Christian Eriksen completed his emotional return to football as he made his Brentford debut as a second-half substitute against Newcastle – but the visitors took the Premier League points with a 2-0 win.
The former Tottenham and Inter Milan midfielder received a huge ovation as he came off the bench in the 52nd minute, 259 days after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch during Denmark’s Euro 2020 match against Finland.
The 30-year-old was unable to prevent Brentford being dragged further into the relegation battle following a 2-0 defeat.
But the very fact Eriksen, who revealed he had “died for five minutes” at the Parken Stadion, stepped on the pitch at all was reason enough to celebrate.
Eriksen, who joined Brentford as a free agent in January, is the first Premier League footballer to play fitted with an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator.
There was a remarkable symmetry in the fact he came on as a substitute for Mathias Jensen, the Denmark team-mate who replaced Eriksen when he left the field stricken on that harrowing day in June last year.
Eriksen was quick to get involved with his usual neat touches and the occasional incisive pass, but unfortunately the situation into which he was introduced was never likely to produce a fairytale.
The Bees were already trailing 2-0 and down to 10 men when Thomas Frank sent on the man he described as “potentially the greatest ever signing for the club”.
Now Frank must focus his attention on ensuring Eriksen’s six-month stay in west London does not end in relegation.
Another Bees midfielder, Josh Dasilva, was making his first home start in almost exactly a year following injury.
But it lasted just 11 minutes after he attempted to shield the ball only to plant his foot halfway up Matt Targett’s shin.
VAR alerted referee Mike Dean to the incident and having watched the replays – which did not look good – on the pitchside monitor, the official showed Dasilva a straight red card.
The initiative was firmly with Newcastle and they took the lead in the 33rd minute through Joelinton, whose only previous goal this season came against Brentford in the reverse fixture, a 3-3 draw in Eddie Howe’s first game in charge.
Now flourishing in his new midfield role under Howe, the Brazilian arrived at the far post to powerfully head Ryan Fraser’s cross back across David Raya and into the net.
Joe Willock has hardly been prolific either; his equaliser at West Ham last week was his first goal of the season.
But the former Arsenal winger made it two goals in two games when he applied the finish to a bizarre goal which began with an overhit Jensen corner and ended with the Brentford midfielder as the last man as Fabian Schar raced forward, before feeding Willock to slot home.
Eriksen’s entrance may have lifted the crowd, but it was another tough afternoon for his new side, who fell to a seventh defeat in eight matches to slip below rising Newcastle and ever closer to the bottom three.