Brentford reached the last eight of the Carabao Cup for the second year in a row with a victory over Stoke City. The Bees dominated the first half and took a 2-0 lead that they never relinquished. The hosts fought back after the break and used the energy of the home crowd to put Brentford on the back foot at stages but 2-1 was as close as it got and that score line saw The Bees in to the Quarter Finals.
The win saw Brentford break ground in a couple of ways. It was Brentford’s first-ever away win at Stoke and only the second time The Bees have won a Fourth Round tie in this competition. That it was the second time in just over 12 months highlighted Brentford’s growing affection for the tournament. Sergi Canós put The Bees in front before Ivan Toney scored what proved to be the winner. A goal from Romaine Sawyers was only consolation for Stoke.
Brentford started on the front foot and could have been ahead inside two minutes with a move started, and almost finished, by Toney. Toney’s touch found Marcus Forss and Saman Ghoddos was released on the right hand side. The ball was drilled across goal and Toney was at full stretch, getting a toe to it and diverting it inches wide. Canós was also arriving at the far post as the cross from Ghoddos was fired in but did not get the final touch it deserved.
The Bees had all the ball in the opening exchanges, pulling Stoke across the pitch and looking for openings. Mads Bidstrup was able to find pockets of space in midfield and Brentford had runners from deep, including their central defenders, who strode forward with confidence. There were no clear cut chances, but Brentford had control, albeit Stoke were able to get some of the ball in attacking areas, mainly by playing long to Steven Fletcher and picking up the loose balls.
Brentford moved up a gear as the midway point of the first half approached, capitalising on Stoke’s inability to keep chasing the ball. Mathias Jensen, Ghoddos and Bidstrup dictated from the middle of the pitch and pushed The Bees forward. There were a series of chances that ended with the first goal.
A quick free kick from Toney released Jensen in the inside left channel. He had time to measure a cut back and found Forss, but the first time shot flew wide of the near post. Forss probably had more time than he realised and would have expected to have tested Joe Bursik.
The opening goal of the game started with Ghoddos and Bidstrup linking in midfield. Bistrup’s pass released Mads Roerslev on the right and he found Toney with a cross. The first shot was blocked and the ball bounced to Canós, who cut inside and lashed a powerful near post effort that Bursik had to turn away.
The resulting corner was played deep by Jensen, and it found Forss. Neither Forss nor Toney could find room to shoot but the latter, with his back to goal, set up Canós. The shot from Canós flew past Bursik and Sawyers, on the Stoke line, was unable to keep it out. Brentford had a lead they deserved and set about building on it.
Jensen fizzed a shot over from 25 yards before a Ghoddos run set up Roerslev to cross from the right, Toney was there but was crowded out. A low Jensen free kick was saved by Bursik, who just about gathered as Forss lurked. But Brentford were threatening, and the second goal came before half time.
For the umpteenth time Brentford won the ball in midfield, with Stoke unable to play through. This time it was Ghoddos who made the interception and Forss had space deep in Stoke territory. He worked his way free of Harry Souttar and found Toney, the first time shot flew under Bursik and gave Brentford a two-goal lead.
Stoke had been almost non-existent as an attacking threat in the first half with Brentford goalkeeper Álvaro Fernández spending more time with the ball at his feet starting attacking play than with it in his hands. Fernández did have to make a near post save from a fierce Fletcher shot after the Stoke man had bundled through a couple of challenges. Souttar met the resulting corner but headed it wide.
There was space created for Jordan Thompson to shoot from 20 yards at the very end of the half. The low effort was again comfortable for Fernández, and Brentford went in at the break in command. The opening minutes of the second half were similar to the first with The Bees on the front foot, looking for the next goal.
There was a fine move on the left that looked like it would result in the third of the evening. Canós worked the ball in to the middle and Toney fed Forss. The next pass was to Jensen and he set up Toney for a powerful volley that Bursik saved well. Jensen was on hand to react quickest, but his shot was placed wide of the far post.
A change of personnel, coupled with an increase in aggression, saw a shift in momentum. Mario Vrančić came on to add to Stoke’s numbers in midfield and there were more challenges flying in. One by Demeaco Duhaney on Canós on the Stoke right angered the Brentford player. The Stoke man had both legs horizontal and at least one raised as he made a tackle with force and Canós had to take evasive action, but Referee Michael Salisbury waved play on when many officials would have seen contact with the ball as irrelevant.
The home crowd were brought in to the game as the Soke players increased the tempo and they scored just before the hour mark. A corner dropped to Sawyers on the edge of the penalty area, and he let fly with a shot that flew in to the corner. Fernández saw the shot late as it nestled just inside his left hand post and the tie was alive.
Vrančić shot over when he picked up a Sawyers pass and a deep cross to the far post was headed across the face of goal, and just wide, by Abdallah Sima. Brentford made changes of their own as they looked to secure their passage to the last eight with Christian Nørgaard coming on to replace Bidstrup at the base of midfield. Rico Henry, Frank Onyeka and Tariqe Fosu followed as the game started to stretch with Stoke chasing an equaliser.
Brentford could have made the game just about safe with 13 minutes remaining. Toney flicked a ball in to Ghoddos and he weaved in to the penalty area. His cross dropped to Onyeka, and the powerful shot was blocked inside the six-yard box. Henry was first to the loose ball but lashed it high over the bar.
Stoke made more attacking substitutions as the minutes ticked down and that left space for Brentford to go for a third. A pass from Ghoddos opened the hosts up and Toney was clear with only Bursik to beat. He tried to lift the ball in, but Bursik saved with his face. Fosu got to the loose ball, but his shot was blocked. Ghoddos then had a go but lashed it over the bar.
Toney and Fosu combined in stoppage time for another Brentford chance. This time it was Toney’s pass and Fosu through on goal, but the impressive Bursik denied him again. That gave Stoke hope of taking the tie to penalties even as the game entered the 95th minute but they were unable to create anything of note, Fernández was untroubled, and Brentford progressed.
Stoke City: Bursik; Østigård (sub Brown 82 mins), Souttar, Wilmot; Duhaney, Sawyers, Thompson (sub Ince 82 mins), Doughty (sub Vrančić 56 mins); Campbell (sub Sima 63 mins), Fletcher (sub Surridge 63 mins), Tymon
Subs (not used): Davies, Smith, Chester, Oakley-Boothe
Bookings: Østigård (52 mins)
Brentford: Fernández; Ajer, Goode, Zanka; Roerslev, Ghoddos, Bidstrup (sub Nørgaard 62 mins), Jensen (sub Onyeka 72 mins), Canós (sub Henry 72 mins); Toney, Forss (sub Fosu 72 mins)
Subs (not used): Cox, Stevens, Oyegoke, Thompson, Maghoma
Bookings: Ghoddos (76 mins)
Attendance: 9,584 (1,444 Bees fans)