Ollie Watkins scored the winner, reaching 20 for the season in the process, as Brentford won a five-goal thriller against Middlesbrough. The striker fired home three minutes from time to finally kill off Middlesbrough, who pushed Brentford all the way on a late winter afternoon in West London. The Bees took the lead three times but were pegged back before Watkins finally won it in the dying stages.
The Bees probably just about deserved the win on the balance of play but had to battle all the way. Julian Jeanvier put them ahead in the first half and Bryan Mbeumo made it 2-1 after Middlesbrough had levelled. The visitors equalised again, the last of three quickfire second-half goals, bit could not see the game out and Watkins had the final say.
There was a high intensity start to the game from both teams. Middlesbrough were happy to slow the game down when the ball was not in play but when it was, they looked to attack with pace and worked hard out of possession. The visitors probably had the better of the opening exchanges with Brentford unable to move the ball through a well-drilled Middlesbrough team and forced to play long often.
There was an early shot from The Bees when Henrik Dalsgaard got himself on the edge of the penalty area as a cross dropped loose but his fierce effort was deflected over the bar. Ashley Fletcher had an effort blocked at the other end and David Raya was forced in to a low save after Hayden Coulson burst forward from left back and in to Brentford territory. There were few good chances in the opening 20 minutes, but it was a competitive contest, exemplified by the battles between the centre forwards and central defenders.
Fletcher and Ethan Pinnock were regularly in contact, as were Watkins and Harold Moukoudi at the other end. Both tussles resembled a wrestling contest at times, but Referee Peter Bankes was content, despite it appearing different on a few occasions, that neither Fletcher nor Moukoudi were committing any illegal actions. Watkins being closely shackled, whether by fair means or foul, did affect Brentford’s ability to build attacks and they had to look to the wide areas.
After an even start, Brentford started to take control by the midway point of the first half. And when they went ahead 24 minutes in, it had been coming. The goal was a first of the season for Julian Jeanvier and came from a well-worked corner. Mathias Jensen delivered it flat from the right and Pinnock peeled away deep at the far post. He headed back in to a group of players and Jeanvier forced the ball over the line. Mr Bankes used goal line technology to award the goal and waved away Middlesbrough protests.
The technology had been in use earlier in the contest when Brentford thought they had the lead. After interplay in midfield, the ball was worked to the right and Mbeumo delivered a cross, Saïd Benrahma nodded it back when it appeared the ball was too long and Josh Dasilva met it with his head. The ball hit the near post and appeared to have crossed the line, but Mr Bankes said no and the game continued.
Dalsgaard darted from deep to set up a move that resulted in Benrahma shooting from 15 yards, but the effort was deflected over. That, however, only gave The Bees a corner and they scored from it. There could have been a second soon after when Rico Henry set Benrahma away on the left, he found Dasilva in the penalty area and the ball was worked on again to Jensen, but he slipped as he shot and the chance was gone.
Mbeumo lashed over after cutting inside later in the half but Middlesbrough responded well after Brentford’s goal. The game was even again as half time approached and the visitors could have levelled. A pass from Paddy McNair found Lewis Wing hugging the left touchline, he flicked the ball over Dalsgaard and fed Marcus Tavernier 12 yards out but the shot lacked power and Raya saved low down.
That ensured Brentford went in ahead at the interval, but they did not have complete control of the game. The Bees probably deserved to be in front but Middlesbrough took control of the game at the start of the second period. The game was played at a more sedate pace just after the interval, but the visitors dominated possession and played the game at their tempo. Dasilva cut inside and curled a shot just wide after picking up a Mbeumo pass but most of the action was at the other end.
Middlesbrough were patient in possession at the start of the second half. They had the ball mostly in their own half but built from defence and Brentford were forced back. They almost scored when a cross from Marvin Johnson from the left floated over Raya and hit the far post. Pinnock cleared and Jeanvier was well-placed to block the shot from Wing.
Wing was becoming increasingly influential for Middlesbrough and he had a golden chance when a corner dropped to him 18 yards out. His shot was firm but Raya was well-placed and held on to the effort. The next time he found space, however, he punished Brentford. The ball was worked to Wing in the centre of the field and he let fly from 25 yards. The ball whistled off the surface and clipped the post on its way in as Middlesbrough levelled matters.
That was the first of three goals in a manic six-minute period. Brentford responded immediately and went back ahead almost immediately. Dael Fry failed to clear a cross from the right and the ball dropped to Mbeumo. The French attacker blasted in a shot from 25 yards that flicked the legs of Moukoudi and wrong-footed Aynsley Pears. The Middlesbrough goalkeeper got a hand to it but could not keep it out. The goal was given to Mbeumo despite the deflection and Brentford were back in front.
That did, not, however, last long. Middlesbrough went straight on the attack and won a corner. Tavernier delivered it from the right and Fletcher stole in at the near post to flick a header in. Brentford claimed that a Middlesbrough player had touched it in from an offside position, but Mr Bankes gave the goal after consulting with his assistant.
Having got themselves level twice and seeming to have control of the contest, Middlesbrough went ultra-attacking. The introduced two more forward players and changed their shape. While this gave them firepower on the pitch, it seemed to hand the initiative to The Bees and the hosts went on the attack. There was one scare for Brentford when Wing, who showed his quality throughout, darted down the right and delivered a brilliant cross. Britt Assombalonga missed it at the near post and Fletcher, on the stretch, lifted it over the top from close range. He really should have scored.
But most of the chances were at the other end. Dasilva went close after cutting inside but shot over and substitute Emiliano Marcondes fired a free kick just past the far post. Benrahma then lifted another dead ball over the bar as Brentford pushed on and Middlesbrough’s defending became more and more desperate. Benrahma then missed a great chance when Marcondes opened the door and Henry cut the ball back but the Brentford attacker fired over from 14 yards.
That could have been the final chance, but Watkins was not to be denied. Brentford passed patiently in Middlesbrough territory before Mbeumo played a pass for Christian Nørgaard to burst on to, the ball was cut back and invited Watkins to fire home from 12 yards. The Championship’s top scorer made no mistake, placing a shot past Pears and in to the net to restore Brentford’s lead.
With the lead for the third time, Brentford saw the game out. They forced Middlesbrough back and played the game in their attacking third. There was still time for Pears to keep out a low cross-cum-shot from Benrahma but that only kept the lead at one and did not deny Brentford their first ever league double over Middlesbrough and another three points.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jeanvier, Pinnock, Henry; Jensen (sub Marcondes 73 mins), Nørgaard, Dasilva; Mbeumo (sub Roerslev 90 mins), Watkins, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Racic, Baptiste, Fosu, Valencia
Middlesbrough: Pears; Howson, Moukoudi, Fry, Coulson; McNair, Saville; Tavernier (sub Nmecha 75 mins), Wing, Johnson (sub Assombalonga 63 mins); Fletcher (sub Gestede 86 mins)
Subs (not used): Mejías, Clayton, Morrison, Spence
Bookings: Tavernier (68 mins)
Attendance: 12,285 (1,608 away fans)