By Paul Lagan at Brentford Community Stadium
Brentford 0 v Chelsea 1
If Brentford had a kitchen sink, they would have put a shirt on it and thrown it at Chelsea. But in all likelihood, Edouard Mendy would have caught it, re-plumbed it, turned the tap on and made a cup of tea.
This was one of those man-of-the-match performances that will live long in the memory of the capacity crowd at the Brentford Community Stadium, that saw Chelsea come away with all three points in a 1-0 win.
If the first half was a see-saw affair which the visitors just edged thanks to a 44th minute wonder strike by Ben Chilwell, then the second half was all about Brentford versus Mendy.
Okay the rest of the Chelsea back five had their place in the rearguard action, but Mendy simply saved the champions of Europe and propelled them back to the top of the Premier league with a quite astonishing performance.
Both sides created a quick chance for each other within the opening couple of minutes – both times the respective goalkeepers were alert to snuff them out.
Brentford conceded a number of fouls, stopping any Chelsea smooth build-up play.
Frank Onyeka needed five minutes of treatment after he collided with the massive frame of Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
On a quick counter-attack, Bryan Mbeumo went on a long, right wing run, chased by Mateo Kovacic.
Inevitably Mateo was late with a challenge and went straight into Anthony Taylor’s little black book.
Following a period of pressure, Chelsea were lucky to escape conceding on 21 minutes when Mbeumo’s left-footed strike rebounded off Mendy’s right post.
Chelsea quickly broke with Timo Werner raced clear on the left. He cut the ball across to Romulu Lukaku who tucked the ball home, but he had travelled inches offside and the goal was disallowed.
A wickedly deflected Ben Chilwell free-kick on 27 minutes dipped late and smashed on top of David Raya’s goal as the see-saw match continued.
Sergi Canos was next in Taylor’s book, this time fo dissent when Loftus-Cheek was upended, on 32 minutes.
Werner a top German international failed to get a shot on target on 37 minutes when he was set up perfectly on the edge of the Brentford penalty area. But he screwed his effort well wide of Raya.
On the stroke of half-time, the visitors took the lead.
A patient build-up around the Bees penalty area eventually saw the ball bounce off Lukaku in the six-yard box, and Chilwell, poised like a predatory cat, pounced with a venomous strike that arrowed past the hapless Raya.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
The raucous Bees fans lifted the spirit of the home side and, after absorbing an early period of pressure, took control of the ball and the tempo of the game.
The Blues showed composure and grit to clear their lines as Brentford pushed them back to the edge of their penalty area.
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel decided to replace Kovacic with Mason Mount on 65 minutes in an attempt to regain possession of the ball – it failed.
Thomas Frank responded by replacing Onyeka with Marcus Forss.
Lukaku can be happy that the linesman flagged for offside on 70 minutes as the Belgium striker skied a sitter from close range.
In an attempt to force the pace even more Frank brought on Saman Ghoddos for Canos on 72 minutes.
Mendy then started his one-man show, thwarted Ivan Toney seconds later as the Bees edged closer to parity.
Chelsea’s woodwork came to their rescue again on 74 minutes when Mbeumo struck Mendy’s left upright. Again the ball bounced clear.
Kai Havertz then entered the fray, replacing Lukaku on 77 minutes.
Mendy produced a wonderful block to foiled Ghoddos and then Chalobah cleared the ball off the goal line as Brentford pulverised the Chelsea rearguard.
Mendy was at it again as a goal-bound thunderbolt by Pontus Janssen hit the stopper straight in the face.
Reece James came on for the final four minutes, replacing Cesar Azpilicueta.
Incredibly Mendy still had time to produce the save of the match deep into added time when he finger-tipped over a bicycle kick by Christian Norgaard.
Chelsea clung on for the points, but the plaudits go to the Bees.
Teams: Brentford, Raya, Henry, Pinnock, Norgaard, Canos, Jensen, Onyeka, Toney, Janssen, Mbeumo, Zanka
Subs: Fernandez, Thompson, Goode, Forss, Ghoddos, Ajmer, Bidstrup, Roerslev, Maghoma
Chelsea: mendy, Christensen, Kante, Kovacic, Lukaku, Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, Chilwell, Azpilicueta, Sarr
Subs: Kepa, Alonso, Jorginho, Saul, Barkley, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, James, Havertz
Referee: Anthony Taylor