LONDON :England striker Ivan Toney scored 19 minutes into his comeback from an eight month ban for betting offences as Brentford ended a five match losing streak with a 3-2 home win against Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Saturday.
The 27-year-old ‘Big Dog’, handed the captain’s armband and welcomed back to considerable fanfare, opened his account for the season with a stunning free kick bent to the right around the defensive wall.
Television replays showed he had twice moved the ball from its original placing, however, without the referee being alerted and without the Forest players reacting.
“I think you have a yard either way. I just moved it and bent it around the corner,” he told Sky Sports television after the match.
The equaliser lightened the mood, after Brazilian midfielder Danilo hushed the crowd in the third minute with a stunning half-volley straight past goalkeeper Mark Flekken, and Brentford began to click and the game came alight.
Toney, his club’s top scorer last season with 20 goals in 30 league appearances, was barred from all football last July for 232 breaches of the betting rules.
His return after 259 days, ironically in a shirt sponsored by a betting company, could not come soon enough for the Bees faithful who had suffered as their side went winless in eight matches.
“It means a lot. I’m just buzzing to be back, scoring goals for the team,” he said.
“I manifest things like this. Before I left my house, I thought, ‘we’re winning today and I’m scoring’.
“I’m grateful to be back. I missed it so much. I’m back.”
Brentford, who moved up to 14th and six points clear of the drop zone with Forest dropping to 16th, went 2-1 ahead in the 58th when Ben Mee headed powerfully in off Mathias Jensen’s corner but Forest hit back through Chris Wood in the 65th.
The jubilant away fans had only minutes to celebrate as Neal Maupay then rifled a shot into the bottom corner in the 68th with the goal standing after a VAR review for potential handball.
Remarkably, Toney’s goal was his first since he scored an equaliser against Forest in the corresponding fixture in April last year.
He celebrated by running to the bench and raising a shirt with the words ‘For you, Uncle Brian’ written on it.
Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo said his team played well, with fighting spirit, and would return to Nottingham with their heads held high but he questioned Toney’s goal, and the ball being moved, as well as Maupay’s winner.
“The law is clear. Every situation, every goal must be checked and every situation that leads to a goal must be checked,” he told reporters.
“I don’t know if they didn’t check or not.”
Brentford manager Thomas Frank hailed Toney for scoring a “clever goal” and said he had not been aware of any movement at the time.
“It means a lot for the confidence of the team,” he said of the win, recognising that Toney’s contribution had been crucial to it.
“He set the stage of course. I must say classic Ivan,” he said. “He loves the big stage, he thrives there.
“It’s extra impressive to come back being out for eight months and then play the way he did. Scoring a goal, a clever goal, his link-up play, his hold-up play, his presence, his work ethic, defending set pieces. Super, super impressive.”