Brentford 3-1 Liverpool: No Ivan Toney, no problem as buzzing Bees claim another brilliant scalp

Buzzing Bees: Brentford celebrate another famous Premier League scalp on home soil (Getty Images)
Buzzing Bees: Brentford celebrate another famous Premier League scalp on home soil (Getty Images)

Brentford will have to go some to match the achievements of the last two calendar years in 2023. But after yet another famous night in this corner of west London, this team and this club head into the New Year still searching for their limits.

A thrilling 3-1 victory over Liverpool, the latest in a long line of illustrious scalps claimed since the Bees first kicked a Premier League ball fewer than 18 months ago, has Thomas Frank’s side, almost unimaginably, up to seventh in the top-flight.

They did it, too, without talisman and top scorer Ivan Toney, as both the injured striker’s replacement, Yoane Wissa, and regular partner, Bryan Mbeumo, got on the scoresheet, while David Raya, Christian Norgaard and Rico Henry were all outstanding.

For Liverpool, on a run of four League wins on the spin either side of the World Cup, this was a halt on their mid-season resurgence and an opportunity missed given the points dropped by several top-four rivals over the course of the weekend.

There were familiar weaknesses, not only compared to the Liverpool of earlier in the season, but also the other supposedly elite teams who have had their noses bloodied by this relentless Brentford outfit across the course of just a season-and-a-half punching with the big boys.

The Bees have now beaten five of the League’s traditional ‘Big Six’ since their arrival in the division and the Gtech Community Stadium is quickly building a justified reputation as one of its most daunting away venues, with only leaders Arsenal - ironically, the first to sample its perils - having won here this season.

Taking the two sets of players that produced the most frantically brilliant game of last term, a 3-3 draw in this fixture, and throwing Darwin Nunez into the mix always looked a likely recipe for fun and sure enough, inside a minute, the tone for a similarly chaotic evening was set as Brentford centre-back Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen was booked for wiping out the Liverpool forward waist-high after being sold short.

On eight minutes, Nunez picked up where he left off in front of goal - plagued by improbable misfortune - as he rounded David Raya from Mo Salah’s stunning touch and pass, only to see his goalbound finish cleared off the line by Ben Mee.

From that moment, Brentford came alive and were at their high-octane best during one of those trademark periods at this ground where the energy created by a crowd and team so wonderfully in-sync proves overwhelming.

How’s your luck? Ibrahima Konate deflected a corner beyond Alisson in a nightmare first half (REUTERS)
How’s your luck? Ibrahima Konate deflected a corner beyond Alisson in a nightmare first half (REUTERS)

Mee, along with Wissa, would become something of a protagonist during a half in which Brentford scored first, had the ball in the back of the net twice more without doubling their lead, and then managed to do so without needing to get it even that far.

The opener came seconds after Alisson had made a fine block to deny Mbeumo on the break, the Cameroonian’s corner then flicking the arm of Mee and bouncing in off the unfortunate Ibrahima Konate, back in the starting XI for the first time since losing the World Cup final with France and finding the footballing gods in no more favourable mood.

For all Jurgen Klopp’s pre-match warnings about Brentford’s directness from open play, it was set-pieces that were proving more troubling, with two more corners from the same side quickly producing two let-offs for the visitors.

First, Wissa was offside as he turned home in a goalmouth scramble and then the forward, having somehow been allowed space to control and shoot inside a packed box, saw his strike take a nick off the offside Mee on its way in.

If at first you don’t succeed: Yoane Wissa had two goals ruled out before doubling the lead (AP)
If at first you don’t succeed: Yoane Wissa had two goals ruled out before doubling the lead (AP)

Waiting for the inevitable VAR overrule, Bees midfielder Mathias Jensen urged his team-mates to keep up their charge with the break drawing near and took the initiative himself, making use of space down Liverpool’s vulnerable left to whip a sensational cross onto the head of Wissa. The understudy powered in Toney-esque fashion down into the ground and though Alisson clawed it away with what looked a brilliant save, goal-line technology showed the ball had crossed.

Klopp was apoplectic and made as much clear with a half-time triple change that saw Kostas Tsimikas and Harvey Elliott, as well as, unthinkably, Virgil van Dijk, dragged.

The response was immediate as Nunez engineered a left-footed finish over Raya but at this point in the tale it goes without saying that the most marginal of offside calls denied the Uruguayan his goal.

Killer blow: Bryan Mbeumo clinched another famous victory for Brentford late on (PA)
Killer blow: Bryan Mbeumo clinched another famous victory for Brentford late on (PA)

No matter, for in keeping with the trend set by Brentford before the break, an actual, real, permissible goal soon followed, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain guiding a fine header into the corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.

Little more than a week ago, Tottenham had been let off the hook here by a Brentford side who led by two goals but ended up with only a point.

Lessons, though, have clearly been learnt and this time Frank’s men not only held tough but also found the killer blow on the break, Mbeumo shrugging off Konate to slide home and cue another post-match Brentford party.