Bryan Mbeumo scored on his first start since returning from coronavirus as in-form Brentford brushed aside Reading to move within two points of the Championship’s automatic promotion places.
The Frenchman, who missed Brentford’s first post-lockdown game at Fulham after a positive test, glanced home a first-half header for his 15th goal of the season to put the Bees ahead.
Josh Dasilva lashed home Brentford’s second midway through the second half after following up on Rafael Cabral’s save from his initial effort, before Joel Valencia added a stunning third from outside the box in added time.
Brentford were well worth their third straight win since football’s resumption – and a fourth in succession overall – that ramped up the pressure on the top two, particularly second-placed West Bromwich Albion.
The mid-table Royals’ only real chance fell to Michael Olise just before half-time, with his goalbound volley deflected over by well-positioned Bees defender Pontus Jansson.
Buzzing Bees hot on heels of wobbling West Brom
When Brentford kicked off the Championship’s restart with a lunchtime trip to Fulham on 20 June, all eyes were on the Bees’ London neighbours as the team likeliest to break into the top two.
But after stunning Scott Parker’s side that day with two late goals, Brentford then turned over Albion to arguably position themselves as the larger threat.
The Baggies will be fully aware that the Bees boast a significantly superior goal difference, a cushion stretched to 11 by these three goals at the Madejski and a fourth straight clean sheet.
If Slaven Bilic’s team fail to win at Sheffield Wednesday on Wednesday, Brentford would go second by beating Wigan on Saturday – deposing Albion from the top two for the first time since September.
‘BMW’ parts back together as Brentford purr through gears
Mbeumo’s bout of coronavirus meant Thomas Frank had been unable to start with his preferred ‘BMW’ front three – Said Benrahma, Mbeumo and 23-goal leading scorer Ollie Watkins – since football’s restart.
Back together for the first time, the trio tormented the Royals once Mbeumo nodded home from a cleverly-worked corner that Ethan Pinnock headed back after spinning free at the far post.
Brazilian keeper Rafael’s brilliance prevented a Reading side with little to play for losing by more, twice preventing Watkins from moving clear of Aleksandar Mitrovic as the division’s outright top scorer.
But he was beaten when static defenders allowed Dasilva to follow up the keeper’s parry from his initial shot and left helpless by substitute Valencia’s swerving thunderbolt from 20 yards late on.