A hat-trick from Ivan Toney gave Brentford a vital win at 20th-placed Norwich as Christian Eriksen took another positive step in his remarkable recovery.
The Denmark international played the whole match for the Bees and had a hand in the first two goals, almost nine months on from his cardiac arrest during Euro 2020 last summer.
Eriksen’s corner helped set up Toney’s opener before a second set-piece forced a penalty early in the second half when Ben Gibson caught Pontus Jansson with a high foot. Gibson’s misery was compounded soon after when he committed another foul inside the area and Toney completed his treble.
Teemu Pukki hit a late consolation but the Brentford manager, Thomas Frank, got the better of the club’s former manager Dean Smith, who must feel that Norwich’s Premier League survival battle is almost over.
All eyes were on the team news at Carrow Road and confirmation soon came that Eriksen would make his first competitive start since 12 June, when he collapsed playing for Denmark against Finland.
A show of solidarity occurred before kick-off with placards held up to display Ukraine’s flag and the home fans should have been off their seats again two minutes later. Milot Rashica was sent through on goal but was denied by David Raya before the Chelsea loanee Billy Gilmour fired over the rebound.
Brentford regrouped with Eriksen heavily involved, setting up two chances for Bryan Mbeumo as the frantic nature of the battle between the two promoted sides calmed.
It was the hosts who appeared to have the momentum when Pukki saw a low shot saved by Raya with Josh Sargent off target on the turn moments later. But the visitors had their own chance soon after, with Tim Krul tested sufficiently for the first time just past the half-hour mark when Sergi Canós’s shot was tipped behind for a corner.
It gave Eriksen a chance to display his dead-ball prowess and the Brentford set-piece routine worked a treat to force the opener. Kristoffer Ajer flicked on Eriksen’s near-post corner and Toney was at the back post to volley home.
Norwich tried to hit back but the only other moment of note prior to the break saw Eriksen booked for a cynical foul on Brandon Williams that ended with the defender initially furious before the pair hugged laying on the floor. The incident highlighted the former Tottenham playmaker’s willingness to get stuck in and perhaps the hesitation of opponents to do the same on him.
After Norwich were booed off at half-time, they wanted a penalty early in the second half but Mbuemo’s coming together with Williams was deemed accidental.
Then the visitors won a spot-kick of their own. Eriksen’s corner was headed on by Jansson, who went down after Gibson caught him with a high boot. VAR told the referee, Anthony Taylor, who was the official at Parken Stadium last June, to use the pitchside monitor and eventually he pointed to the spot.
Toney calmly slotted into the bottom-left corner to double Brentford’s advantage in the 52nd minute and he was able to repeat the trick six minutes later. Gibson was again the guilty party, bringing down the forward and Toney fired into exactly the same spot to complete his hat-trick and score his 11th goal of the season.
VAR denied Norwich’s Rashica in the 67th minute and Mbeumo also suffered a similar fate, with both efforts ruled out for offside before Pukki did reduce the deficit with a stoppage-time volley.
It was Brentford’s day, though, with a first league win in nine attempts enough to move them six points clear of the relegation zone.