Mendy Responds To Ballon D’Or Snub with a Statement at Brentford
Edouard Mendy had suppressed it for far too long.
And when he finally gave vent to it — a close-your-eyes-and-let-it-all-loose roar — nobody who had just watched the last 20 minutes or so of Chelsea’s eighth league game of the season, their fourth against a fellow London club, would have begrudged him that rather primal moment.
This, really, is what makes the Premier League the best in the world: the reality that Brentford — a club tasting a first season of top-flight football since the year the late Jerry John Rawlings was born — could have the reigning European champions helplessly on the ropes and pummeling them, albeit without quite hitting where it hurt.
Chelsea’s remarkable level of organisation under current boss Thomas Tuchel is usually enough to keep even the most relentless and pedigreed of opponents at bay — see the effort at Liverpool, six matchdays ago — and it certainly helped here, as Brentford poured forward in a bid to avoid only a second league loss of the season.
Ultimately, though, what maintained the value of Ben Chilwell’s goal — a third in as many games for club and country — and kept the swaying Blues from succumbing to the buzzing Bees was the bravery and brilliance of one man: Mendy.
The Senegalese made quite a few saves to keep the integrity of a heaving, chaotic Chelsea defence intact in those final minutes, but let’s distill the lot down to two that summarised all that Mendy is about.
The first came from Pontus Jansson — the centre-back, yes, which speaks volumes about just how little Brentford held back in trying to claw something from the game — as the Swede sought to squeeze in an equaliser from a tight angle.
Mendy stepped up in a bid to keep the ball out, and he did so quite effectively — only with, perhaps, that one part of his body he wouldn’t want getting in the way of a shot, especially one fired from such close range.
That ball to his face left him smarting, and left Chelsea contemplating the possibility of even having to bring on a replacement to see the game out, but Mendy brushed off the stinging blow to stay on the pitch — and in the thick of the action.
There was one last big save to make, from the foot of another Scandinavian. Christian Norgaard’s strike — a bicycle-kick — was much more spectacular than Jansson’s, and Mendy had to raise himself — literally — to that standard.
If the preceding attempt tested Mendy’s bravery, this one put the 29-year-old’s brilliance — his agility, specifically — on trial, but he acquitted himself very well.
Chelsea had a lot — and then some — to thank for this victory, Chilwell’s rocket aside; the woodwork intervened twice, Trevoh Chalobah’s goal-line clearance helped out on one occasion, and a collective doggedness did its bit in repelling the late swarm.
But Mendy’s singular excellence trumped all that, a fact not lost on anyone. Brentford manager Thomas Frank slapped Mendy’s palm harder post-match than he did any other Chelsea player’s. Teammate Romelu Lukaku, after another day of fruitless endeavour at the other end, hugged Mendy as though for dear life.
Then there was Antonio Rudiger: shut out of the matchday squad by a back problem picked up during the international break, but still very expressive on Twitter.
At the end of a week that has left many wondering if, indeed, there is any justice in the world — and, specifically, for the Black goalkeeper — over Mendy’s omission from the freshly released 30-man Ballon d’Or list of nominees, the European club game’s finest delivered the perfect riposte to his insulting, controversial exclusion.
Mendy has made his case since joining Chelsea last year, proving instrumental as they clinched UEFA Champions League glory. And if that statement hasn’t been deemed loud enough, well, this — the short trip to the Brentford Community Stadium, and the sterling shift he put in there — was quite an exclamation.