BRENTFORD 0 BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION 1

BRENTFORD 0 BRIGHTON AND HOVE ALBION 1

It had to happen sometime, but few among the Brentford faithful expected it to be delivered by a Brighton side as polished as the front room sideboard but with more perspiration than inspiration. We’re talking of course about the Bees’ loss of their slender unbeaten record – three Premier League games and a Carabao Cup challenge by Division Two’s Forest Green. Okay, it wasn’t much, but for followers of a fledging side in the upper echelons of English football it was serving us nicely, thank you very much.

What with a suspension of business to accommodate the pre-World Cup international requirements, a recap is perhaps in order. A season-opening win over Arsenal was followed by a hard-fought 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace, then the cup-tie at home to Forest Green, when after conceding a first-half-goal the Bees scored three times to ease into the third-round draw, more of which later.

Forest Green, then cruising in or near the top of Division Two, were dismissed by goals from substitute Bryan Mbeumo – more of him later, too – Marcus Forss  and new signing Yoane Wissa, a Congolese attacking midfielder of speed and determination. Peculiarly, there will be no more of Wissa for the time being as he has languished on the bench ever since.

Photograph by Liz Vercoe

Brentford’s final outing before the international break was to Aston Villa, to where Dean Smith and Ollie Watkins, Bees’ head coach and striker respectively, have been transplanted with some success. Ollie was unfit to play and it was another front-man, Bees’ record goalscorer Ivan Toney, who stamped his authority on the game with a seventh-minute goal that was negated six minutes later by a Villa equaliser. One win and two draws were enough to keep Brentford lurking near the top of the League and all was well with the world.

Until Brighton came to call. With Shandon Baptiste replacing Samon Ghoddos in the starting line-up, Brentford went off at a ferocious pace. Brighton, in sky blue kit to match large patches of the sky, scampered after them and soon were matching Brentford’s energy, too. A splendid game developed, a pleasure to watch as the Bees created chances to score and Brighton didn’t.

But the failure to capitalise on those chances began to irk before the interval. Mbeumo shot high then even higher before unleashing a fierce raking effort that sped wide of the far post. High and wide but not at all handsome from a player who contributes more with every match, yet in the department of putting the ball in the net has a scoring touch that has gone missing more infuriatingly than a pet cat.

Brighton employed two substitutes in the second half, having the best of the end-to-end play that developed. Thomas Frank introduced a trio of of his own for the home side without any noticeable improvement. Tony remained a danger without getting a good enough service from midfield and looked increasingly fed up as the game progressed.

Photographs by Liz Vercoe

The Brighton crowd, in good voice throughout, began to taunt the home supporters, greeting the award of a free kick against the Bees with: ‘You dirty northern bastards’. Brighton were winning the witticism contest, too.

Neal Maupay, an admired up-front player when at Brentford, shot wide and at the final whistle appeared to be in a skirmish with Toney. Players milled around and referee Graham Scott, a meticulous man especially when it came to throw-ins being taken exactly where the ball had crossed the line, seemed perplexed

If this goes on, we’ll concede a goal, I had earlier told my mate Charlie. And so they did, neatly exactly on the full-time mark, when sub Alexis MacAllister fed Leandro Trossard – a constant irritant to the home defence and arguably the best player on the pitch – who made space and curled a swerving drive beyond David Raya.

Brentford: Raya, Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock, Canos, Baptiste, Norgaard, Janelt, Henry, Mbeumo, Toney. Substitutes used: Roerslev, Jensen, Onyeka.

Brighton: Sanchez, Webster, Duffy, Dunk, Veltman, Lallana, Bissouma, Cucurella, Trossard, Maupay, Welbeck. Subs used: MacAllister, March.

This report first appeared in chiswickcalendar.co.uk 

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BRENTFORD 2 ARSENAL 0

BRENTFORD 2 ARSENAL 0

This was no flash in the pan, no riding of luck by new boys of the Premier League. Here we saw the dismantling of one of the most famous teams in football by a side offering a total of less than an hour at this level; a club that arrived at the summit after 74 years of varying fortunes and myriad disappointments. 

What a team, what a squad this is. And what an army of supporters, christening the Premier League debut at their state-of-the-art new stadium with full-throated support but also standing after 28 minutes in tribute to late technical director Rob Rowan, who died suddenly at the age of 28, and then repeating the exercise in respecting Arsenal’s sub Bukayo Saka, who suffered appalling online abuse after missing a penalty for England in the Euro final earlier in the year. 

The preparation for this occasion had seen emotions flooding the two challenging friendly fixtures at the Community Stadium. 

Although losing 0-1 to West Ham – fittingly, the Hammers’ goal was crafted and scored by Said Benrahma, a star Bee and crowd favourite until transferred at the beginning of last season – Brentford looked sharp and hungry. Then came Spanish visitors Valencia, a match I watched on TV in Spain that left confident Valencians shaking their heads as Ethan Pinnock and new signing Frank Onyeka each scored to cancel out an earlier Valencia goal and give Brentford a 2-1 victory.

Back in West London, as the days ticked by towards the first Premier League game of the season – an occasion to be further heightened by full TV coverage – anticipation and optimism grew. There was magic abroad in the air. 

And so to the big event and the atmosphere, which appeared to have been transported unaltered along Kew Bridge Road from Griffin Park. Only the locale had changed, now resembling pre-match like a major movie location. 

Media crews scuttled here and there. The pitch sprinklers sprinkled prettily. Peter Gilham – Mr Brentford – stood close to the edge of the centre line, presumably pondering on how his introduction of the teams could make history. The west end collectively cleared its throat and the decibel count soared.

Five minutes to go and Hey Jude reached a crescendo. The words of head coach Thomas Franks’ address on the big video screens were drowned out. So was Peter Gilham’s welcoming of the teams, except for the familiar bellow of the word BRENTFORD, which flirted with the crowd noise and could just about be made out by those with an acute sense of hearing.

Both teams fielded the selected starting line-up together with substitutes, Arsenal resplendent in multi-coloured tops, Brentford in a scarlet that shouted as loudly as the West Stand Alliance massed behind the home goal – ‘A place for the Brentford supporters who want a real atmosphere at Lionel Road’.

Arsenal, famous for their red shirts and white shorts but here tidy in their blue third strip, set off at a crackerjack pace. For five minutes or so, Brentford looked as if they might be overawed by the North London superstars, but with new signings Kristoffer Ajer and Frank Onyeka settling into the defence and midfield respectively, the Bees established a rhythm that began to unsettle the visitors. 

The home crowd dominating an attendance of 16,479 loved it; ‘We’re just a bus stop in Hounslow’ they chanted with self-deprecation, while Arsenal fans mustered their own choir to proclaim superiority (‘We’re just too good for you’) bred in history and confirmed in 2020-21 – hardly their best of seasons for one of soccer’s elite – with eighth position in the League.

And then Bryan Mbeumo hit a post, denying the Bees the lead by a few inches. No matter. With a defence looking more impenetrable by the minutes and striker Ivan Toney marshalling the attack force with customary skill, it looked likely that Brentford might be the first to score. And so they were, with Ethan Pinnock heading the ball into the path of Sergi Canós for the wing back to sprint across the penalty area to fire a shot fierce enough to beat goalkeeper Bernd Leno at his near post.

Arsenal, doubtless with a pep talk from manager Mikel Arteta ringing in their ears, regrouped and became more of a threat after the interval. As the home defence wearied, it became clear that a decisive thrust was required to hold them off. Another goal, for example, which was stunningly provided when Mads Bech Sorensen, having been substituted for Ajer, propelled a long throw from the touchline into the goal area and Christian Nørgaard climbed higher than a stuttering Arsenal defence – and leaping colleague Mbeumo! – to head firmly into the net. It was Norgaard’s first-ever goal for the club. It was that kind of game.

Following Frank and his squad’s lap of honour, the crowd left the ground, reluctantly, cresting a sea of delirium.

 ‘I wouldn’t have wished to be anywhere else on earth today,’ I told my mate Charlie.

‘And we’re top of the League,’ said Charlie. And and so we were, for about 990 glorious, golden minutes. 

Brentford: Raya; Ayer, Jansson, Pinnock; Canos, Onyeka, Norgaard, Janelt, Henry; Mbeumo, Toney. Substitutes used: Bech Sorensen 71, Bidstrup 80, Forss 86.

Arsenal: Leno; Chambers, White, Mari, Tierney; Sambi Lokonga, Xharka; Pepe, Smith Rowe, Martinelli; Balogun. Subs used: Saka 59, Nelson 71, Tavares 81.

This report first appeared on the Chiswick Calendar website chiswickcalendar.co.uk 

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BILL HAGERTY ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

BILL HAGERTY ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

Following Brentford’s tortuous trail towards Premier League football has been like a stroll down nightmare alley. No other club in the Football League has on nine previous occasions reached the play-offs – the last-gasp opportunity for those nearly teams that just missed promotion via finishing in the top two of their respective divisions – but failed to win through in any of them.

The loyal faithful can recall the horrors of a chain of failure as if each link was yesterday. Indeed, the latest hurdle with which their favourites abruptly collided rather than soared over was only a year ago, when Fulham beat them 2-1 at Wembley Stadium despite having lost both their Championship league encounters that season.

Yet that old acquaintance déjà vu has visited once again as the latest league programme ended with Brentford finishing third in the table for the second year running and being called upon to face recent Premier League evacuees Bournemouth to decide over home and away ties which of them should revisit Wembley.

The smart money was on Brentford at last to succeed, what with stuttering form having seen the Dorset club resulting in sixth place in the table, three below the Bees. But, as so often happens, the smart money soon revealed itself to be no reliable weathervane when it comes to the winds of football fortune.

I’d watched Bournemouth enough on television in this lock-down, closed-doors season to know they brimmed with talent and, reminiscent of Fulham, were perfectly capable of avenging the two league defeats inflicted by Brentford, including one when reduced to ten men after the referee despatched Brentford’s skipper Pontus Jannson to the dressing room following two clumsy tackles. And, sure enough, the sweetly nicknamed Cherries deservedly won the first leg by the only goal at the Vitality Stadium.

What could the Bees offer in the return, which as in the first game was was to be watched by a live, socially very distanced audience of home supporters? Well, atmosphere to begin with. Most of them were unfamiliar with the spanking new stadium in Lionel Road, Brentford, which had been ready at season’s start to replace the old, creaking, but much-loved ground less than a mile away to the west, yet as kick-off time approached last Saturday it became obvious that they had brought the Griffin Park ambience with them by the pocket-load.

With the giant screen atop the east stand bearing the legend ‘Bees Together’, the team arrived on the pitch to conduct a pre-match half-lap of honour, followed by head coach Thomas Frank at a sedate jog. The 4,000 onlookers responded with the volume turned up – ‘This is worth a goal start’ I said to my loyal companion, Charlie, as the roar from the crowd reached a crescendo.

I’ve been wrong before and Bournemouth didn’t waste time proving my fallibility. Stirring music reminiscent of ‘Chariots of Fire’ had barely given way to club anthem ‘Hey Jude’ and the diversity message ‘One family, One community, One club’ faded from the screen before the visitors were in front. A Brentford corner attended by what seemed the entire team was cleared for Arnault Danjuma to outpace a chasing pack attempting to assemble a defence and beat goalkeeper David Raya easily.

Down 0-2 on aggregate before the crowd had finished clearing their throats. Brentford supporters walk hand in hand with calamity, but this was a dream-shredder too early, too far.

‘Not to worry’, said the irrepressible Charlie. ‘We lost 1-0 at Swansea last year and went on to win the second leg 3-1. Even favourable history can repeat itself.’

Whereupon a corner from Emiliano Marcondes struck defender Lloyd Kelly on the arm, which was unfortunate for him, especially as he was in the penalty area at the time. Ivan Toney despatched the spot-kick with his usual nonchalance and things were looking up, even if Toney, together with Bournemouth keeper Asmir Bokavic, was yellow-carded for an unseemly squabble over possession of the ball following his thirty-second goal this season.

More drama was to follow. Busy Bryan Mbuemo took off on a solo run that threatened to bring a goal until centre back Chris Mepham, once of the Griffin Park parish, tumbled in seeking to prevent him but not before clipping Mbuemo’s heels and dumping him on the turf just outside the penalty area. It was a straight red card for Mepham and probably the most crucial moment of the game.

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MARK BURRIDGE ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

MARK BURRIDGE ON BRENTFORD 3 BOURNEMOUTH 1 (3-2 on aggregate)

What a day 😎😌🙌

Had to write a little something.

It was one of the games you travel to in hope, rather than expectation.

With injury concerns, a one goal deficit, a chirpy opposition you wondered if it would be Brentford’s afternoon. My, how Bees fans loved every moment.🐝😌

Got into the ground at 9.45am…. even then, in the silence there was a buzz. A soft and warm vibe. Lionel Road was gently simmering.

Thomas Frank talks about fine margins in all areas.

We had double Bournemouth’s crowd from Monday. How we used this addition to our advantage!!!

Credit to Stuart Wakeford and his team, the music and graphics were perfect. Hit the right notes, got the juices flowing.

Thomas and the players asked for the 4,000 to be the 12th man. I’d say it was more 15th!

The fans were simply unbelievable. Inspirational. Breathtaking. The ground shook.

Imagine 17,000!! 👀 Wow!! 😱😊

The indefatigable Peter Gilham, Munerarius in the new colosseum that we call Lionel Road whipped the passionate audience into a frenzy.

Mister Brentford is like Thomas’ watch – timeless! 🙌🐝😍

Our head coach engaged in a lap of gratitude, showing the fans how much they mean. How much they were needed right now.

A masterstroke!

The supporters gave Bournemouth the thumbs down from the moment they entered the gladiatorial arena. 👎

A head start ensued. 🤦‍♂️ 2-0 down, a mountain to climb but not a hint of panic. 🙌

The wonderful Matty Jensen could have taken out Danjuma early at the expense of a red card. He chose not to. Wise man.

Bees get a penalty. No trouble for ‘The Iceman Ivan’. Begovic, the opposition skipper, flustered.

We look at the body language of both sets of players. We like what we see.

Bryan goes through, former Bee Mepham, in for talisman Steve Cook ankle taps our flying front front man in a moment of madness. Sheer Panic. Bad choice. Straight red.

The fans smelt Bournemouth blood, the players knew it was just a matter of time. An hour plus and then ET…. all they needed was to be was patient. Something our head coach has constantly drummed into his squad.

TF brings on the eventual match winner. Positive move. We all loved this decision, though agreed young Mads had done well.

Bees had The Cherries on the ropes and the genial German Vitaly Janelt scored the goal that calmed any nerves just after half time.

Bees maintained domination, probed, jabbed and not long after Emiliano missed a golden chance he supplied the cross that Forss got to first. 3-2. West London erupted. 🔥

Charlie Mac and Karleigh Osborne dancing jigs of joy up on The Gantry.

Things you love to see – ex players sharing in these moments where we all lose the plot!

In the last two mins Bournemouth won a free kick. Up came Begovic.

Even the traffic on the elevated section ground to a halt – ‘everyone wants a piece of this game’ we said.

Bees dealt with it calmly, seconds ticked down and the referee blew for time. Job done.

Bryan got our MOTM, both Jensen & Dalsgaard hugely influential. Pontus a leader 👏🏻

My wonderful Dad had such a beaming smile when I met up with him afterwards.

‘I floated my way back round here’ he said. 😌

88 years of age, born at 69 Lionel Road… he lived there until married and now this day of unbridled joy… at the top of the road.

A day to treasure. Together. Thank you BFC ❤️😍

Of course ‘this all means nothing if we don’t turn up at Wembley next week’, a previous default setting, we discussed post match.

Not so.

Yes, we would love to get the job done and that’s over to Thomas, the staff and the squad.

Bees will be loud and proud, whether 4,000 or 10,000. They will play their part again.

Yet 22/5/2021 is an important day in our history, not officially of course but it’s one fans will recognise. Incredibly special. One to cherish. Indelibly stamped in our hearts.🥰🐝

At the end of a week where Griffin Park is being demolished, how apt that Lionel Road BECAME our new home. It felt that way to all there, as it soon will to others.

The unforgotten matches have already started. That’s one BIG SPECIAL DAY in the LR memory bank.

Lots more to come.

The new journey is underway 😁

As always COYB ❤️🐝🥰🐝❤️🥰

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MILLWALL 1 BRENTFORD 1

MILLWALL 1 BRENTFORD 1

As a cold wind blew around the empty Cold Blow Lane Stand- normally the home of Millwall’s noisiest fans- the Bees recovered from a bad start to earn the kind of away draw that we used to let slip. As soon as the game started it seemed that Rico Henry had an injury problem and after only three minutes he went to ground, was taken off and Dominic Thompson came on at left back. With second choice right back Mads Roerslev already out for a couple of months the worry must be that Brentford will be down to just two specialist full backs  -Dalsgaard and Thompson- for the busy schedule of league and cup games ahead.Thompson went on to pick up Brentford’s only yellow card  as he faced a challenging afternoon against Millwall wing back Mahlon Romeo. 

As the Bees were reorganising their shape and before Thompson had even touched the ball Millwall’s Mason Bennett (one of the infamous Derby duo in that 2019 car crash) led their press, targeting Pontus Jansson. Bennett came away the winner down the left with Pontus in his wake and Pontus’s right red boot in mid air as the centre back scrambled to recover. Bennett’s cross found Jed Wallace who headed past Luke Daniels. As the ball went into the net Pontus’s red boot lay lonely on the edge of the box, he would later switch to a pair of black boots.

Ivan Toney was determined to score his first goal for the Bees and get his new club back into the game. After 8 minutes he shot wide and on 20  minutes he looked certain to score when a cross came over from Henrik Dalsgaard but Shaun Hutchinson pushed him over. Toney took the penalty and considering the pressure on him was remarkably calm as he rolled the ball past Bialkowski.The only other noticeable chance in the first half was when Romeo (son of the music producer Jazzie B of Soul II Soul) let fly from outside the box and hit the post. At the other end Bryan Mbeumo led a breakaway but to the annoyance of two spare colleagues in good positions he trusted his left foot from far out and for once it let him down.

In the first few minutes of the second half the Bees came close to what would have been a match-winner. A nice dummy by Toney set up Sergi Canos and his cross looked to be heading for a Josh Dasilva tap-in but Malone got there first to clear it.Then Daniels avoided Millwall getting a match-winner by tipping over another shot from Romeo. On 73 minutes Said Benrahma came on for the first time this season, as a sub for Canos, and he put over a good cross that could have led to a goal. 

After the game Ivan Toney said ‘Listen, If you can’t win, don’t lose and we did that today’. He thought the Bees had the better chances and could have stolen it at the end. He had shown more of the range of skills that first attracted Brentford to him; strong running for 90 minutes, some deft touches and lay-offs, a powerful defensive header. Thomas Frank said Ivan was growing game by game and what he liked was Toney’s  physical output, his constant pressing, his link-up play and his movement. 

In defence credit again to Ethan Pinnock, unbeatable in the air and the saviour of the day with more than one clearing header. Other good news; Christian Norgaard put in his usual good performance without getting his usual yellow card.

Now Fulham at home in the Carabao Cup.

Millwall: Białkowski; Hutchinson, Cooper, Pearce; Romeo, Leonard, Woods, Malone (sub M. Wallace); J. Wallace, Bradshaw (Mahoney), Bennett (Böðvarsson)

Brentford: Daniels; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry (Thompson); Dasilva ( Jensen 79), Nørgaard, Marcondes; Mbeumo, Toney, Canós (Benrahma)

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WBA 2 BRENTFORD 2 (Brentford win 5-4 on penalties)

WBA 2 BRENTFORD 2 (Brentford win 5-4 on penalties)

In a game of 13 penalties, 3 within the regulation 90 minutes and 10 in the penalty shoot-out which followed immediately, this Carabao Cup third round game was effectively decided by the first penalty to be missed. With the score in the shootout at 4-4 David Raya, back in his familiar starting berth, faced the highly rated Grady Diangana. A dive to Raya’s right and a firm push were enough to keep the ball out and consolidate his reputation as a shot-stopper. It was a great way to celebrate his 50th game for the club and his captaincy for the night. Of course it still required Brentford to put away their fifth penalty to win the tie. Christian Norgaard stepped up to face David Button, formerly of this parish, and put the Bees through to face Fulham or Sheffield Wednesday next week in the final 16 of the Cup.

With Mads Roerslev out for up to two months with an injury he got playing for Denmark’s Under-21s, Brentford’s only way of resting Henrik Dalsgaard for these Cup games is to switch Rico Henry to right back and play Dominic Thompson on the left. In midfield Thomas Frank rested Josh Dasilva and Christian Norgaard on the bench, starting with Shandon Baptiste, Jan Zamburek and Emiliano Marcondes.

In last season’s Championship games Brentford managed to take 4 of the 6 available points off WBA but somehow couldn’t manage to overtake them into second place. At the Hawthorns last year Brentford were by far the better side but could only draw. In this game the first half was a mirror image, the Bees were better than the Baggies but couldn’t get a lead. In a bright start Rico Henry made a great run, Tariqe Fosu had a chance, Mads Sorensen threatened with his long throws, Sergi Canos fired over and Emiliano Marcondes hit the post. Charlie Goode put over a great long diagonal pass which the Bees officials in the stand christened ‘Barbet-esque’. 

In the second half a ten minute spell produced four goals, no fewer than three of them penalties. First up Robson-Kanu got away from Sorensen and was brought down by Dominic Thompson. Robson-Kanu took the penalty himself, rolling it gently down the middle as Raya took off in mid-air to his left. From the kick-off play soon moved to the other end where Sorensen was now forward on the left. He crossed a long ball and Goode, utilising the Ethan Pinnock technique of heading it back into the box, set it up for Marcondes, back to goal, to perform a perfect overhead kick straight past Button. It was the goal of the night, in fact it was the only goal of the night in open play. Now Albion attacked and when Goode bundled over Edwards, it was another penalty chance for Robson-Kanu. Another roll down the middle, another Raya dive to the left. The score, at 2-1 to WBA, didn’t reflect the overall balance of play and Thomas Frank decided the game was still there to be won.

He brought on his top midfield duo, Josh Dasilva and Christian Norgaard, and immediately the Dane was everywhere, breaking up WBA play but it was Dasilva who started the move that led to an equaliser. Ivan Toney, who’d also been brought on as a sub to play alongside Marcus Forss, fed it to his strike partner and Albion defender Cedric Kipre brought him down. Forss took the penalty himself but none of this gently rolling stuff from Marcus, he thundered it straight into the net past Button. At the other end Raya made a great save to keep the score at 2-2 and take the game to penalties. When his turn came Forss again unleashed a thunderbolt and Toney, Dasilva and Fosu all took their penalties well before Norgaard clinched it.

In two Carabao Cup away games, a less than full strength Bees team have faced a Southampton side of Premier League starters and an Albion side of squad players and been the better team on both occasions. Who says they can’t make it a hat trick against Fulham if that’s who’s next in the fourth round, the first time Brentford have got this far for a decade.

At the end of this game the celebrations were modest and Thomas Frank went over to talk with unused WBA sub Romaine Sawyers, the captain he admired so much at Griffin Park. All very Brentford.

West Bromwich Albion: Button, Peltier, Kipré, Ivanović (sub O’Shea), Townsend; Harper, Field; Phillips (Diangana), Gallagher, Edwards; Robson-Kanu (Austin)

Brentford: Raya; Henry, Goode, Sørensen, Thompson; Marcondes (Toney ), Baptiste, Žambůrek (Dasilva); Canós (Nørgaard), Forss, Fosu.

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