How quickly things can change in football. It has been only 104 days since Jesse Marsch was revelling in the glory of a final-day escape in this corner of west London but, this time, Ivan Toney ensured that this was an afternoon to forget for the Leeds manager.
Toney’s brilliant hat-trick that comprised a penalty, a superb free-kick and an audacious chip blew Leeds away before Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa wrapped up the points despite consolation goals from Luis Sinisterra and Marc Roca. To compound Marsch’s frustration, the American was also sent to the stands for protesting as he watched his side fall to an embarrassing defeat.
It was all very different from when Jack Harrison’s injury-time goal saved Leeds from relegation on a nerve-shredding afternoon back in May, with the all-action Toney offering Gareth Southgate a timely reminder of his qualities.
In the absence of the injured Rodrigo and following the departure of Dan James to Fulham, Marsch handed Joe Gelhardt the opportunity to lead the attack for the visitors while Cody Drameh made his first start of the season at right-back. Meanwhile, Thomas Frank restored former Leeds captain Pontus Jansson to Brentford’s defence and saw an early effort from Mathias Jensen whistle just past the post. After that, Toney took control .
Brentford had a case to be awarded two penalties when a long throw caused chaos in their box midway through the first half. The ball first appeared to strike Pascal Struijk’s arm before falling to Toney, who was clattered from behind by Sinisterra, although referee Robert Jones initially did not appear to make any sort of decision. A spot-kick was eventually awarded by VAR for the latter indiscretion and Toney slotted home his 18th penalty in a row since joining from Peterborough two years ago.
Mbeumo then created Toney’s second opportunity of the afternoon that Illan Meslier did well to stop with his legs. But while the Leeds fans almost had something to celebrate when Gelhardt shot just wide after linking up with Harrison, there was no stopping Toney’s pinpoint free-kick into the top corner after Sheldon Baptiste was fouled by Robin Koch on the edge of the area.
Leeds responded by going close when Ben Mee was lucky not to turn the ball into his own net from Harrison’s cross before Sinisterra made up for his earlier indiscretion by latching onto the Brentford defender’s mistake to pull one back on the stroke of half-time.
Harrison was replaced by Patrick Bamford at the break and the Leeds striker was into the thick of the action straightaway, miscuing his first effort before being ruled offside when clean through on goal minutes later. Keane Lewis-Potter should then have restored the hosts’ two-goal cushion after a lovely headed combination between Mbeumo and Toney before the latter rounded off his afternoon in style.
Diego Llorente’s error meant Meslier had no option but to rush out of goal but Toney still had plenty of work to do before chipping over the stranded Koch. Marsch’s mood certainly did not improve when he was sent to the stands for protesting when the referee waved away appeals for a penalty after Aaron Hickey appeared to drag back substitute Crysencio Summerville on the edge of the area.
There was still time for Roca to give Leeds a glimmer of hope when he bundled home but that was extinguished immediately when Mbeumo’s goal was given after a long consultation, with VAR deciding Toney had not touched the ball in the buildup. And Marsch’s misery was completed when substitute Wissa rounded off the scoring in stoppage time.