It had been another turbulent week in the weird world of Chelsea, where fan dissent against the Ricketts family’s controversial bid to buy the club showed no signs of ending, but few could have imagined it would. would end with Brentford arriving at Stamford Bridge. give a football lesson to the champions of Europe.
Before the investigation into Chelsea’s failures begins, it’s important to point out that Brentford were superb: aggressive when they pressed, bold with the ball and full of ambition as they eased their relegation fears with a first victory in this match since 1939.
As Thomas Frank acknowledged, it was worth the wait. After lean form, Brentford rediscovered the zest that made them so compelling at the start of the season. Chelsea couldn’t live with them, even though they went ahead when Antonio Rüdiger ended his quest for a long-term goal with a steamy drive just after half-time. Thomas Tuchel’s concern will be how easily everything will go, especially as his side’s next mission is the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid.
Tellingly, there was no apology from Tuchel about the off-pitch events serving as a distraction. After all, Chelsea players are unlikely to have paid much attention to the pre-match protests against the Ricketts family. Tuchel has told them to focus on their football since Roman Abramovich was sanctioned and although the ownership situation is far from resolved, this defeat was simply down to Brentford coming ahead of Chelsea.
Never mind that the day started with the Chelsea Supporters’ Trust voicing their opposition to the Ricketts, one of four groups hoping to buy the club. Change is coming, but it’s still a ridiculously strong team. The resources at Tuchel’s disposal are enviable and Brentford deserve immense credit for coming up with a plan that allowed them to upset the odds.
It wasn’t just Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo sparkling up front. It was a remarkable team effort, enlivened by a dynamic display of goalscoring from Vitaly Janelt in midfield, and in terms of romance, it was impossible to top the moment when Christian Eriksen found himself alone in the Chelsea area. and lifted the ball over Édouard Mendy to give Brentford the lead nine minutes into the second half.
It was one of the most emotional moments of the season. Brentford had already shown character and quality to respond after Rüdiger’s stunning opener, Janelt leveling them instantly, but the best came when a Chelsea attack failed and Mbeumo led a quick counterattack on the left flank.
The only question was whether Mbeumo could choose the pass and the forward didn’t disappoint. The through ball was perfect for Eriksen, who scored for Denmark during the international break, and Mendy wasn’t fast enough down his line to deny it.
It was pure football. It looked like Eriksen would never play again after nearly dying of cardiac arrest last summer and it is heartening to see that Brentford’s decision to sign the Dane in January is working. “I’m happy he’s playing for us,” Frank said.
Bringing in Eriksen looks like a trick deal on his screen here. Chelsea couldn’t cope with the ex-Tottenham midfielder’s subtle passes and they completely crumbled after losing 2-1, their defensive discipline vanishing as goals from Janelt and Yoane Wissa cleared Brentford to move 11 points above the bottom three.
There could be no argument about the margin of victory. Chelsea were uncomfortable after lining up in a 4-3-3 system and Brentford, who used a 5-3-2, harassed them early on, with Toney fending off three decent opportunities in the first 11 minutes.
Chelsea couldn’t do much, with Kai Havertz, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech struggling up front. Christian Nørgaard and Janelt dominated Mason Mount, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and N’Golo Kanté in midfield and there was plenty of space for Brentford down the flanks, as Rico Henry and Mads Roerslev repeatedly beat César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso.
The game belonged to Brentford, although Havertz had a goal ruled out for offside in the second half. Toney and Mbeumo bullied Thiago Silva and Rüdiger, whose goal didn’t change anything. Moments later, Toney and Mbeumo linked up and, as the Chelsea midfielder disappeared, Janelt raced to fire a rising shot past Mendy.
Chelsea was everywhere. Eriksen made it 2-1, Toney released Janelt to score his second with a nice dink and the rout was complete when Rüdiger’s poor defense attacked Wissa.
Chelsea was stunned. Brentford could hardly believe it. They won’t soon forget this win.