The Hammers certainly did not enjoy their first-ever visit to Brentford Community Stadium on a lack-lustre afternoon that saw any slim, lingering hopes of Champions League qualification evaporate.
David Moyes men conceded two goals after the interval, as busy Bryan Mbeumo followed up his goal in the Bees’ win at London Stadium in early October with another stinging strike just after the break before top scorer Ivan Toney cemented victory midway through the second period.
And with just six games left to play this dismal defeat surely leaves West Ham United now facing up to the reality that the path to continental competition next season can only lie in Europa League qualification or the yet more tricky route of lifting the trophy this time around.
Following Thursday’s determined, dogged draw against Olympique Lyonnais at London Stadium, Moyes made a trio of changes with Łukasz Fabiański, Vladimír Coufal and Manuel Lanzini replacing substitutes Alphonse Areola, Ryan Fredericks and former Bees’ favourite Saïd Benrahma.
But that Europa League quarter-final had clearly taken its toll and, on 10 minutes, an early indication of what was to come arrived when Fabianski was forced to race from goal to thwart Mbuemo after Aaron Cresswell’s cushioned-header looked set to sell his keeper slightly short.
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While the Hammers had been engaged in European action three days earlier, the buzzing Bees had spent the week wallowing in the satisfaction of last Saturday’s wonderful win at Chelsea.
Following that incredible away-day at Stamford Bridge, Thomas Frank made two changes from his side’s 4-1 victory over the Blues with Yoane Wissa and Zanka coming in for Pontus Jansson and substitute Mads Roerslev.
Despite kicking off in 15th spot – nine places and 18 points adrift of the Hammers – Brentford were predictably buoyed by that remarkable result as they continued to enjoy the better of the opening exchanges.
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Indeed, Mbeumo powered a 12-yard header into Fabiański’s gloves before Kurt Zouma’s ankle took the full force of a Christian Nørgaard tackle that left the home fans taunting the French defender with chants of ‘That’s how your cat feels!’
Then, midway through the half, the lively Mbeumo let fly with an angled 15-yarder that the flying Fabiański clawed around his near post and, when Christian Eriksen’s well-flighted corner was punched clear by the Hammers keeper the Bees striker fired the loose ball over the top.
At the other end, Tomáš Souček steered a header into Raya’s gloves before Zouma – still feeling the effects of that earlier tackle – hobbled away to be replaced by compatriot Issa Diop as the half-hour mark approached and, with Brentford still looking the most threatening, Eriksen then saw a low 15-yarder gathered by the busy Fabiański.
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The menacing Mbeumo hastily curled over as another home opportunity went begging before another Eriksen effort was saved and, while West Ham had comfortably passed the ball between themselves in the middle third, they just had not been able to find a way through to Michail Antonio, who – back to goal – had merely found himself dropping deeper and deeper for a taste of the action in a goalless first half.
Almost inevitably, it would be Mbuemo who would break the deadlock, though, and with West Ham still easing themselves into gear at the start of the second period, they were caught napping.
Kristoffer Ajer found Toney with a quick throw-in and with the Brentford striker then quickly slotting the ball into the area, Mbeumo got behind Dawson before drilling an angled eight-yarder across the face of the now helplessly-exposed Fabiański to claim his eighth goal of the season.
Summoned from the bench in place of Lanzini, Benrahma stepped into the action to applause from both sets of supporters but still Brentford remained on top as Fabiański sprinted from his goal-line to dive bravely into Wissa’s studs.
And midway through the second half, Wissa was in the thick of things again, playing in the overlapping Rico Henry, whose deep, left-wing cross was nudged back at the far post by Mbeumo and Toney rose highest to double the Bees’ lead with his 14th goal of the season.
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The frustration of the afternoon was all too much for Antonio, who was booked for tripping Henry within seconds of the restart and that would prove his final act as he immediately trudged away to be replaced by Nikola Vlašić.
Not satisfied with their two-goal lead, Brentford still pressed with the impressive walking miracle that is Eriksen testing Fabiański with a swerving 20-yarder that the Polish keeper did well to steer over the top, before Mbeumo somehow cleared the bar from just a couple of yards.
At the other end, Benrahma was denied in the act of shooting by Ethan Pinnock before Dawson repeated the feat in the Hammers box to deny Toney with a last-gasp tackle that left attacker, defender and Fabiański all laying prone on the west London turf.
Now, quite simply, it is the turn of the Hammers to dust themselves down and pick themselves up for Thursday night’s season-defining, cross-Channel sojourn to the Groupama Stadium for their crucial Europa League quarter-final second-leg tie in Lyon, where Moyes will be hoping that Zouma is fit enough to face his compatriots.
Brentford: Raya, Ajer (Roerslev 83), Henry, Zanka, Pinnock, Norgaard, Eriksen, Janelt, (Jensen 69), Wissa, Mbeumo (Canós 77), Toney. Unused subs: Fernández, Ghoddos, Jeanvier, Fosu-Henry, Baptiste, Sørensen.
West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Cresswell, Dawson, Zouma (Diop 29), Rice, Souček, Fornals, Lanzini (Benrahma 57), Bowen, Antonio (Vlašič 65). Unused subs: Areola, Yarmolenko, Fredericks, Masuaku, Johnson, Král.
Booked: Antonio (65).
Referee: Martin Atkinson.