Swansea City impressed as the Championship resumed as a powerful display at the Riverside earned them a 3-0 win over a poor Middlesbrough.
Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster scored twice in the opening 30 minutes and Andre Ayew added a penalty as the Swans tore into the hosts.
Aldo Kalulu’s wild lunge earned a yellow card on the stroke of half-time with the Swans lucky it was not red.
Middlesbrough were more competitive after the break but Swansea held firm.
Steve Cooper’s side, who started the season so well, looked buoyed by the long break and utterly dominated the first half at the Riverside.
They hit the woodwork twice before they opened the scoring, with Kalulu clipping the post after racing clear from George Friend’s slip after only six minutes.
They were even closer when Conor Gallagher headed Ayew’s cross across goal on 15 minutes, but Brewster could only hit the post from an acute angle.
Ayew was causing Jonathan Woodgate’s side all sorts of problems and his powerful run produced the opener on 18 minutes as he picked out a perfect cross for Brewster, who slotted home through the legs of goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic.
That lead was doubled three minutes later as Brewster volleyed into the net via the ground after Kalulu’s cross, a fine finish to complete a sweeping Swans attack.
Steve Cooper’s side were rampant and when Friend clipped Gallagher in the box on 32 minutes, Ayew calmly dispatched the penalty to make it 3-0 and cap a brilliant individual display.
A superb first half performance by the Swans was only tarnished by Kalulu’s wild, head-high lunge on Hayden Coulson, which saw him receive just a yellow card, though it could easily have been red.
Friend headed wide for the hosts, but they looked second best and it was no surprise that Woodgate opted to make a double change at the break, introducing Patrick Roberts and Djed Spence for Ryan Shotton and Adam Clayton.
The second half was a far more even contest of few chances, with the home substitutes impressing, but Swansea were easily able to hold firm and set a marker down to the other sides chasing a Championship play-off berth.
They almost added a fourth in injury time, but George Byers’ effort from 25-yards crashed back off the post with subs Jordan Garrick and Bersant Celina just unable to turn home the rebound.
Meanwhile, Late goals from Said Benrahma and Emiliano Marcondes saw Brentford upstage promotion rivals Fulham as the Championship made its return after a 104-day hiatus.
For a match played behind closed doors, confirmation that 14-goal Bees forward Bryan Mbeumo was forced to miss the game after testing positive for coronavirus only added to the strangeness of the occasion.
While it was a game robbed of atmosphere, the ghostly echo of every kick and shout off the terraces at Craven Cottage did nothing to detract from the quality of two sides with Premier League ambitions.
Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid went closest to opening the scoring in a first-half of high endeavour from both sides, with the forward slamming a shot against the woodwork after meeting a neat pass from Harrison Reed on the edge of the area.
Benrahma’s close range finish in the 88th minute and substitute Marcondes’ effort in injury time after setting up the opener, moves the fourth-placed Bees to within a point of third-placed Fulham, whose hopes of automatic promotion took a late blow.
Second-placed West Bromwich Albion have the chance of moving nine points clear of Whites when they host Birmingham City at the Hawthorns.
As has been done in all matches in England since the restart of football this week, the game was used as a platform for both powerful statements and special tributes.
Before kick-off there was a round of applause for National Health Service workers and those on the front line dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
Then in unison, all players took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
With 20-year-old Mbeumo self-isolating after his positive test for Covid-19 which was only confirmed before kick-off, Brentford were unable to field their ‘BMW’ strike partnership, meaning January signing Tariqe Fosu slotted in alongside Said Benrahma and Bees top scorer Ollie Watkins.
Despite the blow, Thomas Frank’s side started brightly, pressed high and quickly carved out the first chance of the day – Josh Dasilva working Marek Rodak from 25 yards despite slipping as he struck the ball.
Fulham responded with the Championship’s leading scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic calling David Raya into action with a tame close-range header moments later.
Soon after, Decordova-Reid hit the angle of post and bar with a fierce shot before Anthony Knockaert curled an effort from outside the box narrowly wide.
It took a fine save from Rodak at his near post to keep Fosu out on the half-hour mark as the Bees finished the first half with flurry of chances – the first of which Watkins sent over the bar with a header before while Christian Norgaard had a shot deflected just wide.
Mitrovic had the ball in the back of the net for Fulham early in the second half, but the goal was quickly disallowed as the Serbian’s enthusiasm to find space behind Brentford’s defence saw him drift well offside.
While he seemed to lack the sharpness that saw him score 24 Championship goals before the pandemic-enforced break, Mitrovic’s glanced header from a Joe Bryan cross to force Raya into a reflex save was proof of his threat.
The introduction of Marcondes off the bench with 20 minutes remaining proved decisive, with the forward’s low cross for Benrahma setting up the victory before his composure on the break sealed a crucial three points.