Chelsea suffered a first home league defeat since September as an eventful second half at Stamford Bridge saw visitors Brentford score four times to secure a long-awaited win in SW6.
The Bees’ last victory at the Bridge came six months before the start of the Second World War and so this provided a significant shot in the arm for their hopes of retaining Premier League status, while for the Blues it proved our heaviest loss since a 5-2 home reverse to West Brom almost a year ago to the day.
The first period was tentative and quiet, even if Brentford did have the best of the play and threatened occasionally through Ivan Toney. Edouard Mendy pulled off one impressive save down low to his right, while David Raya in the opposite goal had to be similarly alert when pushing over a Hakim Ziyech effort late in the half.
Yet it was after the break that this game burst into life, initiated by the most unlikeliest of long-range goals scored by Antonio Rudiger, the German’s strike whistling past Raya and in off the post.
That was followed by a similarly incomprehensible turnaround as Brentford scored three in the next 13 minutes. Vitaly Janelt got two of those either side of Christian Eriksen’s smart close-range finish and the damage was compounded moments before the end when substitute Yoan Wissa made it 4-1 by capitalising on mistakes in the Blues box.
The result leaves Thomas Tuchel’s side eight points clear of fifth place in the Premier League but brings our 17-game unbeaten home run to a crushing end.
Tuchel made four changes from our previous outing prior to the international break, a 2-0 FA Cup win at Middlesbrough. Marcos Alonso, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and N’Golo Kante were the returning quartet, with the latter making his 250th appearance for the Blues.
The German duo were joined in attack by Ziyech, while Mason Mount and Ruben Loftus-Cheek continued in midfield alongside Kante. Meanwhile, Alonso replaced Malang Sarr in an otherwise unchanged defence.
For Brentford, there were two changes as Eriksen and Mads Roerslev came in, while top scorer Toney continued up top following seven goals in his past six Premier League matches.
Flying start for Bees
This was a first Stamford Bridge league meeting between the two west London sides in 75 years and the Bees started like a team desperate to make up for lost time in the capital sunshine.
Eriksen had a sighter within the opening moments of kick-off from a free-kick but couldn’t get the ball to dip quickly enough, though it was a sign of the visitors beginning on the front foot.
Striker Toney has been prolific in recent weeks since his return from injury and the man currently seventh in the league’s scoring charts had three decent opportunities in the first 10 minutes.
The first of those was gifted following a misplaced Edouard Mendy pass out from the back, the forward attempting to chip our African champion but not quite mastering the execution. It was a chance that followed Brentford breaking forward quickly from a Chelsea corner, with both Havertz and Werner sprinting back to make interventions in our box.
Mendy was tested more severely moments later as Toney cut inside from the left and unleashed a low strike towards the bottom corner, forcing our Senegalese stopper into a smart save down low. An aerial chance also went begging when Toney headed off-target from Rico Henry’s left-sided delivery.
It took until midway through the first half for the Blues to awaken from their sleepy start. Mount proved to be the chief protagonist, collecting a pass from just outside the box but curling an attempt high and wide.
Nevertheless, it was a moment that proved a spark for the hosts and Loftus-Cheek was next to have a try after half an hour, driving forward in his typical fashion from halfway into the Brentford half. Ushered onto his left, the midfielder advanced into a shooting position and eventually took fire but could only hit it straight at Raya, the Bees keeper.
Tuchel’s side were aiming to extend a six-game winning sequence but needed more intensity and speed to their approach play. Kante soon provided some invention and incision, clipping a neat pass forward to find Mount’s run, though the dropping ball made it a difficult chance for our number 19 and his volley was comfortable for Raya to claim.
At least the man between the posts for Brentford was being put to sterner work as the half progressed, a week on from making his debut for the Spanish national team, although a customary strike from distance by Rudiger provided little concern before his best save of the half came to thwart Ziyech.
Mount was pestering and plotting again, foiled in trying to find Werner but more successful in teeing up the Moroccan on his potent left foot. The strike was well-hit but matched by an even better save as Raya’s fingertips diverted it over.
If the first half had been a slow-burning affair, the second saw pondering replaced by pandemonium as three goals were scored within 10 minutes of the restart. The first was a barely believable Rudiger strike from comfortably over 35 yards out that left Stamford Bridge both impressed and incredulous in equal measure.
The German’s long-range efforts have been a regular feature for the Blues this campaign but rarely make a lasting impression. However, this one was special, a sweet shot that whistled through the air and left Raya grasping in vain as it flew past him and into the back of the net via the inside of the post.
Rudiger’s celebrations reflected the sense of surprise in the stadium as he sprinted to the touchline and embraced Tuchel, though our joy proved shortlived as the Bees hit back with a double sting of their own.
Bees hit back
Bryan Mbeumo almost levelled instantly but could only scuff a shot into the ground and then the grateful gloves of Mendy. However, that went down as an unheeded warning and Mendy was soon beaten by Janelt, who finished a slick move with a tidy left-footed finish rifled into the top corner.
All of a sudden, the game was wide open and Havertz soon teed up a chance for Werner, whose low drive was blocked well by Kristoffer Ajer. Down the other end went Brentford and continued the mad resumption by making it 2-1 as Eriksen fired high into the roof of the net from close range, with Mbeumo once again acting as provider.
It was the first time we had conceded two in the league since Liverpool’s draw at the Bridge in early January but Thomas Frank’s plucky visitors somehow found a way to extend their lead seven minutes later. Germany Under-21 international Janelt was the scorer again, latching on to the end of a slick move and finishing high above the desperate grasp of the onrushing Mendy.
Not our day
Tuchel responded with changes from the bench, introducing Reece James, Mateo Kovacic and Romelu Lukaku in quick succession, but it was Havertz who still looked most likely to pull us back into the contest.
The 22-year-old had the ball in the back of the net but saw it quickly ruled out for handball following a deep set-piece delivery. Replays did indeed suggest the ball had struck the forward’s arm, even if it was clearly unintentional. He then almost punished a slow clearance from Raya with some quick closing down, the ball rebounding dangerously but dropping just wide.
Perhaps his best opportunity came soon after from a chance fashioned by Loftus-Cheek and Kovacic, the latter sliding a neat pass into the German’s path, though a flicked finish trickled agonisingly wide of the far post and with that seemingly went Chelsea’s chances of instigating an unlikely comeback.
Brentford added a gloss to the scoreline to secure their biggest-ever win against the Blues when substitute Wissa netted just two minutes after coming on, capitalising on a moment of confusion as both Thiago Silva and Rudiger attempted to clear the same ball. It fell nicely for the Congo international and he smashed the ball back beyond Mendy.
The run-in picks up pace next week with the first leg of our Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid, which takes place on Wednesday night at the Bridge, before we head to Southampton in the league three days later.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Mendy; Azpilicueta (c), Thiago Silva, Rudiger, Alonso (James 56); Kante (Kovacic 65), Loftus-Cheek, Mount; Ziyech, Havertz, Werner (Lukaku 65)Unused subs Kepa, Christensen, Sarr, Jorginho, Saul, BarkleyScorer Rudiger 48
Brentford (3-4-1-2) Raya; Ajer, Jansson (c), Pinnock; Roerslev, Norgaard, Janelt (Jensen 81), Henry (Canos 88); Eriksen; Mbeumo (Wissa 85), ToneyUnused subs Fernandez, Bech Sorensen, Zanka, Baptiste, Fosu-Henry, GhoddosScorers Janelt 50, 61; Eriksen 54; Wissa 87
Referee Andrew MadleyCrowd 39,061