Edouard Mendy’s stunning string of saves ensured Chelsea climbed back to the top of the Premier League with Ben Chilwell’s strike sealing a nervy 1-0 win at luckless Brentford.
England full-back Chilwell’s second league goal in as many games pushed Chelsea back ahead of Liverpool in the standings – but Senegal stopper Mendy’s inspired showing secured the points.
Bryan Mbeumo twice hit the post for Thomas Frank’s ever-impressive Bees, before Mendy conjured at least four last-ditch saves.
The former Rennes keeper thwarted Saman Ghoddos, Ivan Toney and Pontus Jansson – before denying Christian Norgaard from the Dane’s acrobatic overhead kick.
Norgaard saw an effort cleared off the line by Trevoh Chalobah too, as Chelsea refused to break despite some desperate defending.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek continued his much-merited resurgence with another powerful midfield performance, while Malang Sarr conjured an assured Premier League debut under intense pressure.
Loftus-Cheek has finally clawed back full fitness and confidence after a nasty torn Achilles tendon in May 2019.
Chelsea missed the commanding defensive duo of injured Antonio Rudiger and Thiago Silva, unavailable after Brazil duty, but Sarr did just enough to plug the gap.
Club-record signing Romelu Lukaku’s goal drought stretched to six matches in a Chelsea shirt, but the £98million man still led from the front with attitude and endeavour.
His fledgling strike partnership with Timo Werner will require time to develop on this evidence however, and Lukaku was unlucky to be the man substituted ahead of his German team-mate late on.
Chelsea’s continued experiment with 3-5-2 came up short again in a staccato first half, where the visitors struggled to break down the Bees.
Thomas Tuchel’s latest tactical ruse of pushing Mateo Kovacic and N’Golo Kante into wider areas failed to pay dividend.
Brentford spent much of the half comfortable, prompting their cheeky supporters to volley Chelsea’s way: “Champions of Europe, you’re having a laugh”.
Brentford have already proved themselves no Premier League joke, and the Bees nearly stole into the lead.
Mbeumo hit the woodwork with Mendy for once beaten, so nearly capping a fluent home move with what would have proved another hugely impressive goal.
Finally Chelsea started to settle, and to find Werner in space on the left flank. But even when the forward created havoc and looked to have laid on the opener, Lukaku found himself offside when tapping into the empty net.
Chelsea’s creeping dominance eventually told though, when Chilwell punished a poor Brentford clearance.
The Bees failed to clear a hanging cross with Lukaku making a nuisance of himself in the area, and the Blues’ England left-back thundered home the opening goal.
Three in three for club and country! 💪@BenChilwell 👏
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) October 16, 2021
Chilwell’s sweet finish again underscored his fine technical striking of the ball, allowing Chelsea to head into the changing rooms 1-0 ahead.
Chelsea returned with far greater fluidity and purpose after the break, as the upsides of Tuchel’s system started to gain traction.
The Blues’ dominance disappeared on the hour however, with more calibration problems allowing the hosts back into the clash.
Lukaku provided a key clearing header, and then Mendy palmed away a stinging effort from Bees danger man Toney.
Mbeumo hit the post again as Frank’s emboldened men continued to press, before Mendy saved Chelsea with another fine save to thwart Ghoddos.
Chalobah even had to clear Norgaard’s effort off the line in a six-yard box melee as the Blues hung by a thread to their lead.
Boy oh boy, what a performance from Mendy.
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) October 16, 2021
Pontus Jansson’s bullet effort struck Mendy square in the face as the Senegal stopper somehow denied Brentford again.
Mendy pressed on undeterred – and even found time to palm away Norgaard’s goal-bound overhead strike right at the last.