Brentford beat West Ham to seal top-half finish
Brentford’s superb Premier League season continued as a comfortable win over an abject West Ham United secured their first top-half finish in the top flight since 1938.
The Bees, without 20-goal leading scorer Ivan Toney because of a hamstring injury, went ahead when Bryan Mbeumo swept under Lukasz Fabianski.
They won the ball back high in the West Ham half and worked an overload on the right wing for the Cameroon international to slot home his seventh goal of the season.
Thomas Frank’s side dominated throughout and deservedly doubled their lead just before half-time when Ben Mee flicked a long throw on for Yoane Wissa to head home.
The Bees have improved on last season’s 13th-place finish, having been promoted from the Championship in 2021.
Frank told BBC Match of the Day: “We’ve ticked off a top-half finish, which is an incredible achievement when everyone has spoken about second-season syndrome.”
West Ham made seven changes from their 1-0 win over Manchester United last weekend with eyes on Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final second leg against AZ Alkmaar.
Should they get through, it would be their first European final since 1976, offering the chance of their first major trophy since 1980.
While David Moyes’ side are not yet mathematically safe from relegation, they are far enough above the bottom three that the manager was willing to prioritise.
He introduced Declan Rice and Said Benrahma just before the hour mark and it did bring about an improvement with Danny Ings having a goal ruled out for handball in the build-up.
They remain 15th, six points clear of the relegation zone, while Brentford climb above Fulham into ninth.
Brentford continue to impress
When the teamsheet was released with Toney’s name missing, it raised the question of where Brentford’s goals would come – considering the forward had scored 20 of the 52 they had in the league at kick-off.
The Bees did not need to worry.
The biggest compliment you can give them is they looked a Premier League side – and a dangerous one – without the England international.
Frank will only be annoyed that his side failed to win by a more handsome margin.
Wissa was denied by a superb one-handed save in the first half, before Ben Mee’s follow-up was blocked on the line.
Mbeumo and Wissa both missed chances early in the second half, while the former also saw a powerful stoppage-time header saved, as they continued to overrun a lacklustre Hammers.
Brentford have now taken 34 points from a possible 54 at home this season and while Europe may now be out of their reach they have confirmed themselves as an established Premier League outfit – with a top-half finish guaranteed.
Frank added: “It was the most convincing 2-0 win I’ve seen a long, long time. We were completely dominant in all aspects. We should have scored at least two more goals.
“It is very promising to see that performance without Ivan Toney.”
Moyes gambles and West Ham fall flat
Before kick-off, Moyes said his selection was made with “one eye on Thursday” but added “it is about picking up points”.
His side never looked like picking up anything from this game.
They were sloppy in possession and showed a lack of energy, certainly until they went two goals behind.
Ings saw an effort saved moments the Hammers went two down, and they may well bemoan the decision to disallow his goal, with the ball hitting Divin Mubama’s hand after Benrahma’s cross hit the post.
It has been a frustrating campaign for West Ham but with another season of Premier League football practically guaranteed and a first major trophy in 43 years still available, it could turn into a successful one.
They may have to do both without Michail Antonio, who was absent with a calf injury, with Moyes saying “he couldn’t say much more than that”.
Talking to BBC Match of the Day, Moyes said: “We weren’t at our best. The first goal took the wind out of us. We’ve only got ourselves to blame.
“The players are goosed at the moment. I wanted to give some other players an opportunity to show and the players a chance to rest. It was always going to be needed at some stage along the line.”
Moyes added he was “incredibly surprised” Ings’ goal was ruled out, adding: “It is certainly not deliberate handball. I thought it hit his shoulder and I don’t think it is conclusive that it was handball.
“We’ve had some ridiculously bad decisions in recent games.”