Sullay Kaikai came off the substitute’s bench to score twice and earn Brentford a Boxing Day draw with Cardiff City. The attacker, on loan from Crystal Palace, was introduced with just under half an hour to go with Brentford 1-0 down. He scored a sublime equaliser with seven minutes remaining and then headed in a second leveller in stoppage time to ensure the spoils were shared in the traditional festive fixture.
It would have been harsh on Brentford if they had not earned at least a draw. They fell behind to a disputed penalty awarded by referee Simon Hooper, who would have left with the jeers of almost everyone in the ground ringing in his ears, despite dominating the early stages. Having fought back to equalise in a second half where they again had control and Cardiff goalkeeper Brian Murphy played a key role, The Bees then fell behind again inside the final minute of normal time. But Kaikai popped up to equalise again and give Brentford a point.
The game started a little slowly, with a few mistakes from both sides, but after an initial five-minute lull, Brentford took the initiative. They looked to play on the front foot and move the ball through a congested midfield area. With both teams playing three central defenders, most of the space was on the flanks but the game was largely played in central areas. When Brentford were able to get Nico Yennaris and Romaine Sawyers to link up, they looked able to play through the congestion.
All the good football in the first quarter of the match was played by The Bees. They put together a series of fine moves that could have led to the opening goal but on each occasion, Cardiff escaped. Yennaris and Sawyers set up Scott Hogan to deliver a cross that was met by Lasse Vibe but the shot deflected wide. Harlee Dean then nodded wide from a corner before Sawyers stung the palms of Murphy with a long range shot.
Murphy tipped a looping Hogan header over before Vibe and Andreas Bjelland exchanged passes and the latter burst in the penalty area and sliced a shot wide. A move down the left involving Tom Field and Sawyers enabled Vibe to let fly with a shot that deflected wide as Brentford dominated the opening exchanges. Cardiff were looking to use their physicality to find a way in to the game. Mr Hooper was regularly blowing his whistle to halt play for minor infringements and the visitors’ main attacking weapon was the long throw of Aron Gunnarsson.
Joe Ralls had a shot blocked when one long throw was only half cleared but Cardiff had barely been in the Brentford penalty area when they took the lead midway through the first period. A free kick was booted forward and Mr Hooper decided Bjelland had fouled Sean Morrison as the two tussled for the long ball. He awarded a penalty and booked Bjelland, who protested the decision along with many of his team mates who were unsure what offence had been committed. Peter Whittingham took the spot kick and rolled it down the middle to put Cardiff in front as Daniel Bentley dived to his left.
It could have been two soon after as Morrison poked in when Brentford failed to clear a long throw but the offside flag was up and the goal was ruled out. And Bentley kept it at one just past the half hour when Cardiff cleared a free kick and Kenneth Zohore outmuscled Maxime Colin to get a run at goal but he failed to beat to Brentford goalkeeper. The Bees started to play their football again as half time approached but Cardiff had the additional confidence a goal had given them and fought to protect their lead, making it difficult for Brentford to build up an attacking momentum.
The visitors were also happy to counter-attack and put people forward for set pieces. Junior Hoilett had a shot blocked, as did Zohore before a Ralls overhead was saved by Bentley. Bentley denied Ralls again late in the half as the midfield man shot from 25 yards. Brentford could have levelled just before the break as he got in behind to meet a Ryan Woods cross and he could not direct his header on target.
Cardiff had the lead at the interval and Brentford would have known they would need to rediscover the form they had shown at the start of the game if they were to get back in to it. Cardiff, for their part, showed few signs of ambition after the break. They held solid defensive and midfield lines and tried to press high up the pitch to prevent Brentford playing through midfield. The visitors had an early sight of goal in the second half when a Joe Bennett shot deflected wide but most of the action was at the other end.
Vibe had a shot blocked before John Egan fired wide and Woods then forced Murphy in to a fine save low to his left with a powerful shot. Murphy then saved at the feet of Colin after he tried to latch on to a clever Yennaris flick and the goalkeeper rushed out to do the same when it looked as if one of Kaikai’s first touches after his introduction would be the equaliser. Kaikai then fired a free kick inches wide with Murphy rooted to the spot but by the time the game entered the final 20 minutes Mr Hooper was the centre of attention. Brentford players were repeatedly subject to the sort of challenge Bjelland was penalised for in the first half without any sanction while Dean’s appeals that a shot had been blocked by a hand saw him earn a caution for dissent, soon after Hogan had been similarly booked.
But Murphy was still the star attraction, making a sublime save high to his right to tip an Egan shot away when it was arrowing to the top corner. From the resulting corner another Egan shot deflected over the bar before Dean’s penalty appeal was waved away. Murphy saved from Kaikai before, at the end of a rare Cardiff attack, Bentley saved a low effort from Anthony Pilkington.
The goal Brentford had been threatening came inside the final ten minutes when, after Field had burst forward, Josh McEachran set up Kaikai on the edge of the box, he stepped inside and curled a shot out of the reach of Murphy and in off the underside of the crossbar. It was unstoppable but any thoughts that would be the end of the scoring were quickly dispelled. Pilkington fired across the face of goal and a Woods corner caused chaos with Philipp Hofmann, among others, being crowded out.
Brentford were pressing for a winner but were then hit with a sucker punch. A simple ball forward from Ralls allowed Zohore to race in behind, he beat the offside trap, outmuscled Field and fired under Bentley. That looked as if it may have settled matters but Brentford came again. Hogan found space and fed an overlapping Egan on the right, he delivered a cross that Kaikai met expertly with his head, he guided it in to the far corner out of the reach of Murphy to level it up at 2-2 and give each team a Boxing Day point.
Brentford: Bentley; Egan, Dean, Bjelland (sub Hofmann 77 mins); Colin, Woods, Yennaris, Sawyers (sub McEachran 63 mins), Field; Vibe (sub Kaikai 63 mins); Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, Saunders, Kerschbaumer, Barbet
Bookings: Bjelland (23 mins) (fifth of season), Dean (75 mins) (eighth of season)
Cardiff City: Murphy; Peltier (sub Pilkington 64 mins), Connolly, Manga, Morrison, Bennett; Gunnarsson, Whittingham (sub O’Keefe h/t); Ralls; Hoilett (sub Noone 77 mins), Zohore
Subs (not used): Wilson, Lambert, Harris, Huws
Bookings: Whittingham (31 mins), Gunnarsson (73 mins)
Attendance: 11,098 (1.103 away fans)