Top five Brentford moments of 2021
Ivan Toney leads the celebrations with champagne after a 2-0 win against Swansea City in the Championship Play-Off Final in May. Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images. 

2021 can be argued as one of the greatest years in the history of Brentford Football club.

Cup semi-finalists for the first time, a second consecutive third-place finish in the Championship that included a 21-game unbeaten run, a cup quarter-final, promotion to the Premier League, and going head-to-head with some of Europe's elite. 

VAVEL reflects on the past 12 months to relive and rank Brentford's top five moments of 2021. 

5. First-ever Major Cup Semi-Final

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In the club's history, the Bees have never ventured too far into major cup competitions. There have been a few regional cup and Football League Trophy finals here and there, but nothing further than a quarter-final, which was achieved in the FA Cup in 1937/38, 1945/46, 1948/49, and later in 1988/89. 

Brentford went on to surpass this record last season as the club reached its first-ever major semi-final in the Carabao Cup. 

It wasn't the easiest of paths for Thomas Frank's squad. It took a penalty shootout to beat Wycombe Wanderers in the first round before overcoming Premier League opposition in West Bromwich Albion, Southampton, Fulham, and Newcastle United in the next four rounds. 

The Bees were pitted up against José Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur for a place in the final. This was the club's first game of 2021 and it ultimately set the tone of what was to be achieved that year. 

Unfortunately it didn't quite have a fairytale ending. Moussa Sissoko's first half header and Son Heung-min finishing off a counter-attack in the 70th-minute put to rest any dream of reaching the club's first-ever major cup final.

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This would be Brentford's first encounter with VAR and it didn't quite leave a good first impression.

Ivan Toney had an equaliser disallowed in the second half as his knee was deemed to be have been offside, despite there not being a clear image that showed the placement of Sissoko's foot in correlation with Toney's knee. 

This was later followed by Josh Dasilva receiving the first red card of his career. As Dasilva went to turn with the ball under pressure, his standing foot slipped and his studs caught Pierre-Emile Højbjerg's shin, which was deemed to be dangerous play. 

While it didn't quite work out for Brentford on the night, it was a very commendable effort. The club's run in the competition highlighted their readiness for the Premier League and it's a fixture that will live long in their history books despite the result. 

4. Ivan Toney Breaks Championship Goal Scoring Record 

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When Ollie Watkins was sold to Aston Villa, no one could have foreseen the impact and success that his successor would have. 

League One's top scorer before the season was abandoned due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Toney's arrival from Peterborough United for £5million plus add-ons came with a lot of expectation, and he ultimately delivered. 

It started slow for the then 24-year-old as he struggled to make an impact in his first four appearances for the club. Once he got his first from the penalty spot against Millwall, the floodgates opened and the water never stopped flowing. 

In his next six appearances he scored ten goals, including a brace in consecutive matches against Preston North End, Coventry City, and Sheffield Wednesday.

By Christmas he had 17 goals in the division and was on course to break Glenn Murray's record of 30 goals in single Championship season.

His form continued into the new year as he scored his first hat-trick for the club in a 7-2 thrashing of Wycombe before scoring four in the next three against Bristol City, Middlesbrough, and Reading

From March onwards the water flow began to slow down as he scored four in the subsequent 11 matches, three of which coming from penalties. Two matches remained and Toney was two goals off breaking the record. 

Against already promoted Watford in the penultimate game of the season, the 25-year-old was felled in the box and handed the opportunity to level the record. Two steps and a strike of the ball later, Toney became the second player to ever score 30 in a Championship campaign.  

It then all came down to the final game of the season against Bristol City at Ashton Gate. Frank put the pressure on him to get his goal within 60 minutes and as the clock edged ever closer to the hour-mark, Toney's golden moment arose. 

Marcus Forss' shot from inside the area took an awkward deflection off a defender's thigh and Toney was the quickest to react, poking the ball past Daniel Bentley to tap the ball into an empty net and write his name into history. 

Centre-forwards have come and gone in recent seasons, with each being as much of a success as their predecessor. Toney's immediate impact at Brentford has no doubt superseded the rest. 

3. Historic Opening Day Victory 

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It was set up to be a special occasion, but no one could have predicted it would end like it did. 

The world watched on as Brentford opened the 2021/22 Premier League season, in what was the club's first top-flight fixture since May 1947, against Arsenal at the Brentford Community Stadium in front of what was the first full-capacity crowd in England for 552 days. 

It was the first time the club was able to sell out its new 17,500 capacity stadium and that night showed what sort of atmosphere it can deliver. It was special. 

The club's rendition of 'Hey Jude' could be heard from miles away and footage of it began to do the rounds on the internet. It, at last, felt like our beautiful game had returned to normality. 

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The Bees went into the fixture with a nothing to lose mentality and were soon rewarded for their effort as Sergi Canós had the entire stadium on their feet as he went flying into a knee slide after firing the hosts ahead in the 22nd-minute. 

There was a subsequent eruption of noise, for some a lifetime in the making, that was soon followed by the chant of "we are top of the league, say we are top of the league".

It was a game full of chances for both sides, but with less than 20 minutes to spare and Mads Bech Sørensen with the ball in hand, the subsequent events lead Jamie Carragher to utter the words "it's just Arsenal. Weak. Bullied. Men against boys", as his throw-in bounced uncontested into the six-yard box for Christian Nørgaard to head in.

It was an unbelievable moment with a mixture of raw emotions on show after the game. What made the night even more special was the capturing of Frank embracing Woody, a Brentford fan with down's syndrome, in their post-match lap of the pitch. This truly epitomised the connection between the community at its football club.  

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2. Play-off Semi-Final Comeback

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Frank's now iconic pre-match lap of the pitch to galvanise the 4,000 supporters in attendance set the tone for the match. He knew it was going to be an uphill battle that needed every bit of support to help overturn the first leg deficit. 

Five minutes in, however, the climb became steeper as Arnaut Danjuma broke free from a Brentford corner to slide the ball past David Raya to make it 2-0 on aggregate. Heads were in hands, water coolers were kicked, then kicked again in frustration, while there was a feeling of 'typical Brentford'. 

The mood soon changed as a small sense of belief was restored when Toney converted a penalty 11 minutes later. Upon retrieving the ball, he was hunted down by Asmir Begović, whose theatrics throughout the match were worthy of a BAFTA nomination. 

Chris Mepham was sent off just before the half-hour mark for a last-man foul on Bryan Mbeumo, and within five minutes of the interval, Vitaly Janelt was wheeling off in celebration after his deflected effort left Bournemouth's goalkeeper flailing at air. 

At this point progression to the final felt destined and come the 81st-minute, it felt like reality. 4,000 sounded like 40,000 as Marcus Forss reacted quickest to prod Emiliano Marcondes low-driven cross into the net.

It can be argued that this was the first true iconic moment at the Brentford Community Stadium and it's one that won't be forgotten. 

1. Promotion to the Premier League

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Let's be honest, there was only going to be one winner. 

"A minor game at Wembley," as put by Frank after their semi-finals triumph, turned out to be one of the iconic matches in the club's existence. 

History was against the Bees. Nine unsuccessful attempts in play-off campaigns, the worst record in the football league, including an agonising extra-time defeat to Fulham at this very stadium 298 days prior, loomed over the club's head. 

This time it felt different. There was no post-season disappointment for not securing automatic promotion, but a focus on securing the next best possible outcome. All that stood between Brentford and the Premier League was Swansea City. 

Just 5,000 Brentford were allowed to attend the match as England's lockdown rules were gradually being relaxed, but 5,000 was enough to spur the team on to create a moment of history. On the day, it all fell into place. 

Frank's team took to the occasion and stormed ahead, earning a penalty within the first ten minutes after Mbeumo reacted quickest to get onto Canós' pass and had his feet swept away by Freddie Woodman. Toney stepped up and you know how it goes. 

"The penalty at Wembley was actually the easiest," Toney told the Athletic in July. "I actually felt so close to the goal and the goal looked massive. But looking back on it, it's probably the most pressurised penalty in my career."

A sweeping counter-attack finished by Marcondes ten minutes later put the club within touching reach of a long-awaited return to the top-flight. There was now strong optimism but no one was getting ahead of themselves as, after all, it's Brentford. 

The next 70 minutes plus stoppage-time felt like an eternity. Nerves had consumed the fans watching on, but once Jay Fulton was dismissed for an unintentional stamp on Mathias Jensen's ankle, it felt like the weight of world had come off our shoulders. At this point it was 'when' not 'if'. 

As the final whistle sounded, there was a delay in reaction from the fans but the moment that the realisation hit, there was a wave of euphoria on one side of Wembley. The subsequent celebrations will live long in the memories of Brentford players, staff, and fans alike. 

Everyone will have differing memories of the occasion. Some will have seen the footage of the celebrations and Frank being carried away from his post-match media duties, some will have witnessed the event live and Pontus Jansson allowing life-long Brentford fan and stadium announcer, Peter Gilham, to lift the trophy alongside him, while others will have celebrated until the early morning, chasing a trophy-holding Marcondes through the streets of West London at 1am. 

Regardless, it was a special day for Brentford Football Club. 

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