London: Brentford fuelled their ambition of playing European football with a 3-2 home victory over fellow hopefuls Fulham to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League to 12 games on Monday.
Ivan Toney’s second-half penalty and a late effort by Mathias Jensen sealed the points for ninth-placed Brentford against their west London rivals to edge them closer to the European qualification places.
Toney, who is facing FA charges and a possible ban after alleged breaches of gambling rules, coolly slotted his kick past Fulham keeper Bernd Leno in the 53rd minute after a clumsy foul by Issa Diop on Christian Norgaard.
Jensen then tapped in from a tight angle after a superb run and cut back by Kevin Schade in the 85th minute to kill of a below-par Fulham whose four-game unbeaten run came to an end.
Brentford had taken an early lead with a deflected shot by Ethan Pinnock but Fulham hit back shortly before halftime when Manor Solomon scored for the fourth successive league match.
Fulham’s Carlos Vinicius did grab a stoppage-time consolation with almost the last kick but Thomas Frank’s Brentford side are now unbeaten in the Premier League since October and have 38 points from 24 games, one point behind seventh-placed Fulham and four behind fifth-placed Liverpool.
“I think it is up for us to dream but stay laser focussed, recover well tomorrow and then train well,” Frank said of his side’s push for continental football next season.
Defending the longest unbeaten run in the top flight this season, Brentford flew at Fulham from the first whistle and Leno had already made two saves before Pinnock’s shot, which appeared to be going wide, struck Tim Ream and deflected into the corner.
The hosts were rampant and Bryan Mbeumo grazed the upright with a free kick before Toney also saw a free kick bounce back off the woodwork.
Fulham levelled in the 39th minute when another free kick hit the frame of the goal but this time Andreas Pereira’s superb effort bounced down for Israeli Solomon to nod home.
Marco Silva’s side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but once Toney had struck to maintain his 100% penalty conversion rate since joining Brentford -- he now has 22 from 22 -- there was only going to be one winner.
“He is the best penalty taker in the world for a few reasons, his strategy, he practises it and he is very cool. He keeps doing it all the same,” Frank said of his striker.
“He is a special footballer, I think his character is unique in terms of leadership and driving his team.” Brentford are one of only three clubs in Europe’s major leagues not to lose a game in 2023, the others being French club Reims and Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund.