Beesotted’s Jem Rampling looks back on a night to remember as The Bees and Liverpool share six goals in a West London classic.
Brentford’s identity as a Premier League club continues to develop by the week. If the opening night against Arsenal was an exuberant baptism and the win over Wolves a mark of maturity, this battling draw against one of World football’s elite feels like a true coming of age.
We are under the radar no-more. In an interview with Beesotted in June, DoF Phil Giles said that he wanted the club to contribute something to the Premier League, such that a neutral would see a Brentford game as reason to switch on their TV. Six games in, target achieved. In this Global forum, when we play this well, the World will switch on to Brentford.
Hyperbole is the language of the Premier League, and rarely is it justified. Tonight I make no apology for my grandiosity. Liverpool, unequivocally one of the ten best teams in World football, were full strength with established superstars in every position. We stood up to them, playing our game. Twice we came back from a goal down, holding onto a belief in our game plan and pushing through fatigue. Frank made bold substitutions to maintain initiative. Deep into a crazy, carefree spell of injury time we were still committing men forward in search of a winner, leaving ourselves somewhat vulnerable to a counter attack. It made for a thrilling game.
Liverpool are a brilliant side. They maintain possession well, and regain possession very smartly. They settled into the game better and Ajer cleared off the line from Salah, but by that time we were taking a hold and created three huge chances ourselves, two for Toney and one for Mbeumo. Toney was winning his aerial duals, opening the pitch up for the other attacking players, and we were getting behind their backline more than we could have expected. Pinnock scored a goal reminiscent in its creation of Toney’s goal at Villa, but concentration lapsed soon after allowing Jota to level. Raya kept it level at the interval with a breath-taking save.
The game might have slipped from us in the second half. After many seasons dominating the possessions stats, we are acclimatising to chasing the ball against the best in the business. This is tiring and fatigued players lose half a yard. We have faded in most of our League games so far and there was danger of that happening again when Salah should have given Liverpool a cushion at 3-2 but tried to be cute and dinked the ball over the bar. As it was, the manager was bold in his changes, Baptiste seamlessly stepping in when Frank’s Tank was low on gas and Wissa providing impetus late in the game.
VAR interfered to grant Salah his goal, and late in the game to deny Toney an optimistic winner, but it is difficult to feel too aggrieved in the knowledge that these were correct calls. We bounced back with Janelt’s bundled equaliser after overloading them at the far post only for Jones’ rocket to deflect past Raya soon after. Still we went, and from another far post overload Wissa produced order out of chaos to earn the point. His delicate finish and meditative celebration in front of the West Stand was a display of a cool mind in the hottest of surroundings.
Top Bees Performers
You can defend well against Liverpool and still concede three. Ajer looked very comfortable for much of the game but was just an inch or two out when Jota scored. Canos played Salah marginally onside for 2-1. These micro-mistakes are punished by the best in the business, yet with Zanka replacing Pinnock in the first half all four centre backs looked capable against world-class opposition. The defensive unit showed togetherness and understanding and was again beautifully led by Jansson. Behind them, Raya continued his fantastic form with a phenomenal spread-eagle save to deny Jota late in the first half and another ninety minutes of exemplary judgement.
Both Canos and Henry in the wing back positions pushed high and forced their more illustrious opponents back such that Robertson, in particular, offered little going forward. The three in midfield harried and tidied; Janelt was a particularly strong presence and well worth his goal, a testament to quick reactions and hunger to get to the loose ball first.
Toney’s power and aerial prowess created space for Mbeumo to threaten with his direct style. Mbeumo’s application was indicative of the team’s performance, constantly asking questions of the defence and delivering an improved quality of final ball, even at times functioning as the last defender to intercept a Liverpool break. His was a hugely valuable and noteworthy shift tonight.
Room For Improvement
Well, we didn’t win. We actually wasted a fair few good chances, and left ourselves a little exposed to the counter. But this appears to have been by design, we set out to be valiant in the expectation that fortune favours the brave. We couldn’t have asked for more.
Another 10/10 performance from the home support. Liverpool will have played in many more hostile settings than the Brentford Community Stadium but there were signs that the unbroken volume and stamina of our support had them uneasy at times in the second half and carried some tired Brentford legs the extra mile. “You’re just a shit Tranmere Rovers” was briefly heard in the West Stand after Pinnock’s goal but didn’t quite take on; this was a night for the classic chants as we brashly claimed ownership of Hey Jude against The Beatles’ hometown club.
Liverpool filled their corner and a fair few scouse accents were heard outside the ground. By all accounts they conducted themselves well in the local pubs and they made some good noise when the game was going their way. We were happy to host them and will welcome them back.
Another week, another progression. Brentford are breaking new ground week by week and this feels like the most significant result to date. Ecstatic, drained, and really quite emotional at full time, this was a statement of intent and a demonstration of our qualities on a global platform.
In the same June interview with Beesotted, DoF Rasmus Ankersen spoke of his vision. “There is a tendency in the Premier League that people don’t want to get relegated, it’s a kind of negative motivation and it makes you a bit risk averse… I want to see us try to take risk and be true to our model… If we do that, we have a really good chance of establishing ourselves”.
The DoF’s vision was on display tonight in full force. This fearless, committed and unified club has a wonderful identity, and we are rightfully proud. We are getting used to being a Premier League club, but it’s becoming more than that. We’re actually a rather good one.