With a broad smile on his face and a Southampton scarf in his hands, it is probably worth someone telling Dragan Solak, the Serbian billionaire behind the club’s recent takeover, that it is not always like this. Southampton swept past Brentford, scoring four goals here for the first time in more than four years in a win capped by the substitute Che Adams, after Jan Bednarek, Armando Broja and an unfortunate own goal by Álvaro Fernández helped the hosts into a comfortable lead. At the final whistle, as Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now blared over the speakers, Ralph Hasenhüttl put both thumbs up in the direction of the directors’ box.
The own goal, which pinballed off a post and in via the back of the Brentford goalkeeper’s hand, summed up a taxing night for the visitors. A rasping equaliser by Vitaly Janelt was nothing more than a footnote for Thomas Frank’s side, who succumbed to their heaviest defeat of the season. The timing could not be worse as their next game is Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
This marked the first home game of a new era, with Solak, adorning club colours – a red tie and white shirt, plus a scarf given to him by a supporter from the tier below – sitting alongside the Southampton chief executive, Martin Semmens. Since the takeover by Sport Republic, in which Solak is the main investor, the manager, Hasenhüttl, has talked up the benefits of the investment group’s plan to put Southampton at the heart of their multi-club empire, a model he is well-versed in from his two-year spell in charge of Red Bull Leipzig. Hasenhüttl said the arrival of Rasmus Ankersen, co-founder of Sport Republic and an integral part of Brentford’s rise through the divisions, brings welcome knowledge.
Solak, the founder of Serbia’s biggest telecoms and media provider, has a love for golf – he is a keen player and owns courses in Slovenia – but with five minutes gone here he appeared to have the football bug. James Ward-Prowse sent an inswinging corner into the box and Bednarek nipped in front of Ivan Toney at the front post to glance a header beyond Fernández. Solak, Semmens, and Henrik Kraft, the chairman of Sport Republic, rose to their feet in celebration. “They sa
For Frank, it will have been a particularly maddening goal to concede given the Brentford head coach had forewarned his team of Ward-Prowse’s prowess from set pieces, and, in the buildup to this game, even made a case that the Southampton captain may be second to only Lionel Messi as the best free-kick taker on the planet. Unsurprisingly, Frank referenced Ward-Prowse’s “top delivery” for the first goal.
Frank cut a frustrated figure on the sideline but his team replied in style. Bryan Mbeumo sped down the right, breaking clear of Mohammed Salisu, and stood up a cross towards the back post. Toney missed it but Janelt, lurking a few feet behind the striker, did not, scissoring across a bouncing ball with his left foot and emphatically smacking his shot into the bottom corner.
It was almost as if Ibrahima Diallo, one of three changes from Southampton’s extra-time victory at Swansea on Saturday, had been inspired by Janelt’s strike. When a corner was cleared to the edge of the box, Diallo sent a left-footed shot thudding towards goal that rattled a post and cannoned in off Fernández’s right glove. Frank could only chew on his gum that little bit faster.
Brentford could argue Southampton were a touch fortunate and Fernández unlucky but they only had themselves to blame when Broja extended the lead courtesy of a slick move. Oriol Romeu exposed a gaping hole in the Brentford back line with a defence-splitting pass and Broja slotted in, via a kind deflection from Fernández’s left boot.
Soon enough, Solak, Semmens and Kraft were rejoicing again in the stands. Diallo intervened to stem a Brentford attack, walloping long from deep and Adams got the ball under his spell with his first touch before dinking past a stranded Fernández with his next.
There was still time for arguably the moment of the match. Brentford switched the ball from right to left and just as Yoane Wissa looked primed to apply the finishing touch, Ward-Prowse charged in to rake the ball to safety.
“We cannot feel sorry for ourselves because there is a big, big task ahead of us on Sunday,” Frank said.
Source: The Guardian