Football Features

“Brentford are box office” – Winners & Losers as the Bees sting Liverpool late on in a heart-stopping 3-3 draw

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:11, 25 September 2021

In a heart-stopping evening of football, Brentford came from behind twice to draw 3-3 with Liverpool.

The game was played at a ridiculous pace in front of a raucous home crowd at the Brentford Community Stadium.

Who were the winners and losers?

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Winner: Brentford

Just… everyone. The entire team. Coaching staff. Hell, even the ballboys and stewards. This sounds patronising as hell but it’s really quite ridiculous to see a newly-promoted side play Liverpool in such a chaotic and open game yet be equal participants in all the drama. The Reds weren’t dominating Brentford, this was a real back and forth.

Ivan Toney and Brian Mbeumo’s movement and interplay caused the Reds back-line no end of trouble and the sheer dynamism from the midfield trio of Onyeka, Norgaard and Janelt meant that even Jordan Henderson operating at 200% capacity couldn’t contain them.

The first Brentford goal was a set-piece masterclass as they rattled off four passes from an indirect free-kick, working the ball into and across the box for an Ethan Pinnock tap-in. Christian Norgaard’s pass was particularly peachy and Toney’s flick was super slick.

Then in the second half once Liverpool upped the intensity, Thomas Frank adjusted and began overloading Trent Alexander-Arnold at the back-post with big booming crosses and it resulted in two massive goals. Every time Liverpool flexed their muscles, Brentford flexed their own right-back. It felt like that scene at the start of Predator where Arnold Schwarzenegger and Carl Weathers have a mid-air arm wrestle, muscles bulging, teeth grinning.

Brentford are box office.

Loser: The Liverpool defence

Liverpool came into the game against Brentford having conceded just one Premier League goal and so naturally there was talk of how Virgil van Dijk was “back” and that’s why suddenly the Reds were so resilient at the back. Well, Brentford ripped that narrative to shreds and exposed almost the entire Reds back-line even with the return of Andrew Robertson from injury.

Robertson’s return to the side added a lot of cut and thrust as well as his usual energy, but defensively he repeatedly allowed Brentford to send crosses into the box where they could overload Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Alexander-Arnold is obviously not the best defender, but even a great defensive right-back would struggle to cope with the kind of pressure Brentford were allowed to heap on him. Two of the Bees’ goals came as they overwhelmed him with numbers, but he had no help from Joel Matip.

Matip has been excellent so far this season but this feels like the game where Jurgen Klopp realises he has to get Joe Gomez or Ibrahima Konaté into that role for their added mobility and dynamism. Too often Matip was caught on his heels and Brentford’s third goal was a particularly embarrassing moment for him, with Van Dijk looking notably frustrated.

Van Dijk, for his part, was nowhere near his commanding best (understandable given his recent return from injury, it’ll be about a year before we see vintage Van Dijk again and that’s fine). He didn’t lead and command his back-line as well as one expects him to do and the way Brentford were able to pass around him was almost unprecedented; and even the one great moment of Van Dijk defending (a chase-down tackle on Ivan Toney) looked far more slapdash than usual.

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Winner: Mohamed Salah

100 Premier League goals for Liverpool in 151 games. What more can you say about Mohamed Salah than that? No Liverpool player has reached a century of league goals as quickly as he has, and given the sheer number of world-class forwards the Reds have had, that says a lot.

Salah’s goal was supreme as he ran in behind to reach a fabulous Fabinho ball and then sweetly struck it low into the net. The confidence to take the shot in such a manner and the technique to execute it shows what a world-class talent he is. In truth he should have finished with 101 goals as he inexplicably shot over from 12 yards out late on. But that was the only bad thing he did all game long.

Winner: Curtis Jones

Liverpool’s third midfield spot next to Fabinho and Jordan Henderson is often up for grabs, and with Thiago injured Curtis Jones got the call against Brentford. And the youngster had a great game, really putting himself about as a force and, y’know, scoring.

Not five minutes after Brentford had made it 2-2, did Jones rifle the ball into the back of the net (via a deflection, to be fair) to restore the lead. It was a bullish goal reminiscent of the times Steven Gerrard would exert his authority on games by just kicking the ball as hard as he can. Well, Jones is wearing Gerrard’s old number 17 and while one can never suggest anyone will be as miraculous as Steven Gerrard was, this kid Curtis Jones is made of similar stuff.

Loser: Ethan Pinnock

It feels ridiculous to criticise any Brentford player after that incredible performance but if we’re being honest, Ethan Pinnock blotted his copybook after his goal. He had been playing well and obviously the goal was great but he hurt himself in the process.

Now, rather than accepting the injury and going off, Pinnock tried to fight through the pain and the result was him hobbling around functionally useless as Liverpool played around him to cross and score, cancelling out the lead Pinnock himself had given. Who knows how the rest of the game would have gone were Liverpool unable to bag such an early equaliser thanks to Pinnock’s decision?

Winner: David Raya

If one Brentford player deserves special praise, it is unquestionably David Raya. The goalkeeper may have conceded three times but two of them were superb finishes and the third a deflection. Meanwhile the saves he did make were all great, two in particular.

The first came at the end of a wild 10-minute period which saw two goal-line clearances and the first two goals, where a Curtis Jones shot smacked the post and Diogo Jota came in to apply the finish only for Raya to fly across his goal to save from the Portuguese. Then, right at the death, Raya again made a simply unreal stop to keep the score level at 3-3. Make no mistake, this was a simply supreme display from an incredibly talented goalkeeper.