Sunday, 5 August 2018 | In Focus

Bill Hagerty welcomes Bees storming to top the Championship table in first game of the new season. England didn’t hang about winning in a spectacular finish on the third day of the first Test match against India, leaving plenty of time for a pint on the way to Griffin Park for Brentford’s season opener. ‘Trouble is,’ mused my mate Charlie, ‘how are Brentford going to compete with that for class and excitement and not leave us with that old anti-climatic feeling?’ Answer: they could and indeed did, dismantling their Yorkshire visitors with a performance that almost eradicated from memory last season’s dismal beginning – five defeats and two draws in a seven-match run. After all, that was then and now is now.  
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We had only a few minutes to wait, following Rotherham’s interesting and rather pretty double-starburst running exercise prior to kick-off, to get a hint of pleasures to come. Neal Maupay, buzzing in the box and endlessly irritating the opposing defence, like all good goal-poachers should, could probably see the whites of goalkeeper Marak Rodák’s eyes as he snapped up a loose ball.

And Rotherham were on the back feet, all 22 of them, from then on, with Romaine Sawyers hitting the bar and the Bees building on what would by the end be 70 per cent possession. Come the water break – rightly instigated in order to keep the players alive through 90 minutes of searing heat – we were enjoying, and Rotherham were on the wrong end of, some superb football.

Sergi Canos, doubtless relishing weather not dissimilar to that back home in Spain, was proving an especial pain to the visitors and scored a crackerjack goal in the fading minutes of the first half. Even bearing in mind Rotherham’s difficulty in adjusting to the demands of the Championship – a notch or two up from the standard of League One, from where they jumped last May – Brentford were looking good. No, better than that – why, everyone appeared willing to take a shot at goal, a tactic sometimes noticeably lacking in the recent past.

As if to emphasise the point, Ollie Watkins smacked a thunderbolt in off the underside of the crossbar soon after the visitors performed another but less spirited starburst exhibition before the start of the second half. And when Rodák couldn’t quite hold on to a Lewis Macleod shot, Maupay was there – of course he was – to put the ball away. Those sometimes vociferous fans who had dismissed Neal’s ability – although never his commitment – must have now been contemplating washing their mouths out with soap and water when they arrived home.

With Said Benrahma, Alan Judge and Kamohelo Mokotjo replacing Canos, Maupay and Watkins, the Bees lost a little fizz and towards the end and allowed Will Vaulks to put Rotherham on the scoresheet – ‘Disappointing,’ Dean Smith correctly observed later – but not before Macleod had racked-up Brentford’s total to five with a neat finish from just outside the box.

Not a bad afternoon’s work, I observed happily. ‘Top of the Division!’ said Charlie. ‘Ere we go, ‘ere we go. ere we go.’

And Charlie is not an easy man to please.

Brentford: Daniel Bentley, Henrik Dalsgaard, Ezri Konsa, Chris Mepham, Yoann Barnet, Lewis Macleod, Josh McEachran, Sergi Canos, Romaine Sawyers , Ollie Watkins, Neal Maupay.

Subs used: Alan Judge, Said Benrahma, Kamohelo Mokotjo.

*The EFL highlights TV show, now located on Quest – as indicated, it takes a while to find – presumably were unimpressed with the result, shoehorning in what seemed like 30 seconds of Griffin Park action towards the end of its Championship coverage. Poor judgment, even if any other match was half as thrilling, which none was. Discuss


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