Two steps back, one to the left, a deep breathe, a stride forward and firmly pass into the bottom corner. And repeat. Is there a better penalty-taker in the country than Ivan Toney?
Two identical spot-kicks in five minutes against so-called penalty-saving specialist Tim Krul completed a hat-trick and earned Brentford their biggest three points of the season.
This is a player who had not scored or even started a game since he was filmed, admittedly with little context, saying ‘f*** Brentford’ at the end of January.
Ivan Toney secured Brentford their first Premier League win since January 2 away at Norwich
But after making it 16 goals from 16 penalties taken for Brentford, and a hat-trick that earned his side their first win after nine matches without one, all is forgiven. And then some.
Forgiveness probably came much earlier. He popped up unmarked at the back post to open the scoring in the first-half and performed a phenomenal knee-slide along the dewy surface towards the delirious away fans.
‘We are staying up,’ they sang then, followed by ‘you’re going down’. That chant was always going to be sung in this match but the team singing it was unclear.
Indeed, the phrase ‘six-pointer’ had seldom been more relevant. Both teams were in torrid form and this was a chance for three season-defining points which would, in turn, condemn the other side to yet another loss.
So it was the Brentford travelling fans in full voice. Staying up? Work to be done, sure, but this was a momentous day for Thomas Frank’s side that had won just one league game in 2022.
Toney opened the scoring for the visitors inside 32 minutes at Carrow Road on Saturday
The striker then tucked away two penalties in the second half to seal a comfortable win
It was a superb afternoon for Toney and Thomas Frank’s side on the whole in Norfolk
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
NORWICH (4-2-3-1): Krul 5; Byram 4, Hanley 5, Gibson 3.5, Williams 4 (Aarons 81); Normann 5 (Lees-Melou 81), Gilmour 4 (Rowe 76); Sargent 5, McLean 5, Rashica 6; Pukki 4.
Subs not used: Gunn, Zimmermann, Dowell, Placheta, Sorensen, Giannoulis.
Booked: Gibson, Hanley.
Manager: Dean Smith 6.
BRENTFORD (4-5-1): Raya 7; Ajer 7.5 (Roerslev 75, 6), Jansson 7.5, Pinnock 7, Henry 7; Mbeumo 7.5, Norgaard 7 (Onyeka 59, 6.5), Janelt 7.5, Eriksen 8.5, Canos 7.5 (Wissa 82); Toney 9.
Subs not used: Lossl, Jensen, Ghoddos, Zanka, Baptiste, Bech Sorensen.
Booked: Ajer, Eriksen, Jansson, Roerslev, Mbeumo.
Manager: Thomas Frank 6.
Referee: Anthony Taylor 6.
And it was the full house of disgruntled home fans in an anxious, agitated and apoplectic mood. Going down? There’s plenty of football to be played but, rock bottom with five straight losses, Dean Smith’s side are in desperate need.
With the relegation dog-fight as the overarching theme to the day, this match was pockmarked with plenty more fascinating sub-plots.
Christian Eriksen made his first start since his cardiac arrest in June. The referee in Copenhagen that day was the same as at Carrow Road here, Anthony Taylor.
He was one of many whose fast and decisive actions helped save Eriksen’s life that day. And, worlds away from June’s events, Taylor’s decisions might just help save Brentford’s season.
Two penalties – the first after a look at the VAR monitor – settled this game which, at 1-0, was very tight.
Norwich were the superior team for most of the first half and forced David Raya into a string of early saves. Milot Rashica came the closest after just two minutes but was denied.
Do you ever fancy any Norwich player to score other than Teemu Pukki? Whenever they got into scoring positions, they seemed to lack confidence.
One could probably say the same about Toney and Brentford, though he was clinical here. He opened the scoring after 32 minutes and, from there, the Canaries’ attack was blunted.
Eriksen had been magnificent and completed 90 minutes. He operated slightly deeper than we are accustomed to, spraying passes around from deep like an NFL quarter-back.
Toney has now scored six goals in 22 Premier League outings for Brentford this season
Christian Eriksen also made his first start since collapsing at Euro 2020 last year for the Bees
There was a time when he tangled with Norwich full-back Brandon Williams, whose immediate reaction was to confront Eriksen for the foul. Williams grabbed the Dane and looked furious, then realised who it was, and gave him a cuddle. Smiles all round.
Eriksen helped set-up the first goal, though he won’t get the assist. He floated in a corner, Kristoffer Ajer got a flick on and Toney fired home. Poor marking. It all fell apart from there for Smith’s side.
Early in the second half, Pontus Jansson went for a header and was kicked in the face – unintentionally – by Ben Gibson. The away fans and players barely appealed for a penalty but, after a lengthy VAR delay, Taylor pointed to the spot.
Krul tried to rally the home fans behind the goal. The Dutchman wrote in the Daily Mail earlier this week about how penalty-takers are getting better. Spot on. Toney slotted hard and firm into the bottom-left corner for 2-0.
Teemu Pukki netted in stoppage time for Norwich but it was too little too late for them
The Canaries, who haven’t won since January 21, are still staring relegation directly in the face
Dean Smith’s side are five points adrift of safety having played two games more than Everton
Would he change his strategy when Gibson gave away a second penalty five minutes later? When you’ve scored 15 of 15 penalties since signing for Brentford, why would you?
So he stepped up again and confidently made it 3-0. Same corner, same run-up – or walk-up, some might say – and his record soon became 16 from 16.
Rashica thought he’d pulled one back for Norwich but it was ruled offside, while Bryan Mbeumo also saw one chalked off at the other end.
Pukki did score a goal but by then, Carrow Road was half-empty. Their team is rock-bottom. For Brentford, this was a seismic three points in their bid for safety.