Last weekend, Yoane Wissa emerged from the bench and equalised against Liverpool within four minutes. It took the man from the Democratic Republic of Congo double the length of time to hurt West Ham, but a winner with the game’s final action was a stunning outcome when his team appeared content with a point.
Wissa rammed in the rebound after Lukasz Fabianski had parried Pontus Jansson’s header; Brentford, scintillating early on and deservedly in front at half-time through Bryan Mbeumo, had ground their way through the second half but when Jarrod Bowen equalised 10 minutes from the end a draw seemed fair. West Ham ultimately paid for a largely subdued display and saw their visitors leapfrog them into seventh place.
If Brentford were disrupted by losing two ever-presents from such a mightily impressive start to the campaign before kick-off, they did not let it show. The centre-back Kristoffer Ajer had been ruled out with a hamstring problem ahead of their arrival and then Vitaly Janelt, another goalscorer in the swashbuckling draw with Liverpool, sustained a thigh problem in the warm-up. Nonetheless, they were by far the brighter early on and served warning of what would follow with three near misses in the first 10 minutes.
The first two opportunities fell to Mbeumo, who was unlucky when his first-time strike from 18 yards clipped the angle of post and bar with proceedings barely 90 seconds old. Shortly afterwards he got between Angelo Ogbonna and Aaron Cresswell, but nodded Rico Henry’s cross wide from an inviting position.
West Ham could barely get out, Mbeumo and Ivan Toney setting a formidable tempo from the front. After another half-cleared set piece, Toney latched on to Ethan Pinnock’s header and tested Fabianski with a volley. The breakthrough finally came just when it appeared the hosts had steadied, Kurt Zouma heading into the side netting and Michail Antonio leading a couple of threatening raids.
Toney’s reputation as a goalscorer precedes him but here he clipped a gorgeous first-time pass into the path of Sergio Canós from inside the centre-circle. Canós, a right wing-back, had made a dart through the middle and drilled low across Fabianski, seeing the keeper tip his effort away. Mbeumo, sliding in at an angle, was first to the loose ball and managed to convert by a whisker. Fabianski had recovered admirably to scoop clear but, as goalline technology proved, did so a fraction too late.
The rest of West Ham’s first half amounted to huff and puff. Only four of their starters had begun Thursday’s win over Rapid Vienna, so fatigue could not be cited with conviction. Another piece of Brentford misfortune played into their hands when Shandon Baptiste, a buzzing presence in midfield, departed before the half-hour with what appeared to be an arm injury.
But they created little until Said Benrahma, hitherto subdued against his former employers, had two cracks at goal before half-time. The second flew narrowly wide of David Raya’s left post; West Ham would leave the field feeling aggrieved that Peter Bankes did not deem a Christian Norgaard challenge on Antonio worthy of a penalty, but in truth they needed to produce far more.
Benrahma, his appetite whetted, almost managed to score within five minutes of the restart but saw Raya get fingertips on to a 25-yard free-kick. Brentford’s fluency of the opening 20 minutes was by now a thing of the past, but their capacity to scrap was proving inconvenient in its own way. Raya’s propensity to take time over goalkicks attracted particular attention from the home support.
The danger for Thomas Frank’s side was that, as the hour mark passed, the traffic was flowing exclusively their way. Raya thwarted Bowen from an angle and then should have been beaten by the forward, who flashed a header well wide from Vladimir Coufal’s delivery. Coufal then drew another stop from Raya with a volley after Henry had blocked from Pablo Fornals.
West Ham were getting closer but time was still ebbing away. Moyes betrayed that feeling when wrestling Mathias Jørgensen to the ball in order to expedite a throw-in, causing a brief flare-up. In a rare Brentford raid, another perceptive Toney pass allowed the substitute Mathias Jensen a cross-shot that deflected wide.
The hosts’ momentum appeared to have flagged but then Bowen gave them life. His first goal since April, half-volleyed inside the near post after Pinnock’s clearance from a corner had fallen to him, was beautifully struck and not before time. Brentford might have been keener to look at things from Raya’s perspective, given an offside Antonio had been standing in his line of sight. But then Wissa struck from nowhere and rendered any such argument irrelevant.