The most appropriate praise available to Brentford might be that they won this match using qualities readily associated with their hosts. While they began with the scintillating attacking football that has become so familiar, two-thirds of their afternoon became a scrap and it yielded the most dramatic of rewards. A subdued West Ham had rallied sufficiently to feel they deserved a draw but then, with the final action of added time, came an almighty sting that allowed no recovery.
Eight days previously Yoane Wissa had emerged from the bench and scored against Liverpool within four minutes. On this occasion, having been deployed to turn the tide after Jarrod Bowen’s half-volleyed equaliser, he kept everyone waiting three times as long.
By now Brentford looked content with a point but, in an isolated late foray, they won a free-kick to the right of centre. Mathias Jensen’s delivery was met by a towering Pontus Jansson and, when Lukasz Fabianski could only parry towards the penalty spot, Wissa lashed through a crowded box. The ball flew into the net; Brentford’s players hurtled towards their travelling support and the most eye-catching win of their young Premier League existence was secure.
“Of course 12 points is a lot but I don’t set any targets,” Thomas Frank said of his side’s tally. “We’re proud and pleased with what we’ve got so far and I think the most important thing is that it’s truly deserved.” All the same he would not have scorned a draw and he admitted that, in the technical area, his coaches were extolling the virtues of that outcome as the clock ticked down. But Wissa’s goal ensured they leapfrog West Ham into seventh and have beaten one of last season’s top six for the first time.
It cannot be taken for granted that a newly promoted side so short on top-flight experience mixes light and shade to such canny effect: look at the problems Norwich have long encountered with harnessing the game’s less salubrious arts. Here Brentford mastered it all. They roared out of the blocks and fully deserved the opener Bryan Mbuemo, who had already clipped the woodwork and missed a good headed chance, contrived in the 20th minute.
The breakthrough came from a sequence that encapsulated Brentford’s initiative. Ivan Toney, whose reputation as a goalscorer precedes him, had earlier tested Fabianski with a volley but dropped deep to clip a gorgeous first-time pass into Sergio Canós’s path. Canós is a right wing-back but had taken it upon himself to dart down the middle; Fabianski tipped his low effort away but Mbuemo, sliding in at an angle, just managed to squeeze the loose ball over the line before the recovering keeper could intervene.
That was more or less the last of Brentford as a fluent attacking force. In fairness they had been disrupted twice prior to kick-off through injuries to Kristoffer Ajer and, in the warm-up, Vitaly Janelt. Then Shandon Baptiste dislocated his shoulder before the interval and there appeared at least some cumulative effect. Bu, as the hour mark approached, West Ham had largely been restricted to efforts from range, Saïd Benrahma curling wide against his old club and seeing David Raya tip over a free-kick.
Raya was infuriating the home fans with his laid-back preparation for goalkicks; it had become an effective spoiling performance from Brentford, and one that agitated David Moyes sufficiently to attempt a wrestling match with Mathias Jørgensen as he delayed at a throw-in. Bowen’s goal had, however, been signposted as the pressure ramped up; the forward had missed a free header and drawn a save from Raya, who also denied Vladimir Coufal, before he struck for the first time this season with the purest of connections after meeting Ethan Pinnock’s clearance.
“I thought the second goal would come and it should have,” Moyes said of West Ham’s outlook from there. “I’m disappointed with the result. I didn’t think we played that well but we certainly didn’t deserve to lose the game, that’s for sure.”
In truth, though, his team had been muted for long periods. That was of a piece with an afternoon that saw a pre-match protest against West Ham’s ownership fail to muster numbers that would keep David Sullivan or David Gold awake at night. Brentford’s tenacity and application were ultimately enough to send Frank and co bouncing home.
“Everyone knows that, if you want to get top results, you need to defend with bodies on the line, that’s massive if you want to create big things,” Frank said. Delectable and dogged as required, Brentford are constructing something extraordinary.