Story of the match
With one eye on the Champions League knock-out game against Real Madrid in midweek, Chelsea, sitting comfortable in third in the Premier League welcomed West London rivals Brentford to a sell-out Stamford Bridge.
Five points ahead of Arsenal in fourth, Thomas Tuchel made four changes from the FA Cup win at Middlesbrough prior to the international break. Kai Havertz replaced Romelu Lukaku up front whilst Marcos Alonso, N’Golo Kante and Timo Werner replaced Christian Pulisic, Mateo Kovacic and Malang Sarr.
After being knocked out of the FA Cup by Leicester City two weeks ago, Brentford were now only focussed on Premier League survival and still looking nervously at the relegation zone below them. Christian Eriksen and Mads Roerslav coming into the starting line-up for the Bees with Yoane Wissa and Mathias Jenson dropping to the bench.
Backed by a raucous away following making the short four mile trip west to Chelsea, Brentford started the stronger of the two sides, with Bryan Mbeumo firing over a free-kick in the opening couple of minutes.
With Chelsea’s defence looking as uncertain as former owner, Roman Abramovich’s finances, Brentford continued to threaten.
In the fifth minute, Ivan Toney intercepted a wayward pass from Edouard Mendy but couldn’t keep his lob down and then, two minutes later, Toney forced a low diving save from Mendy, who tipped the effort wide for a corner.
In the eleventh minute, Brentford again went close as Toney and then Kristoffer Ajer header over from inside the six yard box as Chelsea struggled to retain possession and gain a foothold in the game.
Chelsea’s first chance eventually came in the 21st minute as Mason Mount curled wide with an ambitious effort from the edge of the box.
As the first half grew old Chelsea began to impose themselves on the game.
Raya showed his class once more in the 38th minute.
With Mount dancing through the Brentford defence, the England midfielder found Hakim Ziyech on the edge of the box. Shifting the ball on to his left foot, Ziyech’s curling effort from the edge of the box looked destined for the top corner but Raya leapt to his right and tipped the ball over the crossbar.
It proved to the final action of an action-packed first half and the fun didn’t stop in the second half.
Within three minutes of the re-start Chelsea were ahead.
With space and time to shoot, Antonio Rudiger fired a swerving effort past a helpless Raya from 40 yards that clipped the post and sent Stamford Bridge into raptures but the home faithful weren’t celebrating for long.
Brentford responded immediately and within ten minutes were two ahead.
A minute after Rudiger’s goal, the visitors had equalised through Janelt with the Brentford midfielder firing a Mbeumo pass into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
Four minutes later and the Bees were ahead through Eriksen, as the former Tottenham star stayed calm to score past Mendy after more good footwork and vision from Mbeumo in the Chelsea box.
Brentford had their scoring boots on and had their third of the game on the hour mark.
With Chelsea now chasing the game, a Toney first-time through-ball dissected their centre-backs and set Janelt through one-on-one with Mendy. Composed and confident, the German midfield grabbed his second of the game by chipping the ball over the onrushing Chelsea goalkeeper.
The Brentford players and fans were having a party and continued to enjoy themselves through to the final whistle as Chelsea struggled to find a way back into the game.
The Bees finally put the result beyond doubt in the 87th minute as Wissa capitalised on a mix-up between Rudiger and Silva to drill the ball into the bottom corner for Brentford’s fourth.
It was the cherry on top of a formidable performance from the visitors, who secured their first west London victory since 1939.
Takeaways from the match
Swings and momentum
For the opening 30 minutes, it looked like Brentford were the team sitting third in the Premier League as they dominated their hosts, Chelsea.
With six efforts to Chelsea’s one, Toney was causing Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Mendy all sorts of trouble.
In a 5-3-2 defensive formation that quickly transitioned into a 3-5-2 with the ball, Brentford overwhelmed the Chelsea midfield and should have been ahead with more clinical finishing.
Not for the first time this season, Chelsea, through the vibrant Mount, nearly and should have punished the visitors for their wastefulness.
With more than 70% of possession, Chelsea created five chances in the final 15 minutes, with Raya’s save from Ziyech the highlight of a frantic first-half.
The second half followed suit, with four goals in the opening 15 minutes and Brentford’s confidence in front of goal proved the difference as Mbeumo and Toney took the game by the scruff of the neck
Counter-attacking at its best
With chances and goals galore, it may not seem that Brentford’s victory was built from the back but it was a rear-guard performance that set the scene for a famous win over their west London rivals for the first time since 1939.
With less than 30% possession over the 90 minutes and fewer shots than the hosts, Ajer and Raya were on fine-form as an organised and resolute Brentford showed their class, celebrating every block, every save and every missed Chelsea chance.
It provided the foundations for Brentford to counter-attack and with Mbeumo and Toney leading the line, victory was secured in style.
To be fair to Thomas Frank’s side, it could have been any one of the starting eleven, with Toney, Raya and Ajer all making noteworthy contributions but the two assists from their French forward proved the difference in the west London derby.
With three key passes, a passing accuracy of more than 80% and a constant threat in the defensive side of a Champions League side, the only thing missing from Mbeumo’s electric performance was a goal. However, when your two assists lead to a victory over your west London rivals and essentially secure the club’s Premier League status for another year, never has a goalless afternoon looked so good.