly efficient in both boxes, blitzing Fulham when they needed to.
GK: Bernd Leno – 6/10 – Made a few decent saves, particularly amid Brentford’s fast start.
RB: Kenny Tete – 6/10 – Galloped up and down the right flank with unwavering enthusiasm.
CB: Issa Diop – 4/10 – The penalty was soft, but it was still a clumsy challenge for Diop to make.
CB: Tim Ream – 5/10 – Pinnock’s goal came off the American and while there’s not a lot he could have done about it, he did look his 35 years of age.
LB: Antonee Robinson – 5/10 – Like Tete offered great width for Fulham, but was put in a spin-dryer by Schade late on.
CM: Harrison Reed – 6/10 – Probably the calmest head in an aggressive midfield battle that Brentford at times were happy to cede.
CM: Sasa Lukic – 4/10 – A more competent referee than Anthony Taylor would have rightly sent Lukic off for two cynical fouls in the first half.
RM: Willian – 5/10 – Wound up when decisions didn’t go his way. Notably booked for diving.
AM: Andreas Pereira – 4/10 – Too often tried to join Mitrovic as another striker when he needed to get on the ball in deeper or wider areas instead.
LM: Manor Solomon – 7/10 – Fulham’s best player by far. Now scored in five games running and was a menace to the Bees.
CF: Aleksandar Mitrovic – 4/10 – Offered very little. Gobbled up by Pinnock and Mee.
Harry Wilson (75′ for Solomon) – 5/10
Bobby De Cordova-Reid (75′ for Lukic) – 5/10
Cedric Soares (83′ for Tete) – 3/10
Carlos Vinicius (83′ for Willian) – 4/10
Marco Silva – 4/10 – Fulham lacked intent on the ball, which Brentford were happy to let them have.
Player of the Match – Ivan Toney (Brentford)