Brentford reached the semi-final of a major tournament for the first time with a fully deserved victory over Premier League side Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup.
Thomas Frank’s in-form Championship side came into this quarter-final on the back of a 13-match unbeaten run and missed a host of good chances before man of the match Josh Dasilva put them in front with a crisp, left-foot volley after 66 minutes.
It was the breakthrough the Bees merited as they dominated, with Saman Ghoddos hitting the bar and Sergi Canos heading wide with the goal at his mercy in the first half.
Callum Wilson threatened briefly for visitors Newcastle but all the urgency and progressive football came from Brentford, who made six changes from their weekend win over Reading, including leaving the second tier’s top scorer Ivan Toney on the bench against his former club.
🍻🍷 A message from Thomas to all of you!
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) December 22, 2020
Brentford show class once more
In the surroundings of their new Brentford Community Stadium, Frank and his players demonstrated how well they have rebuilt from the bitter pain of defeat by Fulham in the Championship play-off final and the loss of key players.
Last season’s main striker, Ollie Watkins, and attacking creator, Said Benrahma, have left for Aston Villa and West Ham United respectively, but Frank still has a progressive, attractive side.
This game could have been over in the first half had Brentford taken those opportunities, but it was no more than they deserved when Dasilva finally broke the deadlock.
The Bees are back in the top four in the Championship, three points off the automatic promotion places, and are shaping up once more as serious promotion candidates.
And this was all achieved with a much-changed team. Frank insisted before Tuesday’s game that, despite the changes, Brentford had the quality and inspiration to win and no-one can begrudge them a historic victory.
Newcastle embarrassed on grim night
Newcastle’s players made for the sanctuary of the dressing room very quickly at the end of a grim night that is sure to bring a storm of criticism down on the head of manager Steve Bruce and his players.
They got the kinder end of the quarter-final draw by avoiding the Premier League big guns, even though this was still a difficult assignment against a very good Championship side.
🗣 Christian Nørgaard: “We’ve achieved something big today”
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) December 22, 2020
Newcastle did not even come close to taking advantage.
Yes, the Magpies suffered with a Covid-19 outbreak in their camp recently but there can be no excuses for the lack of drive, ideas and quality served up in west London on Tuesday.
Newcastle laboured throughout and were reduced to the desperate ploy of launching long balls towards substitute Andy Carroll in the closing stages while their opponents still carved out chances for lively substitute Toney with smart passing football.
Bruce has struggled to win over the Toon Army despite some respectable league placings, but this result and performance will go down terribly on Tyneside – a glorious opportunity squandered with a performance devoid of energy and inspiration.
This was a very, very bad night for Bruce and Newcastle.
‘We’ve missed a big opportunity’ – what they said
Brentford boss Frank to Sky Sports: “It means a lot to me, the staff and the players because it’s a massive step and a massive win.
“We want to be a part of creating a totally new history for Brentford, so that makes me proud. But I’m even more proud of the way we played today. We deserved to win the game and we played against a strong side, so I must praise the boys out there.
“One of their strikers up front cost more than our front three, so we knew they could put one in the back of the net at the end of the game – but we saw it through and we won.”
Newcastle manager Bruce, also to Sky Sports: “Unfortunately, we haven’t done enough, so we have to accept what is coming our way and get ready for what is a huge challenge ahead of us in the Premier League.
“I can’t hide my disappointment because we’ve had a great opportunity to get into a first semi-final in many years. I’m bitterly disappointed and very, very frustrated.
“I stand by what I said when I walked in the door – I picked the team I thought was going be good enough to win the match. Unfortunately, Brentford played very, very well on the night.”
Brentford make history – the stats
Brentford have reached the semi-final of a major domestic cup competition (FA Cup/League Cup) for the first time, on their fifth attempt.
Only Arsenal (13), Norwich City, Southampton and Tottenham (all nine) have suffered more League Cup quarter-final eliminations than Newcastle (eight).
Before this season, Brentford had knocked out top-flight opponents in just two of their 22 League Cup ties – but the Bees have beaten twice as many in 2020-21’s competition alone.
Newcastle boss Bruce has now lost five of his six quarter-finals as a manager, including both in charge of the Magpies, having also been beaten by Manchester City in last season’s FA Cup.
Since the start of last season, 10 of Dasilva’s 14 Brentford goals have come in home matches.
Brentford, fourth in the Championship, continue their push for promotion with a trip to Cardiff City on Saturday (15:00 GMT kick-off).
The same day, Newcastle return to Premier League action with a visit to Manchester City (20:00).