Brentford 0 Newcastle United 2
- Mike Dean
First-half goals from Joelinton and Joe Willock gave Newcastle United a fourth victory in their last five Premier League matches and saw them climb to 14th in the Premier League table.
Josh Dasilva's early red card for Brentford was undoubtedly a key moment in the match but the Magpies made their numerical advantage count in impressive style and, but for some fine saves from home goalkeeper David Raya, would have won far more convincingly.
But while the 1,700 travelling Newcastle fans were celebrating at the full time whistle, Christian Eriksen's return to action eight months after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch while playing for Denmark at Euro 2020 also provided something for Brentford supporters and the whole of football to smile about.
United had started well when, in the 11th minute, a Ryan Fraser cross was parried away by Raya and as Brentford cleared their lines, Dasilva left Matt Targett in a heap on the edge of the box. Replays showed that the Bees man's tackle was high and reckless, and after VAR intervened, referee Mike Dean checked the monitor and showed a straight red card to the former Arsenal youngster.
The resulting free kick from Jonjo Shelvey was held comfortably by Raya, who became increasingly busy as the first half wore on. After Chris Wood headed wide from a Targett cross, the New Zealand international was denied by a superb save from the Spanish goalkeeper in the 26th minute following an inch-perfect Fraser cross, then Raya parried away an effort from Targett.
But there was nothing he could do to prevent Joelinton from opening the scoring in the 33rd minute. Fraser sent over another inviting delivery from the left and Joelinton stole a march on Kristoffer Ajer to send a powerful header into the net before running virtually the length of the field to celebrate in front of the Magpies supporters.
Raya made another good save four minutes later, keeping out a left-footed drive from Fraser, then he thwarted the luckless Wood once more after Jacob Murphy had headed Fraser's latest centre back across goal.
In the 40th minute, Shelvey fired just over from outside the box but on the stroke of half time, Willock made it 2-0 with his second goal in two games.
A Brentford corner was cleared and Fabian Schär, suddenly the furthest Newcastle player forward, harried Rico Henry, managing to nick the ball and advance into the Bees half before slipping in the onrushing Willock to finish with aplomb - his barren goalscoring start to the campaign now looking like a distant memory.
There was still time for Raya to make another fine save, this time from Schär, before the break, and the Swiss defender then headed over from Targett's corner at the beginning of the second half.
Brentford introduced Eriksen in the 52nd minute, to warm applause from both sets of supporters and players, and Thomas Frank's side subsequently enjoyed their best spell of the game, with the Dane heavily involved in most of their best passages of play. However, other than a long-range shot from Christian Nørgaard which went just over the bar, they had little to show for their endeavour in terms of opportunities and indeed it was United who nearly scored again when Targett brought another save out of Raya before substitute Bruno Guimarães saw his follow-up blocked.
Entering the fray in the 64th minute, Guimarães was given his longest run-out so far following his January arrival from Lyon and was clearly eager to impress, with some lovely touches and a shot in the 85th minute which flew just wide of the target.
A Shelvey free kick was beaten away by Raya and the goalkeeper also kept out a Miguel Almirón effort in stoppage time.
With seconds left on the block, Martin Dúbravka produced an important save of his own to deny Vitaly Janelt but that was the only time his third clean sheet in the last five matches ever really looked under threat as United - bottom of Premier League after Eddie Howe's first game in charge, against Brentford in November - ended the day in their highest league position of the season so far.