David Hytner was at the Brentford Community Stadium. His report has landed. Click below for joy. Thanks for reading this MBM.
Sky have a chat with Thomas Tuchel. “The last 20 minutes was suddenly a cup game ... they found their momentum ... suddenly it seems like we had one player less ... we were not clear enough in the challenges ... they had more belief ... we focused too much on defending ... I was happy with the first 65 to 70 minutes but we should have scored one more ... there is always room to improve.”
The match-winner Ben Chilwell speaks to Sky Sports. “It was very tough ... the last 20 minutes, we showed the mentality we need to show all season ... we knew this would be tough ... it was pretty much hell on earth! We’ve got [Mendy] to thank ... he makes big saves and won us the three points ... I’m happy with the goal but defensively we showed our steel ... it’s about mentality in these sort of games.”
Brentford hit the post twice; Chelsea scored from their only shot on target. How Thomas Tuchel’s makeshift defence held out isn’t totally clear, but hold on they did. The sort of grind that wins titles, and Chelsea go back to the top. This could be a big three points come the end of the season. As for Brentford ... they’ll take heart from a superb period of sustained pressure in the second half. Chelsea won’t look forward to coming back here next season.
FULL TIME: Brentford 0-1 Chelsea
The whistle goes. Chelsea survive! Brentford were excellent in the second half, but they come away with nothing. Ben Chilwell scored a fine goal during the last knockings of the first half, and Chelsea were nothing if not resolute in defending it!
90 min +4: The corner’s half cleared. On the edge of the box, Ghoddos sends a screeching volley goalwards. Loftus-Cheek blocks. James meanwhile takes the opportunity to go down. Time for more treatment! That the European champions have to resort to this. It’s a supreme compliment to Brentford’s push in this second half.
90 min +3: ... and as if to justify the decision, Norgaard sends an overhead kick towards the top right, only for Mendy to acrobatically tip over the bar!
90 min +2: Edouard Mendy is awarded man of the match by Sky’s Gary Neville, which tells its own story.
90 min: Brentford have had ten second-half shots to Chelsea’s one. But they haven’t found a way through. They’ll have four extra minutes to score the goal their efforts surely deserve.
89 min: James comes on for Azpilicueta.
88 min: Mendy takes his sweet time to get back up.
87 min: A clarification: Mendy parried Jansson’s rasper, but only with his startled face. Having taken a proper sock in the jaw, he goes down and the trainer comes on. Chelsea need this break.
86 min: Jansson has a whack from a tight angle on the right. Mendy parries at point-blank range! Chelsea are under siege! This is sensational pressure from Brentford. Chelsea are hanging on by their fingertips!
85 min: ... and then another long throw from the right causes even more bedlam. Norgaard has another blast through a crowded box but Azpilicueta is there to block and clear. This is a mighty effort by Brentford!
83 min: A cross from the left into Chelsea’s box. Sarr misjudges the flight. The ball breaks to Ghoddos, one on one with Mendy! The Chelsea keeper parries Ghoddos’s low drive. Norgaard has another crack, looping over Mendy and towards the goal. Chalobah clears off the line!
81 min: Chelsea slow it down a bit. Ping, pass, ping. Suddenly Loftus-Cheek dinks a ball down the inside-right channel, nearly finding Werner. Raya smothers at his feet. A two-goal lead would probably flatter Chelsea now, but the European champions were so close to taking one there.
79 min: Jorgensen’s long throw from the right causes more bother in the Chelsea box. The ball breaks to Forss, who shoots through a crowded area. The pinball could go anywhere, but it favours Chelsea and the visitors clear.
78 min: Brentford’s possession stat for the last five minutes: 86 percent!
77 min: Havertz comes on for Lukaku.
76 min: Toney and Chalobah compete under another high ball. The Chelsea man hangs out an arm and lightly tugs at Toney’s shoulder. Toney goes down and wants a penalty. It’d have almost certainly been given ... but Toney was an inch or two offside earlier in the move, and the flag goes up. Chelsea breathe again.
75 min: Brentford are so unfortunate! Ghoddos wedges a cute reverse pass down the right channel. Mbeumo strides into the box and sends a forensic effort towards the bottom right ... but the ball caroms off the base of the post and away! So close to an equaliser.
74 min: The resulting corner leads to some pinball. Chelsea half clear. Brentford come back at them. Mendy is forced to scamper out of his box to bash upfield, with his defence in a panic around him. Brentford are giving this a good go.
73 min: Jorgensen flings a long throw in from the right. Pinnock flicks it on. Toney meets the dropping ball and bashes a first-time shot into the ground and up towards the top right. It’s straight at Mendy, who tips over the bar.
72 min: Brentford make their second change, replacing Canos with Ghoddos.
71 min: Sarr and Toney come together as they chase a long pass forward. Toney goes over. The Brentford supporters scream for a penalty, but their man was the main aggressor and so we play on.
70 min: Werner and Lukaku make a nuisance of themselves on the Brentford penalty spot. Suddenly the ball breaks to Lukaku, six yards out. He must score ... but leans back and welts over. The flag goes up to spare his blushes; turns out Werner and Lukaku both took turns in mistiming their thrusts forward.
69 min: Sarr underhits another ball back to his keeper. Toney nearly nips in. Mendy comes out to clear.
68 min: Space and time for Jensen to the left of the Chelsea box. He pulls back for Toney, who takes a touch and ... well, he should shoot, but takes an extra touch, then tries to find Forss to his left with an elaborate flick. Chelsea crowd and clear.
67 min: Brentford decide to go for it, replacing the midfielder Onyeka with the striker Forss. “Pity we keep having these darned international breaks because it’s been a real stop start season,” writes Rick Harris. “Have to say Liverpool look like the team to stop but Chelsea are handling a difficult game today pretty comfortably. Been a lot of talk about Toney being a top PL striker but I can’t see it at the moment.”
66 min: A bit of space down the left for Lukaku. He crumps a dismal cross out of play on the other side. Turns out he was offside anyway, but still.
65 min: Chelsea send on Mount in place of Kovacic.
63 min: Werner sends a weak dribbler straight at Raya.
61 min: That’s got the home crowd’s dander up. Toney debates the non-decision with the ref. Meanwhile Mendy plays the professional game, taking a little sting out of the situation by taking his sweet time to retie his bootlaces. Azpilicueta eventually comes across to help.
59 min: That brief spurt of action has got the Brentford fans going, and the team have stepped it up a little bit. A long pass down the middle. Chalobah and Toney compete under it. Chalobah, on the wrong side, makes light contact with Toney, who goes over. He wants a free kick and perhaps a red card. But the referee’s not interested. There didn’t seem to be too much in it, and VAR isn’t minded to intervene.
57 min: Chalobah clatters Toney; free kick to Brentford out on the left. The set piece is sent into the mixer, leading to a corner on the right. The corner leads to some bedlam, Canos found in a little space to the left of the six-yard box. He wedges towards the far post, where a couple of team-mates lurk ... but Lukaku is back to assist his defence and eyebrows clear.
56 min: Sarr hesitates and for a second it looks as though Toney and Henry will make hay down the left. But Chalobah comes across to help his young mate out, closing the door, forcing Brentford to turn tail.
54 min: Canos goes racing after a long pass down the right. Sarr comes clattering into the back of him, but the referee’s not interested in awarding a free kick. The home fans howl in frustration, and no wonder: Chelsea have enjoyed 80 percent of the ball since the restart.
52 min: Chelsea are dominating possession, in complete control right now. They’re not really asking many questions of the home defence, but they’ve got their goal and seem happy enough to wait for Brentford to start taking some necessary risks.
50 min: Chilwell drifts in from the left before playing a reverse ball towards Lukaku on the overlap. Lukaku’s low cross, meant for Werner in the middle, is hacked clear. In an ideal world, Chelsea would have Lukaku and Werner switching places there.
48 min: Werner suddenly turns on the jets and zips into some space down the inside-right channel. The enterprise wins him a corner ... from which Kovacic sends the sort of kick more often seen at (fairly) nearby Twickenham high into the cool night air.
47 min: Chelsea enjoy some early second-half possession, stroking the ball hither and yon. All very patient. Brentford hold their shape.
Brentford get the second half underway. No changes.
Half-time reading. It’s going well for Chelsea’s men in the Premier League; the women are in the thick of the WSL battle too. Here’s Suzanne Wrack on the story of the season so far, and the team most likely to challenge Emma Hayes’ reigning champions.
HALF TIME: Brentford 0-1 Chelsea
Nothing comes of the free kick, Chelsea holding firm as they always do, and the players troop off for their half-time oranges. As things stand, Chelsea are going back to the top of the Premier League table.
45 min +2: A sickener for Brentford at a psychologically damaging time. They try to hit back immediately, Canos winning a free kick out on the right. A chance to fling something in before the whistle goes.
GOAL! Brentford 0-1 Chelsea (Chilwell 45)
A bit of space for Lukaku down the right. A couple of stepovers and he’s in the box. He dinks wide left for Werner, who eventually returns the favour. Henry heads clear, but Chelsea are quickly back at Brentford. A cross from the right. Lukaku makes a nuisance of himself on the penalty spot. The ball breaks to Chilwell who creams a rising shot into the top left!
43 min: The throw leads to an up and under, which leads to a corner on the right. Mbeumo’s delivery is no good and is easily claimed by Mendy.
42 min: Toney and Mbeumo combine down the left, the latter threatening to burst past Sarr. The debutant defender stands firm to hoick out for a throw.
40 min: Werner never gives up, though, and he wins another corner down the right. Raya claims a cross with great confidence.
39 min: The ball’s at Werner’s feet again, just inside the Brentford box. He tries to lay off to Lukaku, who would have a tap-in on the penalty spot, but the pass is poor. Brentford whack clear.
37 min: A long Chalobah pass down the middle. Chilwell, on the edge of the box, heads down for Lukaku, who with his back to goal lays off to Werner. The Germany international opens his body and aims for the top right, but gets it all wrong. That was a real chance to work Raya at the very least.
36 min: Chalobah strides forward and rolls a pacy pass down the inside-right channel for Werner. Raya is off his line quickly and smothers, just before Werner can reach the ball.
34 min: Loftus-Cheek is caught napping to the right of the Chelsea D. The ball’s slipped down the right for Mbuemo; the resulting low cross is useless and easily snaffled by Mendy at the near post. Any decent delivery would have teed up Onyeka in the middle. Big chance spurned.
32 min: Onyeka wants a free kick after being brought to ground by Loftus-Cheek. He’s not getting one, so gets up and scythes straight through the back of the Chelsea man. He should really get booked for that, but in fact it’s Canos who sees yellow, for offering his trenchant analysis of the first challenge to the assistant referee.
30 min: Chelsea stroke it around awhile, but don’t really go anywhere. They’re on top overall, but not much is happening in the final third. Brentford are holding their shape nicely at the minute.
28 min: ... nothing of note happens.
27 min: Kovacic aims for the top right. It’s not a great effort, clanking into the wall, but it loops high and very nearly nestles into the top right, over the backtracking Raya. Just a corner, at which ...
26 min: Loftus-Cheek again finds a bit of space just outside the Brentford box, and wins another free kick, this time off Onyeka. This one’s a little bit closer, and Kovacic’s eyes light up.
25 min: Jensen brings down Loftus-Cheek, 30 yards from goal. The resulting free kick isn’t up to much, but Loftus-Cheek looks in the mood here, having already embarked on a couple of determined sashays down the inside left.
24 min: Actually, “creams” was a bit rich; Mbeumo hit his shot down into the ground, the ball rearing up onto the post and away. Still, some fine pressure by Brentford ... and one hell of a break by Chelsea, who would be leading had Lukaku not gone after Werner’s low cross a nanosecond too early.
22 min: Chelsea half-clear the corner. The ball’s looped back into the mixer, where Norgaard cushions a header down for Mbeumo, who creams a shot off the left-hand post! Chelsea break upfield, Werner scooting down the left. His low cross is steered home by Lukaku, but the ultimate sucker punch is denied the visitors, the flag going up correctly for offside.
21 min: Jorgensen shapes to take a long throw from the right. He flings short to Jensen instead, then races after the return ball down the wing. He whips long to Toney at the far post. Toney heads onto the back of Chalobah to win Brentford’s first corner of the evening.
19 min: The resulting free kick’s swung into the mixer by Jensen, albeit to no great effect.
18 min: Kovacic and Werner combine down the right to earn another corner. Chilwell takes. Toney blooters a header clear ... and Brentford break! Mbeumo drops a shoulder to make ground down the right, and is unceremoniously bundled to the ground from behind by Kovacic. That’s the first booking of the game.
17 min: Lukaku tries to whip the free kick into the top left. Always high and wide, although not by too much.
16 min: Kante’s shot from the edge of the box is blocked. Then Chilwell has a go. That’s blocked too. Finally a revived Onyeka bundles over Kovacic and this is a free kick just to the left of the D. D is for danger here!
15 min: The game takes a wee while to get back up to its previous speed. Werner tries to up the tempo with a burst down the right but nothing comes of the endeavour.
13 min: Ah, he’s taken a whack upside the head by the looks of it. A huge glob of Vaseline has been applied to one temple. He trudges gingerly to the touchline ... but then comes back on again, despite potential substitute Bidstrup having readied himself for action.
12 min: Onyeka is still down. He might have hurt his shoulder, it might be his neck, it might be the side of his head. Not clear. But it looks as though he’ll not be able to continue.
10 min: Onyeka is down getting treatment after running slap-bang into Loftus-Cheek, who is a big unit. That will feel like throwing yourself at a wall. He’s hurt his shoulder by the look of it. No blame can be attached to the Chelsea midfielder.
8 min: Kovacic’s shanked crossfield pass puts Chalobah under some unnecessary pressure, but the young defender holds firm with Mbeumo sniffing around. Both teams will be happy enough with their start, in their own separate ways.
6 min: ... so having said that, the game suddenly slows and gets a little scrappy. Many apologies.
4 min: Werner looks lively, though, and turns on the jets to win a corner down the right. Chilwell swings it in. Raya claims easily, and launches a counter, flinging the ball upfield to Mbeumo, who briefly threatens to burst into space. The door’s quickly shut, but this is a nice free-flowing start to the game.
3 min: Well, this is better, as Loftus-Cheek glides down the inside-left channel before slipping a pass inside for Werner, who can’t get the ball under control on the penalty spot. Raya is able to hack clear.
2 min: Now Azpilicueta miscontrols. A slightly scrappy start by the European champions.
14 sec: Chalobah heads back towards Mendy, and only just gets enough purchase on the ball. Mendy races out to clear with Toney sniffing around. If the young Chelsea defenders are nervous, that won’t help matters.
Chelsea kick off ... but only after everyone takes the knee. There’s no room for racism.
The teams are out! Brentford are in their red and white stripes, while Chelsea wear blue. Always lovely to see both teams kitted out in their first-choice clobber. We’ll be off once the coda to Hey Jude plays out.
Thomas Tuchel is quizzed about his young and inexperienced defence, and doesn’t seem too fussed, to tell the truth. “There are no easy games where you can test stuff, either you trust or you don’t trust. Malang was strong in the cup game, Andreas has played many games at the highest level, Trevoh was strong in every match we have played him. They have strong players around them. After the national break I like to have the players on the pitch for whom I have a feeling. We have a good bench.”
Thomas Frank speaks to Sky Sports: “The main message to my players is to be brave. Press aggressively forward, play tighter attack. There will be some times when we need 11 players defending our own box, but we need to be brave. I look at Chelsea and think that is a good side! And I am pretty sure Lukaku is paid more than our entire starting XI, so I think they have enough quality.”
It’s all been happening this afternoon. Liverpool won 5-0 at Watford to go top. Manchester City saw off a stubborn Burnley 2-0 to stay on their tail. Manchester United lost 4-2 at Leicester City, while Brighton could only draw 0-0 at Norwich. All of which means: Chelsea will go top if they win this match, while a victory for Brentford would take them into fourth spot. All very much to play for, then.
Brentford make one change to the side named for the 2-1 win at West Ham. Shandon Baptiste is injured, so Mathias Jensen takes his place in midfield.
Chelsea make three changes to the XI selected to start the 3-1 victory over Southampton. At the back, Andreas Christensen and Premier League debutant Malang Sarr replace the injured Antonio Rudiger and tired Thiago Silva, the latter having played for Brazil yesterday morning. N’Golo Kante meanwhile comes in for Callum Hudson-Odoi, who drops to the bench.
Brentford: Raya, Jorgensen, Jansson, Pinnock, Canos, Jensen, Norgaard, Onyeka, Henry, Mbeumo, Toney.
Subs: Thompson, Goode, Forss, Ghoddos, Ajer, Bidstrup, Roerslev, Fernandez, Maghoma.
Chelsea: Mendy, Chalobah, Christensen, Sarr, Azpilicueta, Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic, Chilwell, Werner, Lukaku.
Subs: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Jorginho, Saul, Barkley, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, James, Havertz.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Brentford and Chelsea live just five miles apart, give or take, but they don’t bump into each other very often. This will be only their 15th meeting in all competitions; they’ve had four FA Cup meetings in the last 71 years, and last met in the league in March 1947, when Chelsea beat the relegation-bound Bees 2-0 thanks to goals from Alex Machin and Johnny Paton. Brentford have waited patiently for payback, but now at long last this fixture has come around again. Can they add Chelsea to the list of big boys seriously inconvenienced at their Community Stadium, alongside Arsenal and Liverpool? We find out soon!
Kick off: 5.30pm BST.