Bill’s match reports

Friday, 29 March 2024 | News, Match Reports, In Focus

When the going gets tough, Bill is still putting pen to paper at Gtech and the London Stadium, where some bubbles were certainly burst but then there was that Wissa bicycle kick too.  
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THIRD SEASON: Bowen blitz

West Ham United 4, Brentford 2; 26 February 2024

It is rare that a striker sees off Brentford’s defence and even more so when after five minutes of the match he scored two goals in less time than it takes to boil a kettle. Sadly, and perhaps surprisingly, it was not Ivan Toney who seized the initiative that swiftly, but West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen – and he added to to that early brace by completing his first Premier League hat-trick for the Hammers.

No wonder Thomas Frank confessed to being ‘unbelievably irritated’ by what was possibly the worst performance by his injury-hit team during its recent travails. (A lesser gentleman might well have used the term ‘bloody furious’, even though there were many Bees’ supporters doing the job for him at the London Stadium).

As if a drubbing by the East Londoners – make no mistake, that’s what it was despite scoring twice – wasn’t enough, Brentford suffered yet another incapacitating physical calamity, this one to Ben Mee. He was withdrawn during the second half with what turned out to be a fractured ankle, leaving only three centre-backs to fill three positions. Go figure!

Meanwhile, Bowen made hay in the winter weather, scoring his sixty-third minute goal in response to Neal Maupay’s first-period chipped score that threatened to put the Bees back in the game. The rocket shot by Brazilian full-back Emerson Palmieri had put paid to such fancy long before Yoane Wissa’s consolation goal – smartly taken but not really much of one – eight minutes from the end of normal time.

Their own thrashing, 6-0 by Arsenal in their previous outing, had presented West Ham with their own problems, but theirs were at the top end of the table. Brentford’s were in the cellar, or frighteningly close to it.

This was the first time West Ham had beaten the Bees in their Premium League encounters, scoring more goals than they had totalled in the previous three.

‘It seems that after a very good performance against Manchester City, it’s two steps back again. It’s an inconsistent season so far,’ bemoaned Frank.

Hopefully, the dark times will soon pass. That too-close-for-comfort relegation box is looming closer with every game.

Brentford: Flekken; Zanka, Ajer, Mee (substitute Collins 61m); Lewis-Potter, Onyeka (sub Janelt 74), Nørgaard, Jensen (sub Damsgaard 77), Reguilón (sub Roerslev 73); Toney, Maupay (sub Wissa 73).



Brentford 2, Chelsea 2; 2 March 2024

Head coach Thomas Frank was gushing in his praise following a second-half thrilling performance by his makeshift team. Understandable, for Brentford dominated play for every minute at the Gtech Stadium other than that when Chelsea scored an equaliser against the run of play to hand the visitors a precious point.

How about the first half, do I hear you ask? Well, would it be all right if we didn’t discuss the first half?

It wouldn’t be all right? I see. So here is a brief résumé – composed from Brentford’s point of view – of a little over 45 minutes: Yoane Wissa had a shot blocked by Chelsea goalkeeper Dorde Petrovic, Zanka cleared a goal-bound ball when Mark Flekken was beaten all ends up, and Nicholas Jackson met a cross from Malo Gusto to give the visitors a thirty-fifth minute lead.

There was what might be considered an incident, when Petrovic handled the ball inches outside his area and many any of the home crowd developed instant hypertension when referee Jarred Gillett displayed no more interest in this misdemeanour than he would the price of fish. The Bees’ players didn’t seem to be bothered, either, but what with the visitors pounding them until their teeth shook they didn’t really have time.

Whether or not the booing emitting from sections of the home supporters during the break was to show dissatisfaction with Franks’s team selection, or the referee’s remote way of controlling the game, is hard to know, although it is unlikely to be a comment on the coach, what with him struggling to field a full side without drafting in some of those on the treatment tables.

And so to the second half and – strange but true – the emergence of a Brentford team reborn and Chelsea’s hit-and-miss season suddenly entered the miss category.

Toney strayed wherever the action was, leading Chelsea a merry dance and plugging any holes in their own rearguard. Wissa sped around like a torpedo looking for a vulnerable ship. The midfielders and wing-backs began to venture out of their usual territory without a pass.

Their dividend came after 50 minutes when Brentford pressed threateningly and discovered some space from which the ball mysteriously emerged to engage the vision of Mads Roerslev. His raking on-the-run shot beat Petrovic, only the second goal the wing-back has scored since joining the club in 2019.

Only the intervention of an upright prevented Vitaly Janelt to score a second shortly afterwards – Sergio Reguilón appeared a little huffy at not having a shot himself, a good sign when everybody’s tails are up – and Wissa looked certain to score but failed to capitalise on a fine chance by shooting wide.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic: Cole Palmer’s exploitation of a grand chance whistled wide and Jackson was a constant threat to the three-man last ditch defence, composed of the Zanka, Ajer and Collins trio, the only fit players left to fill the positions.

The Bees continued to surge forward – dangerous but exciting – and were rewarded after 69 minutes when Reguilón launched a penetrative cross into the Chelsea penalty area. Frank Onyeka was on hand to flick the ball up for Wissa who, back to goal, launched a bicycle kick – or was it a scissors? – that gave Petrovic no chance as it whistled past. A magic moment that will be remembered fondly by everyone present, apart presumably from the visiting team and their sizeable following.

A goal down, Chelsea decided to wake up and Brentford once again had their backs to the wall. Nail-biting stuff but rewarding seven minutes from the end of normal time when Christian Nøgaard lost possession and then Flekken needlessly gave away a corner. Palmer’s cross was made to measure for Axel Disasi, who outjumped the defence to head the ball home.

Won’t it be refreshing when Thomas Frank can select a side from a fully-fit squad, I asked my mate Charlie? Who is the latest first-team regular to be out through injury?

‘Meeeeee!’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Zanka, Ajer, Collins; Roerslev, Onyeka (substitute Jensen mum), Nørgaard, Janelt (Yarmoliuk 87), Reguilón, Toney, Wissa (Maupay 87).

Chelsea: Petrovic; Disasi, Chalobah, Colwill (Sterling 79), Gusto; Gallagher, Caicedo, Fernndez (Mudryk 71), Chiswell; Palmer, Jackson.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Chiswick Calendar website.