Brentford came from a goal down to start 2022 with a memorable win over Aston Villa. The Bees trailed after a difficult opening to the contest but battled back. Yoane Wissa struck a superb equaliser before Mads Roerslev scored the winner late on.
The Bees certainly had to battle for the win. They worked hard to stay in the game when Villa had the upper hand and then clinically took their chances when they came. They scored late on in either half to secure a 2-1 win on a mild January afternoon.
Villa had complete control of the first quarter of the contest. They dominated midfield, not giving Brentford any time or space to play through the centre of the pitch, and had far more of the ball. They did not create many openings but did enough to deserve the lead they held 20 minutes in.
John McGinn shot wide from distance after Brentford lost possession in midfield before fine play from Emiliano Buendía set up a chance for Danny Ings. Ings wriggled his way in to space in the penalty area but Mads Bech came across to make a challenge and divert the shot wide. The next time Buendía and Ings linked, Villa were ahead.
The goal came 16 minutes in when a ball through the middle cut Brentford open. Buendía turned away from Christian Nørgaard and had space to run. He picked out a pass to Ings in the inside left channel. Ings steadied himself, fired across Álvaro Fernández and in to the far corner. The shot was inch perfect, Fernández was beaten, and Villa had a deserved lead.
Villa could have doubled their lead when Ezri Konsa met a deep corner. His header was blocked, and Brentford scrambled the ball clear. McGinn fired over the crossbar again after being set up by Ings before a short free kick almost caught Brentford out. Jacob Ramsey had space on the left and crossed for Bertrand Traoré. Bech was able to make a tackle to stop the first shot and another from Buendía was blocked as Brentford battled to defend their goal.
The Bees did have more of the game as the half wore on, but Villa were making life very difficult. Their energy off the ball prevented long spells of possession for the hosts and the game was mostly being played as Villa wanted it. They crowded the midfield when they didn’t have the ball but worked hard and smart enough to prevent Brentford building out wide, with The Bees unable to move the ball quick enough to make the most of any space.
Mathias Jensen had a sight of goal when Nørgaard intercepted a clearance. Ivan Toney allowed the pass from Nørgaard to reach Jensen at the far post, but it spun awkwardly, and the shot flew well over the bar. Toney had a header blocked early in the half and Wissa was unable to direct his aerial effort from a drilled Jensen ball.
Brentford were having more of the ball as half time approached, with Villa unable to continue to chase around the pitch, and as The Bees built a move from the back, they found a way through. The equalising goal came from an extended spell of possession that involved almost every Brentford player. The ball moved from right to left and back again repeatedly as The Bees probed. Eventually there was space for Jensen to turn and play a pass for Roerslev to run in behind Ramsey on the right. He picked out Wissa with a pass inside and Villa were open. Wissa’s first touch opened the space and his second bent the ball around Konsa, around Martínez and in to the corner.
To some extent, the goal came out of nothing, but Brentford were starting to take control of the game, finding space to play through midfield. And The Bees could have been ahead before the break. A cross from Sergi Canós eluded attackers arriving in the middle and bounced just past the far post and Pontus Jansson headed a Jensen corner wide as The Bees went in to the break with the initiative.
The start of the second period was interrupted by injuries. Both Canós and Jensen had to leave the field for The Bees after treatment with Shandon Baptiste and Saman Ghoddos introduced. Roerslev sliced a shot in to the arms of Martínez for The Bees early on while Buendía cut inside and curled a shot wide at the other end.
Toney headed a long throw wide for Brentford but there wasn’t much of a pattern to the first part of the second half. Villa probably had a fraction more of the ball and the territory but there were few chances. Jansson blocked an Ings shot, Buendía headed wide and Fernández held on to a low cross-cum-shot from Matt Targett.
The Bees could have taken the lead with 15 minutes to go when Frank Onyeka won the ball in midfield. Toney fed the ball back in to his path and he worked his way in to the penalty area. Onyeka let fly with a shot that was arrowing towards the bottom corner, but Martínez got a hand to it and tipped it on to the post and behind.
Fernández saved an Ings header and moments later, Brentford were ahead. The Bees worked the ball down the left with interplay involving Toney, Ghoddos and Vitaly Janelt. Ghoddos found Baptiste in space on the edge of the penalty area, and he slipped the ball to Roerslev. A fierce first shot was deflected and brilliantly saved by Martínez, but Roerslev reacted quickest to smash the loose ball back past the Villa goalkeeper and in to the net.
Villa had seven minutes, plus stoppage time, to find a leveller and they pushed forward. A first time pass from McGinn put Ings in on goal but Fernández got down well to save and Jansson cleared. Buendía saw a shot blocked and Targett headed wide. Fernández saved from McGinn and then got down well to push away a Buendía header.
Fernández also dealt with a series of corners, with even Martínez coming up for one at the death. Trézéguet tried to buy a penalty from Referee Craig Pawson with a farcical dive and there was still time for Toney to smash a shot inches wide from more than 40 yards by the touchline, with Martínez heading back to his goal. Villa pressed, but Brentford stood firm, and got the win.
Brentford: Fernández; Pinnock, Jansson, Bech; Roerslev, Onyeka (sub Janelt 80 mins), Nørgaard, Jensen (sub Baptiste 61 mins), Canós (sub Ghoddos 54 mins); Toney, Wissa
Subs (not used): Cox, Stevens, Thompson, Bidstrup, Ajer, Forss
Bookings: Nørgaard (31 mins), Toney (77 mins)
Aston Villa: Martínez; Cash, Konsa, Hause, Targett; Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Traoré (sub Trézéguet 79 mins), Buendía, Ramsey (sub Sanson 69 mins); Ings
Subs (not used): Steer, El Ghazi, Philogene-Bidace, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Iroegbunam, Feeney
Bookings: Ramsey (30 mins), McGinn (89 mins)
Attendance: 16,876 (1,672 away fans)