Chelsea sunk to yet another dispiriting home defeat as Brentford inflicted a fifth consecutive loss on Frank Lampard with a 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
The visitors led through Cesar Azpilicueta’s first-half own goal when substitute Bryan Mbeumo ran half the length of the pitch, unchallenged by anybody in blue, to slam home and condemn the hosts to a sixth winless game in a row on this ground.
The numbers are worthy of the crisis in which Chelsea find themselves. The team have scored one goal in their last seven games, and are winless in eight.
If, as expected, Mauricio Pochettino is confirmed as permanent successor to Graham Potter by the time they play Arsenal next Tuesday, the club will have had four different managers since their last victory.
Such have Chelsea’s ambitions receded that a top-half finish in the Premier League from this point would rank as a success, but even that abridged, constricted dream appears vanishingly unlikely after this.
Brentford did not need to be spectacular, merely to wait patiently whilst Chelsea passed the ball about aimlessly in front of them, then take their only two chances of the match when they came.
Chelsea began sluggishly and only got worse. Ben Chilwell drew perhaps the only ripple of anticipation from around Stamford Bridge during the first half with a powerful burst down the left, taking the ball on after a clever first-time pass from Conor Gallagher.
His low cross was intercepted, and the only sniff of attacking intent from either side inside the first 20 minutes evaporated without threat.
Brentford had not won in six games, Chelsea not in seven, and so it was not a surprise to find both teams short on ideas of how to break the other down.
N’Golo Kante, again playing in an advanced midfield role alongside Gallagher, appeared on the right touchline as Chelsea sought a way through, bending over an inviting cross.
Up from the back and free inside the box was Thiago Silva, but his header into the ground lacked power, finding only the gloves of David Raya.
The first genuine test for the Brentford goalkeeper came on the half-hour mark, Kante controlling the ball inside the box from Wesley Fofana’s cut-back and laying it off for Enzo Fernandez. The World Cup-winner, still in search of his first goal since his record-breaking move to Stamford Bridge, shot too close to Raya who tipped it behind.
Azpilicueta had not played since being knocked unconscious during the win here against Leeds at the start of March, and so it was cruel on the Chelsea captain that it was off his shin that Brentford took the lead.
Mathias Jensen’s corner got a flick from Mathias Jorgensen, and Azpilicueta knew little about it as the ball deflected off him and bounced past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Not for the first time this season, Chelsea were booed off at the break. It will not be the last if performances continue in this vein.
Lampard’s predicament was encapsulated by the sight of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, frozen out under successive managers, emerging from the bench for the second half, and his introduction seemed to inject signs of life into Chelsea’s attack, a goalscorer at last amidst its ranks.
Kante went as close as anybody for the home side when he flashed a shot inches wide from an angle just after the restart, before Aubameyang showed good footwork to make space for a strike that was straight at Raya.
The striker looked desperate to make up for all those months lost sitting on the bench, if he made the squad at all. When Raheem Sterling nodded a far-post cross back across goal, his moment looked to have arrived, but as the goalkeeper flapped, Aubameyang’s header flew into the air and down onto the roof of the net.
Then the killer blow. Mbeumo was barely inside the Chelsea half when he picked up the ball, and hardly challenged as he advanced upfield and into the box. A limp leg dangled in his path by Fofana did little to impede his march, and Mbeumo crashed it left-footed inside the near post to bury Chelsea.
‘West London is ours’ sang the jubilant away support as their home counterparts streamed for the exit. The end of this wretched season cannot come quickly enough.