Brentford endured a miserable afternoon in East Anglia as they were comprehensively beaten by Norwich City at Carrow Road. The match could hardly have started in a worse fashion for The Bees. They were 2-0 down just past the quarter hour mark and had barely had a kick as Norwich dominated. They fought back later in the half but could not find a goal and once Norwich got their third there was only one way the match was heading. Norwich added two more late in the game to record a 5-0 win.
The pattern of the game was set early. The hosts used former Brentford loan signing Alex Pritchard in an attacking midfield role and he ran the show for the first quarter of an hour. Brentford did not get tight enough to the little midfield man and he found pockets of space to pick passes and orchestrate Norwich’s attacking play.
Although there was an early headed chance for Yoann Barbet, flicking a Ryan Woods corner over at the near post, the game was almost exclusively played at the other end. Nélson Oliveira headed a Pritchard cross over before the opening goal came six minutes in. After a series of passes the ball was worked to Robbie Brady in acres of space on the left, he delivered a ball that forced the Brentford defence to face their own goal, John Egan got a touch and the ball ended up in the back of the net. The goal was officially given to Norwich winger Jacob Murphy but will probably be recorded as an Egan own goal.
Jacob Murphy – twin brother of Josh on the Norwich substitute’s bench – was one of the players that Brentford struggled to contain in the early stages. He almost grabbed a second with a fierce shot that Bentley saved and then gathered at the second attempt and he won the penalty that lead to the second goal. It came from a poor Woods pass, an overhead that went towards his own goal and left Jacob Murphy with a clear run. Harlee Dean attempted to halt the run but fouled the Norwich man and referee Geoff Eltringham had no choice but to award a penalty. The spot kick from Graham Dorrans was poor and Bentley saved it but it fell kindly for the Norwich man to correct his error by slotting home at the second attempt.
It could have been worse for Brentford. An Oliveira cross flicked the woodwork on its way over and Bentley made a fine low save to deny Pritchard after he had turned well. The Brentford goalkeeper then denied Steven Naismith before Norwich got their penalty and a two-goal lead. The Bees had made a tactical alteration before the second goal. Woods had been moved in to a deeper position to give a two-man shield to the Brentford defence and although it did not prevent the second goal, it gave The Bees a platform to fight back after.
There was a mountain to climb but Brentford’s response to the second goal was such that they showed signs they might find a way back in to the game. Romaine Sawyers could have halved the deficit with a shot from 20 yards but he screwed it wide and Scott Hogan missed a great chance when he headed a Woods cross, following a short corner, wide from seven yards. Hogan then almost got a vital deflection on to a Josh Clarke shot to send it past John Ruddy but the Norwich goalkeeper readjusted and saved.
The game started to stretch as Brentford looked for a way back in to the game. They pushed forward and left space for Norwich to counter attack. It meant the end of the first half was end-to-end with both teams having chances to score. Oliveira had a shot blocked after Lasse Vibe was robbed and Bentley denied Naismith when the ball was played back in to the penalty area. At the other end a deflected shot from Clarke was saved before Egan set up Barbet to smash well over the bar.
Bentley made a fine save to deny Jacob Murphy after the winger had been released in to space on the right before Oliveira blasted well wide while at the other end Woods picked out Hogan with a cross but the striker headed it down and it bounced over the bar. An Egan volley from a Woods corner was saved before Ruddy denied Vibe, who was now playing centrally and further forward, after an exchange of passes with Hogan.
Bentley, Brentford’s busiest player, denied Oliveira again at the end of a half that had ended better than it started for The Bees. The visitors would have known they needed to find an improvement if they were to take anything from the game but a nervous Norwich defence had suggested that one goal may lead to two or more. However, the hosts attacking abilities were also obvious and Brentford would have keep it tight defensively to have any chance.
The start of the second half was cautious from both teams. Norwich had more of the ball but largely in unthreatening areas while Brentford’s passing was not as sharp and incisive as it could have been. Both goalkeepers were untroubled until the hour mark when Bentley denied Pritchard, with Naismith heading the loose ball wide, but moments later Norwich had a third and the game was over.
Once again Pritchard played a key role in the goal. He measured a pass in to the inside left channel that caught the Brentford defence out, Robbie Brady raced in behind and slotted it past Bentley with ease. Brentford tried to respond again, and brought Josh McEachran and Sullay Kaikai in to the game as they sought to change the flow of it, but there was no real way back. They had chances – Hogan volleyed narrowly over after latching on to a clever Barbet pass and then had a shot blocked before Kaikai curled a shot over – but Norwich were now playing with confidence and had The Bees where they wanted them.
The hosts went looking for more goals. Naismith missed the target from 20 yards before Josh Murphy set up the fourth. He found Oliveira with a pass and the striker turned free in the penalty area, a little too easily for Brentford’s liking, before smashing past Bentley. Hogan could have pulled a goal back when he got away from Ryan Bennett but Ruddy saved well, partially with his face.
Most of the action, however, was at the Brentford end. Bentley saved well from Pritchard and Oliveira smashed over before the fifth goal came at the death. Pritchard got it to round off his display. The former Brentford man picked out Jacob Murphy with a pass and when the ball was fed back he placed it in to the far corner to seal a bad afternoon for The Bees.
Norwich City: Ruddy; Pinto (sub Martin 65 mins), Bennett, Bassong, Brady; Howson (sub Mulumbu 83 mins), Dorrans; Jacob Murphy, Pritchard, Naismith (sub Josh Murphy 74 mins); Oliveira
Subs (not used): Jones, Hoolahan, Klose, Lafferty
Bookings: Naismith (45 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Barbet; Yennaris; Clarke, Sawyers (sub Hofmann 78 mins), Woods (sub McEachran 60 mins), Vibe (sub Kaikai 60 mins); Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, Bjelland, Field, Kerschbaumer