Brentford conceded a late equaliser as Blackburn Rovers picked up a point in the first game in front of supporters for almost nine months. The Bees trailed early on but turned the game around after Blackburn had been reduced to ten men. Ivan Toney scored from the penalty spot and Sergi Canós lashed home to put Brentford in front, but Blackburn scored inside the final five minutes to earn a share of the spoils.
Brentford will feel it is a game they should have won, especially with fans inside the stadium for the first time since March. Blackburn had the better of the early stages but by the time The Bees, playing in their new stadium in front of spectators for the first time, levelled they deserved it and with a man advantage foe an hour, they had control. But they could only score once more, through Canós, and when they had a slight defensive slip, Blackburn earned a point.
The start of the game was not helped by a serious looking injury sustained by Blackburn defender Scott Wharton inside the first 15 minutes. There was no-one within two yards of him when he crumpled in the middle of the pitch and Wharton was removed on a stretcher shortly after. Blackburn had made slightly the better start, moving the ball quickly and showing a real desire to run forward when they had possession. They had to make a defensive change but that didn’t affect their attacking outlook.
The visitors had gone close inside the opening 40 seconds. Adam Armstrong played a ball in to the inside right channel for Sam Gallagher, he set up Harvey Elliott for a shot that was blocked and follow-up effort from Joe Rothwell deflected just wide. Bradley Johnson headed the resulting corner over the bar.
Canós blasted over for The Bees when he got on to a loose ball but there was a stop-start opening to the game with the injury and a series of bookings. One of them was for Marcus Forss for simulation in the penalty area while Blackburn defenders Barry Douglas and Darragh Lenihan were booked for fouls that halted attacking chances for The Bees. The better football that was played in the opening exchanges was from Blackburn and they probably had the edge when they went ahead just before the 20-minute mark.
The goal was a spectacular one from Rothwell. He got on to a loose ball 35 yards from goal and headed forward. He weaved his way in to space and away from Canós, Toney and Mathias Jensen before letting fly from 18 yards. The ball whistled past David Raya and in to the net to put the visitors in front. Raya was left helpless by a fine effort, but Brentford will know Rothwell should not have got that far.
Blackburn would have been the happier team at that stage, but Brentford responded well. They could have been level when a low Jensen corner found Forss at the near post, he got a shot off that left Thomas Kaminski clawing helplessly to his left as the ball fizzed just past the post. An Ethan Pinnock header was cleared by Johnson deep inside his six-yard box before Armstrong hit a defensive wall with a free kick at the other end.
The moment that looked as if it would settle the game came ten minutes before the end of the first half. After a spell of build-up play, Jensen cleverly flicked a Vitaly Janelt pass in to Toney inside the penalty area. As he prepared to shoot from the left side of the box, he was bundled over by Lenihan. Referee Oliver Langford awarded a penalty and sent off Lenihan for denying a goal scoring opportunity. Given Lenihan had already been booked, he was always likely to depart the match at that point. Toney stepped up to take the penalty and waited for Kaminski to dive to his right before placing the ball in to the net on the opposite side to level it up.
Blackburn were now without both starting central defender and were forced to reshuffle with John Buckley brought on. The rest of the half was Brentford’s attack against a deep defence. Josh Dasilva had a shot blocked after a one-two with Jensen before he played a pass to release the increasingly influential Canós on the left. The Spanish attacker cut inside and let fly with a shot that was blocked. Canós then weaved his way down the left and cut the ball back for Toney 12 yards out, but the shot flew over the bar.
Brentford had the initiative at half time but not the lead and Blackburn had something to hold on to. They reinforced their defence with the introduction of Amari’i Bell while Brentford introduced Emiliano Marcondes for Janelt, who had also been cautioned in the first half. But there was no change to the pattern of the game.
The introduction of Marcondes changed the shape of Brentford’s midfield. Blackburn sat in with two banks of four and invited The Bees to break them down. Dasilva roamed all over the pitch, looking for openings while Jensen and Marcondes dictated play from deep. Canós and Henry probed on the left while Henrik Dalsgaard was given licence to push up on the right and all the game was played in Blackburn territory.
The Blackburn defence was, however, well drilled. A clever pass from Pontus Jansson created space for Marcondes to shoot from 20 yards but the ball flew wide of the post. There was little of note before Canós illuminated a wintry afternoon with a superb goal. He received a pass from Dasilva on the left touch line and headed infield, a swivel of the hips took him away from Buckley and he let fly as Rothwell came to challenge. The ball flew past Kaminski and in to the top corner to complete Brentford’s turnaround.
Blackburn immediately made two substitutions to try and alter the flow of the game. They had fresh legs and looked to regain the attacking impetus they started the contest with. A run from Gallagher down the right ended with him going to ground inside the penalty area but Mr Langford looked unimpressed. Jacob Davenport got on to the loose ball, but his shot was blocked.
As the minutes ticked down, Rovers started to look tired. They demonstrated their ability in attacking areas but were mostly playing without the ball. And Brentford introduced new wide players – Bryan Mbeumo and Tariqe Fosu – to try and maintain their attacking outlook. Mbeumo came close to a third when he broke free on the right and on to a Jensen pass, he cut inside and fizzed a shot across the face of goal.
Dasilva curled an effort just wide after space was created by Marcondes. His next effort, when he received a Toney pass was a little wilder and flew over. Blackburn were sitting in, inviting Brentford to play and trying to stay in the game. They conceded the midfield area but prevented The Bees creating good chances, and then struck.
The equaliser came with three minutes to go. Brentford failed to clear a ball from the right and the ball dropped on the edge of the penalty area, Davenport got a lucky break as Pinnock slipped and then another as his shot flicked Dominic Thompson and that was enough to take it past Raya to earn Blackburn a point. Brentford poured forward in the dying stages but failed to create much. A Marcondes shot almost caught Kaminski out with a couple of deflections but he held on and ensured his side got the draw.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry (sub Thompson 81 mins); Jensen, Janelt (sub Marcondes h/t), Dasilva (sub Ghoddos 81 mins); Canós (sub Fosu 77 mins), Toney, Forss (sub Mbeumo 71 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Stevens, Sørensen, Pressley
Bookings: Forss (5 mins) (second of season), Janelt (31 mins) (third of season), Thompson (82 mins) (second of season)
Blackburn Rovers: Kaminski; Nyambe, Lenihan, Wharton (sub Ayala 16 mins), Douglas (sub Bell h/t); Rothwell (sub Davenport 63 mins), Trybull (sub Buckley 39 mins), Johnson; Elliott; Gallagher, Armstrong (sub Dolan 63 mins)
Subs (not used): Pears, Downing, Holtby, Chapman
Bookings: Douglas (10 mins), Lenihan (27 mins), Rothwell (49 mins), Kaminski (90 mins)
Sent Off: Lenihan (36 mins)