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  • By Yann Tear at Brentford Community Stadium

Brentford ride wave of unbridled emotion to make huge statement on their historic night


Brentford (1) 2 Canos 22, Norgaard 73

Arsenal (0) 0

Well, how special was that?

Brentford will have many great days and nights in the months ahead, but they will do well to match the sheer visceral emotion and joy of this opening day triumph.

A Friday night, under the lights against one of the Premier League's historical powerhouses. A deserved win. A lap-of-honour salute to an adoring crowd at the end to the strains of Hey Jude (of course). It doesn’t come much better than this.

How fortunate it now seems that the Bees lost that play-off final to Fulham just over a year ago. Imagine if the fans had missed out on this. After watching promotion from afar during the pandemic, being there in person to witness this was something extraordinary. The attendance was 16,479 but it felt like so many more.

To Sergi Canos went the honour of scoring the club’s first goal back in the top division for 74 years. A moment that no-one at a raucous Brentford Community Stadium will ever forget.

Christian Norgaard nodded in from close range in the second half to seal the deal. As statement wins go, it takes some beating.

It may have been a nervy occasion but it hardly felt it by the end. It felt almost easy, such was the ease with which a scurrying and hounding Brentford side kept the sorry Gunners at arm’s length.

Several times Thomas Frank turned to fans behind them and exhorted them to raise the roof. But he didn’t need to. The players ensured they would do that without prompting.

The possession was all Arsenal’s early on, but the comfortable, easy-on-the-eye passing carried little threat. Instead, it was the Bees who stole a march.

After Frank Onyeka – who along with Norwegian defender Kristoffer Ajer was making his competitive debut - had lopped a header onto the roof of the net, the first really big chance fell Brentford’s way.

Ivan Toney’s clever flick out wide gave Bryan Mbeumo the sniff of a chance in the inside right channel and the Frenchman rattled a shot against the outside of the near post.

If that got the crowd going, just wait for what happened 10 minutes later. Arsenal cleared feebly from their own goal-line and Ethan Pinnock cushioned a head down for Canos on the right edge of the area. A simple cut inside Calum Chambers and drilled shot beat Bernd Leno at his near post.

Cue pandemonium. It was pure ecstasy for the delirious home fans. ‘Top of the League, we’re top of the league’ crowed the fans. Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was cruelly, if predictably, informed he’d be sacked in the morning.

It was the first goal in the top flight since Len Townsend scored at Sunderland in the penultimate match of the 1946-47 season. A mere 27,110 days ago.

Mbeumo could and should have doubled the lead on the half hour when he wriggled around Arsenal’s £50m defender Ben White, but dragged his shot wide, with the goal at his mercy.

After the break, Kieren Tierney almost scored with a deflected shot but the Bees were on the attack soon after, with Canos stinging the palms of Leno, before the keeper had to get down low to deny Mbeumo again.

The latter chance, created by Vitaly Janelt on the edge of the area, was another one that was just begging to be put away. You wondered if it might be costly. It wasn’t.

Not long after, a simple second effectively wrapped up the points, Norgaard getting on the end of a long throw-in from the left by Mads Bech Sorensen – who had only just come on. Arsenal’s bedraggled defence failed to clear when it was hurled to the near post and it flicked on to the lurking Dane.

Leno flapped at a corner as Brentford almost made it 3-0. By the end it was impossible to tell which was the newcomer and which the established Premier League outfit, although Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal’s best player, forced David Raya into a fine late save.

So what to make of Arsenal? It has not been a bundle of laughs for Arteta in recent weeks. Two defeats in warm-up matches against Chelsea and Spurs followed by illness to his two main strikers, who were absent for this opener.

They have White on the books to notionally help shore up an unconvincing defence, but have not altered the look much from last season when they failed to qualify for European football for the first time in a quarter of a century.

They looked even more forlorn without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang or Alex Lacazette in the side and this looks like being another painful season for the north Londoners, even if they have obvious talents to bank on in Emile Smith Rowe, Tierney and Bukayo Saka.

It won’t be long before the pressure mounts if they continue to look as powder-puff as they did here.

Bees (3-5-2): Raya – Ajer (Sorensen 70), Jansson, Pinnock – Canos, Onyeka (Bidstrup 80), Norgaard, Janelt, Henry – Mbeumo (Forss 86), Toney. Subs not used: Gunnarsson, Goode, Wissa, Ghoddos, Dervisoglu, Roerslev

Gunners (4-2-3-1): Leno – Chambers (Tavares 82), White, Mari, Tierney – Sambi Lokonga, Xhaka – Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli (Nelson 71) – Balogun (Saka 59). Subs not used: Hein, Bellerin, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Soares, Elneny

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