Brentford 3-2 Fulham: Ivan Toney shuts out the noise to lead Bees on European march

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(Getty Images)

Ivan Toney has had to deal with rather more attention that even he would like in recent weeks as an FA investigation into alleged betting breaches plays out more publicly than anyone might term ideal.

But as he stood alone at the centre of this west London derby, the game at his mercy and the ball on the spot 12 yards from goal, there was no greater certainty in town.

Beating the dive of Bernd Leno to score a 22nd penalty without failure in red and white, the forward sent Brentford on their way to a 3-2 victory over neighbours Fulham, one which extends Thomas Frank’s side’s unbeaten Premier League run to 12 games and keeps dreams of European football next season well and truly alive.

The picture is a crowded one. Despite defeat, Fulham remain seventh while Brentford are still only ninth, though also just seven points behind fourth-placed Tottenham with two games in hand. Toney this weekend revealed his understandable frustration at speculation and leaks over the length of any potential ban, but suffice to say that the longer he is available, the greater Brentford’s growing chance.

Now outright third in the Premier League’s scoring charts, only Erling Haaland and Harry Kane having scored more than his 15 goals, the Bees’ talisman was at his strutting, audacious best, at one stage playing a pass of his backside and later almost lobbing Leno from halfway.

In between, Toney scored the goal that put the home side back in front after Manor Solomon’s fourth goal in as many league matches had cancelled out Ethan Pinnock’s opener. He had a hand, too, in the clincher, feeding substitute Kevin Schade, who squared for Mathias Jensen to seal the game five minutes from time, Carlos Vinicius’ stoppage time consolation coming with virtually the last kick.

This fixture had only once in the history of English football been played in the top-flight, and never at any level with the rivals in such rude health, above Chelsea as the cream of west London according to the Premier League table.

Such was Brentford’s high-octane start, that by the time Pinnock’s sixth-minute opener deflected off Tim Ream and past Bernd Leno they might already have scored three times and been out of sight.

Leno made excellent stops to deny first Toney and then Bryan Mbeumo, while in between the latter produced a contender for miss-of-the-season, somehow failing to convert at the back-post after Mathias Jensen’s clever free-kick had released Rico Henry down the left.

In fact, Mbeumo went far closer with a fine free-kick midway through the half, grazing the outside of the post as Leno stood in the centre of his goal, doing a fine impression of one of the concrete pillars which hold up the flyover that runs past here on the M4.

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(Getty Images)

Better teams than Fulham have found the intensity here too much: Sunday’s supposedly freakish events at Anfield brought back memories of Manchester United’s implosion here in August, while Liverpool themselves were blown away just after the New Year.

But Marco Silva’s side hung in and earned the right to play, gradually asserting themselves as the in-form Solomon began to sparkle.

Toney became the second player to find the frame of the goal with a free-kick, striking the intersection of post and bar, but it was the third, at the other end, that would prove more consequential, Andreas Pereira’s effort ricocheting back to Solomon, who nodded into an empty net.

It had been an extremely watchable opening half and the game certainly did not need spoiling, or so must’ve thought referee Anthony Taylor, who really ought to have reduced the visitors to ten men moments before the break. Sasa Lukic, given the unenviable task of replacing the suspended Joao Palhinha at the base of midfield, had already been booked when being waved back onto the field after treatment just in time to bring down Wissa on the counter-attack. Somehow, the January signing escaped a second yellow.

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(Getty Images)

Taylor was in the good books eight minutes after the restart though, pointing to the spot after Issa Drop had tried to smash clear but been pipped to the ball by Christian Norgaard and caught the Dane’s foot. Toney, as has come to be expected, was deadly.

Jensen steered between the legs of Leno after Schade had rinsed Antonee Robinson, and though Frank glanced nervously at his watch after Vincius had pounced on an uncharacteristic error from David Raya to make it 3-2, even the dregs of eight added minutes barely provided time for the restart.