A magnificent Brentford performance failed to earn its just rewards as Sky Bet Championship leaders Newcastle United won at Griffin Park. Brentford dominated for the majority of the match, and all of the second half, but could only score once – Lasse Vibe levelling an early Dwight Gayle goal. And that meant when Newcastle had the chance to win it late on, Daryl Murphy’s header gave them a 2-1 win and the points.
That they got the win was down some fine goalkeeping, generous officiating and more than a little luck. Karl Darlow made a series of saves for the visitors, including a couple in the dying stages that got his team over the line, while Brentford hit the woodwork and had a series of penalty appeals waved away. In the end it was the inability to score more than once that cost The Bees, plus Newcastle’s ruthlessness at the other end.
Newcastle started extremely brightly. They went on the front foot from the first whistle and their attacking quartet – midfielders Matt Ritchie, Ayoze Pérez and Yoan Gouffran in behind Gayle, the division’s leading scorer – were immediately involved. They looked to stretch Brentford’s three central defenders across the width of the pitch and create gaps for their colleagues to exploit. Gayle had the first sight of goal inside two minutes with a shot that deflected in to the side netting and after the first corner had been deflected behind, Jamaal Lascelles headed wide.
Chances came and went for the visitors in the opening ten minutes. Daniel Bentley clawed away a cross from Ritchie that could have been sneaking inside the near post before Tom Field made a superb headed clearance to stop the same man heading in after Gouffran had skipped away from John Egan. Bentley then denied Gayle after Isaac Hayden won a ball he had no right to in the centre of the pitch.
Brentford also appeared to want to attack when they could. Josh McEachran was on the front foot in the centre of midfield and Romain Sawyers was trying to get as close as he could to striker Vibe. Wing backs Field and Colin also pushed on but this left space for Newcastle to exploit. They tried to use the inside left channel when Colin moved forward and looked to isolate Egan. It was no surprise that the opening goal came from such a move. Gayle sprung the offside trap and burst in to space in the inside left channel, he stepped away for Harlee Dean and the captain came across to cover and smashed a shot past Bentley.
The goal was Gayle’s last real involvement and he was withdrawn injured soon after firing well over moments later. It also came when it looked as if Brentford had weathered Newcastle’s fast start. McEachran and Ryan Woods were starting to get more than their fair share of the ball in the centre of midfield with the work rate of Nico Yennaris forcing mistakes. They were also using it effectively and Brentford were in the game territorially. The Bees almost equalised when a McEachran corner fizzed across the six-yard box but the eventual header from Andreas Bjelland did not trouble Darlow.
Newcastle’s attacking prowess was clear to see and Brentford were stretched at times. Ritchie had a shot blocked before Bentley made a superb save from Pérez after he had exchanged passes exquisitely with Gouffran. But The Bees were starting to cause problems of their own and they should probably have been level before half time. The movement of Vibe troubled the Newcastle defence and with McEachran and Sawyers able to pick their passes, Brentford started to take control.
Vibe could have levelled when Sawyers and McEachran combined to put him clear in the inside left channel but Darlow saved with his legs. And better chances were to come for the Danish striker. He almost smuggled one out of nothing when charging down a Darlow kick and he really should have scored when Dean put him in behind but his low shot failed to beat the Newcastle goalkeeper. Yennaris then created chance when he broke through challenges in midfield and slipped in Vibe but Darlow rushed out and saved at the feet of the Brentford man.
Egan just failed to reach a Sawyers cross and when Field looked as if he could meet a McEachran corner and went tumbling over, referee Christopher Kavanagh decided no offence had been committed. Yennaris then blasted narrowly wide as half time approached after picking up another clever Sawyers pass. Brentford had been in control at the end of the first half and were soon back in command at the start of the second, deservedly levelling seven minutes after the break.
They could have scored when Woods burst down the right but a vital interception from DeAndre Yedlin prevented Yennaris turning it in. From the resulting corner, however, Brentford did level. McEachran’s delivery was half cleared and Egan won the aerial challenge, Darlow made a spectacular save to prevent Bjelland scoring but could do nothing to prevent Vibe forcing the ball over the line.
Newcastle tried to respond and Hayden fired wide of the far post after a good run from Ritchie before a burst from Yedlin created a chance for Pérez that was blocked for a corner. But it was Brentford that had the upper hand and they continued to push forward. Brentford’s midfield trio had command of the game and they created pockets of space for Sawyers to play in with the movement of Vibe making it hard for the visitors to track him.
When McEachran picked up a poor kick from Darlow he released Vibe in the inside left channel and the cross-cum-shot was deflected behind. Woods delivered the resulting corner and found Dean eight yards out but his header missed the target when it really should not have done. The best chance came soon after, just past the hour mark and how Brentford failed to score is a mystery that may last a while. Sawyers put Vibe clear in the inside left channel and he lifted the ball over the advancing Darlow, it hit the far post, rolled along the line and was cleared by Ciaran Clark with Yennaris arriving to poke it in.
Newcastle were rocking but time was taken out of the game as both Hayden and then his replacement Vurnon Anita had to leave the field injured. That gave the visitors a chance to regroup, albeit they had to reshuffle repeatedly, and the flow of the game was affected. Brentford still had the initiative but the crowd had been quietened by the stoppages and the momentum was lessened. Vibe did see a shot blocked and then poked across the face of goal after good work by Colin but it was Newcastle that struck next, against the run of play.
Pérez was the architect for the visitors. After Brentford had lost possession in midfield the ball was spread to the left and Pérez picked out a delightful cross, Murphy got the run on the home defence and planted a header past Bentley and in to the net. It was a superbly crafted goal from Newcastle’s only real attack for 20 minutes. Murphy had been peripheral since replacing Gayle, his style of play not really suiting those behind him, but he proved his value with one piece of movement and a superb header.
Pérez could have made the game safe when he got on to a long ball but Bentley was well placed to gather his lob and Gouffran blasted well over but with Jota, Philipp Hofmann and Josh Clarke introduced, Brentford had renewed energy. Mr Kavanagh’s signal of nine additional minutes also gave The Bees and boost and they pushed on. With Jota exploring the inside right channel and Clarke and Field pushed up on the left Brentford laid siege in the final stages.
Vibe turned a Colin cross wide at the nest post before Jota wriggled free in the penalty area and smashed a shot towards the far post but Darlow somehow got down to turn it away. Mr Kavanagh was starting to become the focus of ire from home fans, ignoring appeals for a foul when Lascelles pulled Hofmann’s shirt at least two feet from his body. And then when a Jota shot deflected through and bounced off Hofmann, Vibe appeared to be taken out as he tried to convert but once again no foul was given. Even as the second half approached the 55th minute Brentford pressed, a Colin cross reached Field and he smashed it towards goal but the ball was cleared and Newcastle had the win.
Brentford: Bentley; Egan (sub Hofmann 87 mins), Dean, Bjelland; Colin, Yennaris, Woods, McEachran (sub Jota 80 mins), Field; Sawyers (sub Clarke 90 mins); Vibe
Subs (not used): Bonham, Kerschbaumer, Barbet, Hogan
Bookings: Vibe (81 mins) (second of season)
Newcastle United: Darlow; Yedlin, Clark, Lascelles, Dummett; Colback, Hayden (sub Anita 62 mins (sub Hanley 71 mins)); Ritchie, Pérez, Gouffran; Gayle (sub Murphy 28 mins)
Subs (not used): Sels, Lazaar, Ameobi, Sterry
Bookings: Dummett (31 mins)
Attendance: 11,435 (1,633 away fans)