Brentford came from a goal down with ten men to extend their unbeaten run to 12 games with a 1-1 draw against Watford. The Bees dominated the first half but were unable to get themselves in front as they hit the post and failed to take advantage of other good chances. Watford edged ahead as Troy Deeney converted a penalty, albeit that tells a fraction of the story, but Brentford hit back. Ivan Toney converted a spot kick of his own to earn The Bees a draw.
It was a game that will probably end up being remembered for the decisions of the officials. Both teams were awarded penalties, Ethan Pinnock was sent off when he might not have been, Watford had a goal incorrectly disallowed and The Bees had another clear-looking spot kick denied. But it should be remembered for a dominant first half showing from Brentford that did not see them get what they deserved and a stirring fight back after they went in to final half hour a goal and a man down.
The teams looked evenly matched in the opening exchanges. Both started with three in the centre of midfield and the teams tried to keep the ball out of that area. Both looked to get their wide players in to the game but played in different ways. Watford kept their midfield players narrow while Brentford used Vitaly Janelt to hold the middle of the pitch and allowed Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen to roam in front of him.
Brentford would have been the happier after the first quarter of the contest and had the best chance of the opening exchanges. Bryan Mbeumo created it with a measured cross from the right that found Toney in space in the penalty area. Toney was able to head down from seven yards, but his effort bounced the wrong side of the post. Watford goalkeeper Ben Foster was left helpless and would not have stopped an effort in to the bottom corner.
A cross from the other side earlier in the contest had caused issues when Mbeumo headed it down but neither Toney nor Dasilva could get a shot away and may have distracted each other. Mbeumo, who was enjoying his start to the evening, then lifted a shot over after exchanging passes with Sergi Canós. Mbeumo had started the move after intercepting a loose ball and as the half wore on, The Bees were starting to take control.
Their central midfield players had control of the contest. Jensen and Dasilva were utilising the opportunity to run in to Watford territory and Brentford were the game’s attacking force. It was 0-0 at half time, but it probably shouldn’t have been.
The closest The Bees came to a first half goal was when a clever pass from Jensen found Toney in space 20 yards from goal. The Brentford striker opened his body up and bent a shot past Foster only to see it cannon off the inside of the far post and away from arriving team mates. Toney had shot over the bar from a similar just before when set up by Canós and Jensen, probably not realising he had more time.
There was a great chance just before half time for The Bees when Canós and Toney pressured William Troost-Ekong in to a mistake and The Bees won possession in Watford territory. Toney attacked the penalty area and opted to pass to Dasilva rather than shooting from 18 yards. The pass was a little heavy and Dasilva was forced wide, he could not get a shot away and the cut back was turned wide by Toney on the stretch as the chance ebbed away.
At the other end, Brentford had to deal with the presence and aerial ability of Troy Deeney, but David Raya had been largely untroubled. He had to make a low save early on from Ismaïla Sarr but rather dropped on a weak shot on the turn after Deeney and Ken Sema had combined. Nathaniel Chalobah shot wide for the hosts late in the half, but Brentford went in at the interval with the initiative, continuing to search for the breakthrough.
The start of the second half was, however, very different. Watford got their midfield players higher up the pitch and there seemed to be more energy to their running off the ball and more tempo to their play with it. Brentford did not have the control of the contest they did before the interval as Watford held the upper hand.
Tom Cleverley shot wide from the edge of the penalty area within seconds of the restart and Sema then got away from Henrik Dalsgaard and Mbeumo on the left and cut back for James Garner, but he miss-hit his shot and Brentford were able to clear. Raya saved a curling shot from Deeney while, at the other end, a free kick dropped in the box and a Dalsgaard shot was blocked. The ball looped up and Toney was barged over but referee James Linington said no foul had been committed.
Moments later there was another decision for Mr Linington to make and, once again, it went against The Bees. Although it would be more accurate to say it was three decisions in quick succession that went in favour of the hosts. A pass from Chalobah released Sarr in the inside right channel and he was allowed to run on despite looking to be offside. Pinnock chased back and there was a tangle of legs that Mr Linington decided, after a delay, was a foul. A penalty was awarded, and Pinnock was shown a red card when a yellow was an option given the restoration of the chance. There was further delay as the red card was initially shown to Mads Bech Sørensen, the officials somehow confusing Brentford’s two central defenders. Deeney lashed the penalty down the middle to put Watford in front.
It would have been hard to suggest Watford deserved the lead based on the first hour of the contest, but they did have the momentum when they scored. Brentford were forced to reorganise with Charlie Goode brought on to play in the centre of defence and Canós removed. Before that reorganisation had time to take effect, The Bees were level.
Toney won a ball forward and nodded down to Jensen. The midfield man went for goal and his effort was blocked by the arms of Christian Kabasele. With the Watford man having his arms above his head, Mr Linington again pointed to the spot. Toney took the responsibility and placed the ball to the left of Foster with the Watford goalkeeper diving right.
That levelled the game with just over half an hour to go. Watford had the man advantage and Brentford moved to a narrow 4-3-2 system. The Bees continued to attack when they could, but Watford spread the ball from side to side as they pressed for openings and the home side had the upper hand in terms of possession, territory and chances.
There was a good opening for The Bees just after the equaliser when Rico Henry fed Dasilva attacking on the left flank. He cut the ball back to Mbeumo, the first shot was blocked and the second flew just wide from 12 yards. There were, however, more openings at the other end. Goode blocked a Chalobah shot and Kiko Femenía blasted over from distance.
A Cleverley shot hit Sarr and bounced wide soon after before substitute Stipe Perica headed in a cross from the right only to see the goal disallowed. It proved to be another decision that the officials would want to have reviewed as the Watford man was clearly onside when the cross came in. There was a sense of growing frustration from the hosts. Deeney was booked for dissent and his team mates collected cards as well, mostly for fouls on the irrepressible Toney, who was running the home defence ragged.
Cleverley could have won it for Watford when he arrived to meet a free kick but fired it wide and Deeney had an effort blocked late on. Kabasele also headed wide in stoppage time. Brentford continued to press forward as well, looking to make the most of any space left by the hosts. A couple of late free kicks came to nothing and substitute Emiliano Marcondes was within a whisker of getting on to a Marcus Forss cut back after good work by Toney again. In the end neither team would find a winner and the spoils were shared.
Watford: Foster; Ngakia (sub Gray 86 mins), Troost-Ekong, Kabasele, Femenía; Chalobah (sub Capoue 66 mins); Sarr, Cleverley, Garner (sub Perica 73 mins), Sema; Deeney
Subs (not used): Bachmann, Parkes, Wilmot, Masina, Navarro, Phillips
Bookings: Kabasele (76 mins), Deeney (87 mins), Troost-Ekong (90 mins), Sarr (90 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Sørensen, Henry; Dasilva (sub Marcondes 82 mins), Janelt, Jensen; Mbeumo (sub Forss 70 mins), Toney, Canós (sub Goode 61 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Stevens, Thompson, Ghoddos, Fosu, Pressley
Sent Off: Pinnock (58 mins)