Chelsea came out 1-0 winners on our first-ever visit to the Brentford Community Stadium thanks to another goal by Ben Chilwell and some late heroics from Edouard Mendy.
The Blues were on top for much of the first half and even had the ball in the back of the net midway through, as Romelu Lukaku turned in Timo Werner's low cross at the end of a quick counter, just seconds after Brentford's Bryan Mbeumo had hit the post from close range, but the linesman raised his flag to rule out the Belgian's strike for offside.
We did make our dominance count right on the stroke of half-time, though, and it was that man Chilwell again who continued his streak of goals by firing an excellent half-volley into the top corner, adding to his strike for us last time out against Southampton and the one he got for England during the international break.
However, after the half-time break, Brentford started to come into the game as they pushed for an equaliser on home soil and, despite Lukaku sending a good chance over the bar, it was the Bees who had the best opportunities of the second half, especially during a late spell of heavy pressure.
Thankfully, the back three of Trevoh Chalobah, Andreas Christensen and debutant Malang Sarr stood strong through a barrage of corners and long throws into the box, Chalobah clearing one off the line, and on the few occasions Brentford got through, Mbeumo hit the post again and Mendy produced a series of good saves, the highlight coming in injury time as he tipped a spectacular bycicle kick over the crossbar.
Thomas Tuchel was forced to make changes at the back, with this game coming too soon for Thiago Silva following his late return from international duty with Brazil and Antonio Rudiger ruled out by an injury suffered with Germany during the break.
In their place, Andreas Christensen returned alongside Trevoh Chalobah, while Malang Sarr completed the back three to play his first game in the Premier League, as his only previous Blues appearance came in this season’s Carabao Cup win against Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge. Behind that trio, Edouard Mendy continued between the posts.
Tuchel opted for a three-man midfield, matching the system regularly used by our opponents, as N’Golo Kante returned to the side, in addition to Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek. On the flanks, captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Ben Chilwell also retained their places from the 3-1 win over Southampton.
That meant Timo Werner partnered Romelu Lukaku in a front two from the start at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Brentford made one change to the starting XI that won 2-1 at West Ham United in their last match two weeks ago, with Mathias Jensen replacing Shandon Baptiste in midfield.
The first west London derby between Chelsea and Brentford in the league since 1947, and our first-ever game at the Brentford Community Stadium, got under way at a fairly measured pace, with both teams fielding similar systems and probing for where the spaces would be.
There was a brief early scare in the opening minute when Chalobah’s header back to Mendy lacked power, but the goalkeeper was on his toes and quick out of the box to get there ahead of Brentford striker Bryan Mbeumo.
However, it was the Blues who enjoyed the early possession as expected, with Loftus-Cheek highly influential, as shown with one powerful run through the middle as he surged past two opponents on the ball before sliding a sideways pass to Werner on the edge of the box, but the German ran out of space as he tried to let it run onto his right foot for a shot.
We were starting to build some momentum, with Lukaku and Werner beginning to find space, when there was a lengthy pause in play as Brentford’s Frank Onyeka required treatment after a clash of heads with Loftus-Cheek, for which Chelsea were given a free-kick.
We picked up where we had left off when play restarted, though, with the trio of Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic and Kante in the middle gradually getting the better of their opponents and stamping their authority on the midfield.
The home side did start to come into the game a little more as the first half wore on, though, especially after Kovacic received the first booking of the match for bringing down Mbeumo on the right, and they gained a foothold through the resulting series of set-pieces.
The game then burst into life as both teams came inches away from opening the scoring in a matter of seconds. First one of those Brentford set-pieces ricocheted around the Chelsea penalty area before falling kindly for Mbeumo, but the striker could only hit the post from close range.
The loose ball was then picked up by Kovacic, who launched a quick counter by feeding it to Werner on the left. The German ran at Rico Henry and got the better of his man, creating space to drive a low cross towards the penalty spot. Lukaku was waiting and calmly turned it into the net under the body of goalkeeper David Raya, but the linesman’s flag was up and replays confirmed Lukaku had was in an offisde position, even if there was a hint he had been pushed into it by the Brentford defender.
That only seemed to encourage the Blues to push for the opening goal, though, and for a second it looked like Kovacic would be the one to score it, as his free-kick from a central position looped up off the wall and dropped onto the roof of the net just behind the crossbar with the goalkeeper beaten.
We were starting to increase the tempo by the last 10 minutes of the first half, resulting in Werner going close at the end of the best move of the game so far. It started with a clever one-two between Azpilicueta and Chalobah on the halfway line. The latter then found Chilwell with a high ball forward, and when the wing-back headed down to Lukaku the Belgian left it for his strike partner, but Werner's placed effort from just outside the box went narrowly wide of the top corner.
Brentford barely got out of their own half in those last 10 minutes before the break and we continued to exert pressure before finally finding the breakthrough right on the stroke of half-time. After a long spell of possession around the Brentford box, Azpilicueta chipped a cross towards the middle. Lukaku’s attempted volley was blocked, but as the ball bounced away from goal there was Chilwell to show great technique by rocketing a half-volley high into the back of the net. It was the second game in a row the wing-back had scored in for Chelsea, and his third goal in as many matches for club and country.
With the fourth official holding up his board to indicate two minutes of added time as the ball struck the back of the net, it was the perfect time to score and we were soon heading in for half-time with a 1-0 lead.
We didn’t look content with that narrow margin, though, and came out for the second half to impose the same level of control on the match with which we had ended the first. Kovacic had another go from range, but couldn’t keep it down, and Lukaku and Werner came a whisker away from combining well in the box.
However, before long, Brentford started to push forward themselves in search of an equaliser, as you would expect of a team in good form and playing in front of their home crowd. Now it was our turn to spend time in our own half and look to escape with quick counters.
The lively Ivan Toney was looking like the Bees’ biggest threat and the regular tussles between him and Chalobah were getting both sets of fans on their feet, and in one particularly dangerous moment the Blues defenders were thankful that Toney attempted a backheeled flick rather than shooting himself.
Tuchel clearly decided he needed some fresh legs in the middle to try and regain control, sending on Mason Mount for Kovacic in a straight swap, as the England international slotted into a midfield three rather than prompting a shift to a 3-4-3 formation.
It nearly had an instant impact as Mount combined well with Kante to feed the ball into the box, but Werner’s shot was blocked and Lukaku then fired the rebound over the bar. At the other end, Mendy had to stretch to deny Toney’s powerful effort after a long throw had been flicked on by Ethan Pinnock, and we had the woodwork to thank for keeping out Brentford again as for the second time in the game Mbeumo wasted a lucky break by scuffing a shot into the post from close range after fortunate ricochet.
There were some nervous moments to come as we held on to our slender lead in the closing stages, too, particular when Brentford substitute Marcus Forss combined with captain Pontus Jansson, but Mendy did well to smother the shot at the latter’s feet before Chalobah recovered to clear the rebound off the line.
The last piece of drama came late into added time at the end, as Brentford’s Christian Norgaard leaped to attempt a textbook bicycle kick which looked to be dipping just under the crossbar when Mendy threw himself with great agility to tip it over with his fingertips. That proved to be Brentford’s last chance of the game as we secured all three points, even if we had to endure some nervous moments at the end and had Mendy and the woodwork to thank for keeping our lead intact.
We return to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening to host Swedish side Malmo in the Champions League, with kick-off at 8pm, before Norwich City are the visitors to west London in the Premier League at 12.30pm next Saturday.
Chelsea (3-5-2): Mendy; Chalobah, Christensen, Sarr; Azpilicueta (c) (James 89), Kante, Loftus-Cheek, Kovacic (Mount 65), Chilwell; Werner, Lukaku (Havertz 77)
Unused subs: Kepa, Alonso, Barkley, Jorginho, Saul, Hudson-Odoi
Scorer: Chilwell 45
Booked: Kovacic 18
Brentford (3-5-2): Raya; Zanka, Pinnock, Jansson (c); Canos (Ghoddos 72), Jensen, Norgaard, Onyeka (Forss 67), Henry; Mbeumo, Toney
Unused subs: Fernandez, Thompson, Goode, Ajer, Bidstrup, Roerslev, Maghoma
Booked: Canos 32
Referee: Anthony Taylor