How quickly things can change in football. Only 104 days since Jesse Marsch was revelling in the glory of a final-day escape in this corner of west London Ivan Toney ensured this was an afternoon to forget for the Leeds manager.
Toney’s brilliant hat-trick, comprising 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.
“I’ve got to figure out how to have discussion with the league to help understand how some decisions are made,” Marsch said. “But we didn’t defend well and we need to learn from these situations.”
It was all very different from when Jack Harrison’s injury-time goal saved Leeds from relegation on a nerve-shredding afternoon in May, with the all-action Toney offering Gareth Southgate, the England manager, a timely reminder of his qualities.
“He missed the last one so he still has room to improve,” said a joking Thomas Frank. “But off the top of my head there is not a better striker on form at the moment after Harry Kane. In my opinion he is the best penalty taker in the world – England have been in a few penalty shootouts so if they want to win one they had better pick him.”
Despite the obvious qualities of Toney, however, the 3-0 win over Chelsea a fortnight ago must already feel like a lifetime ago for Marsch after this lacklustre display. There was an air of inevitability about the result from the moment 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 then clattered from behind by Sinisterra. Robert Jones initially did not appear to make any sort of decision but a spot-kick was eventually awarded after advice from VAR for the latter indiscretion and Toney slotted home his 18th successful penalty from 18 attempts 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 Joe Gelhardt shot just wide after linking with Harrison, there was no stopping Toney’s pinpoint free-kick into the top corner after Shandon 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 on to 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 straight away, miscuing his first effort before being ruled offside when clean through on goal minutes later. Keane Lewis-Potter should 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 did not improve when he was sent to the stands when the referee waved away appeals for a penalty after Aaron Hickey appeared to drag back Crysencio Summerville on the edge of the area. “It was a worse foul than the penalty,” insisted Marsch.
Roca gave 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.
Marsch’s misery was completed when the substitute Wissa rounded off the scoring in injury time.