If you like delays then this match had them all. First there was a serious clash of heads that caused two Brentford players to be substituted with suspected concussions, before play was stopped again during the first half for more than 15 minutes after officials spotted an “unofficial drone” circling overhead.
One day after Watford’s game with Norwich was delayed by floodlight problems, a police helicopter patrolled the skies throughout the second half to ensure the drone did not return as Rúben Neves sealed a fourth victory in five league games for a rapidly improving Wolves.
There were certainly no such incidents the last time Brentford hosted Wolves in the top flight more than 70 years ago, with that campaign ending in relegation despite their 4-1 victory in 1947 at Griffin Park. Sitting comfortably in mid-table and seemingly within reach of safety in their first experience of the Premier League, Thomas Frank’s side must have seen this as a great opportunity to take another giant step towards their ultimate goal, but they have now suffered four straight defeats. To compound matters, Frank was shown a yellow and then a red card after the final whistle for confronting the referee, Peter Bankes. “It just wasn’t our day,” said Frank, who revealed he is close to agreeing a contract extension until 2025.
Wolves, who were without the injured Raúl Jiménez and brought on the potentially Tottenham-bound Adama Traoré for the last 15 minutes, have emerged as surprise contenders for the top six thanks to some impressive performances: they came into this game having conceded only one goal in five matches since losing to Manchester City last month. After a slow start here they made the most of their opportunities following the repeated delays and were deserved winners despite being pegged back after taking the lead through João Moutinho.
“It was a very hard situation with all the delays,” said the Wolves manager, Bruno Lage. “But I think we did very well in the second half and we showed personality to play our game.”
Brentford had looked the more dangerous team until the wind was somewhat taken out of their sails after 20 minutes, when a nasty clash of heads between Rico Henry and Mathias Jensen led to a long delay.
Their replacements had been on the pitch for less than three minutes when play was stopped again, although this time it was due to the drone loitering overhead. The stadium announcer confirmed that the players would have to leave the pitch due to Premier League rules – “don’t blame us, blame the drone” – and it was more than a quarter of an hour before they re-emerged.
Yet aside from a couple of half-chances for Wolves there was not much else to raise the temperature on a cold west London afternoon and, a full 71 minutes after it had kicked off, the first half finally came to an end. It seemed like a bad joke when play was once more delayed at the start of the second period while Bankes adjusted his equipment in the tunnel, with Lage and Frank at least able to see the funny side as they waited patiently on the touchline.
Play finally resumed at just after 4.30pm and it did not take long for Wolves to find the breakthrough thanks to a masterful strike from Moutinho . The Portugal midfielder play a one-two with Nélson Semedo before curling home with the outside of his boot from inside the area.
The hosts thought they could have had a penalty when Ivan Toney was clattered by José Sá after a free-kick, with replays suggesting Fábio Silva may have nudged the Brentford forward. Both sets of fans had reason to feel aggrieved when Bankes initially showed a red card to Toti Gomes for his foul on Vitaly Janelt before being asked to consult VAR and overturning his decision. But the home supporters’ disappointment turned to glee immediately when Toney slammed home Bryan Mbeumo’s free-kick on the volley to equalise.
Their joy was shortlived, however, as Wolves kept the ball alive after another attack by the impressive Semedo and Neves was given too much time to pick his spot and seal another crucial victory.