A week is a long time in football, so the saying goes. Seven nights prior to this meeting between Brentford and Fulham at Griffin Park, The Bees had celebrated West London derby success by beating Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road. A week on it was Fulham that had the West London bragging rights as they took a deserved win in TW8. The visitors had a half time lead that could have been greater than 1-0 and held firm as Brentford pushed after the break. They then sealed the game with a stoppage time goal to ensure they took the points.
And over the course of the 90 minutes, the right team won. Brentford were below the standards they have set for much of the campaign in the first half and the one positive at the break was that they were still in contention. There were chances after the interval to level and if The Bees had scored when they had the initiative it may have changed the course of the evening. But by the time Fulham sealed it late on, they were worthy winners.
The visitors started the game well. They had the initiative for most of the first quarter and Brentford found it difficult to get a foothold in the game. Fulham were able to pick passes between Brentford’s midfield and defensive lines and had pace on the right in the shape of Sone Aluko and Ryan Fredericks that they used as an outlet. Brentford tried to combat it by switching Josh Clarke to their left but that experiment was quickly ditched.
There was an early half-opening for The Bees when an Andreas Bjelland pass looked as if it would release Scott Hogan in behind but David Button was quickly out of his goal and the former Brentford stopper denied his former team. But most of the early chances came at the other end. The best was halted by the flag of the assistant referee when Lucas Piazon looked as if he was in but he was offside. Tom Cairney shot over for the visitors and Harlee Dean made an important block after Chris Martin had set up Aluko.
Ragnar Sigurðsson also headed a corner over before Aluko wasted another chance created by Martin latching on to a deep Scott Malone cross. Daniel Bentley was called in to action to deny Stefan Johansen when he had been set up by Cairney after referee Tim Robinson adjudged that a tug around the neck on Romaine Sawyers was not an infringement. Aluko wasted another good chance from a quick break when Malone and Cairney set him up but the Fulham man fired in to the side netting from 15 yards.
The goal Aluko, and Fulham, had been threatening eventually came nine minutes before half time. The visitors overloaded on the right and Johansen picked out Aluko 18 yards out, his first shot was superbly saved by Bentley but the Fulham attacker reacted first to bundle it in from close range. It was a lead the visitors had deserved as Brentford had spent most of the half on the back foot. Fulham’s discipline out of possession was making life very difficult for The Bees and the visitors were dominating the ball and territory.
There had been half chances for Brentford. A Bjelland flicked from a Sawyers corner almost set up John Egan but he could not reach the ball to poke in. And soon after Sawyers’ flicked a throw in to Nico Yennaris ten yards from goal but he was crowded out as he went to shoot. The one positive Brentford could take from the first half was that they were still in the game. If Bentley had not made a superb stop to deny Cairney and then watched Piazon blast the loose ball over from ten yards the second half task would have been much tougher for The Bees.
Aluko could have scored a second just after the break when he headed a Piazon cross wide but the game was certainly more even following half time. There was a higher tempo to Brentford’s play and while the visitors kept their level high, The Bees were more of a force. They forced more mistakes from Fulham and moved the ball with more purpose in attacking areas when they could. Clarke blasted high and wide after being found by a clever Sawyers pass and Josh McEachran pulled a shot wide from a half cleared corner.
Dean had a header blocked as Brentford started to take control of the game but as The Bees pushed forward there were gaps at the back. Fulham looked to counter-attack at pace and the game was end-to-end for long periods of the second half. Egan made a superb block to stop Martin finishing off a Malone cross and then lead the Brentford break. The Irish defender picked out a pass that put Clarke through with only Button to beat but his powerful shot was palmed over the bar. Clarke then got away from Sigurðsson in the inside right channel but his shot was beaten away by Button and he smashed the loose ball across the face of goal.
Aluko curled an effort over for Fulham before Ryan Woods sliced a shot from a half cleared free kick at the other end. There was a scramble from a corner soon after when Dean had a header blocked and then one saved by Button, Fulham immediately broke and an acrobatic effort from Floyd Ayité flew wide. Lasse Vibe had a shot blocked after turning well in the box before a Sullay Kaikai corner lead to Egan having a header blocked, he then fired the re-bound wide.
As the minutes ticked down Brentford threw more men forward and that left gaps for Fulham to break in to. Ayité fired across the face of goal before the excellent Malone burst forward from left back to fire in to the side netting. Another Kaikai corner created more mayhem and Egan had a header blocked before the follow-up effort was scrambled away deep inside the six-yard box. Fulham then broke quickly and Bentley had to rush out to beat Cairney to the ball 35 yards from his net, Dean then blocked a Malone shot.
Fulham sealed the win with a goal two minutes in to stoppage time. Woods lost possession in midfield with Brentford committed to an attack and there were acres of space for Fulham to break in to. Cairney moved in to the box and then exchanged passes with Martin before firing in to the back of the net. That ensured Fulham took the points and it is they who have the bragging rights this week.
Brentford: Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Bjelland; Woods; Clarke (sub Hofmann 85 mins), Yennaris, McEachran (sub Kaikai 63 mins), Sawyers (sub Vibe 71 mins); Hogan
Subs (not used): Balcombe, Barbet, Onariase, Kerschbaumer
Bookings: Dean (83 mins) (seventh of season), Bjelland (87 mins) (second of season), Vibe (90 mins)
Fulham: Button; Fredericks, Sigurðsson, Kalas, Malone (sub Ream 89 mins); McDonald; Aluko (sub Parker 78 mins), Cairney, Johansen Piazon (sub Ayité 71 mins); Martin
Subs (not used): Bettinelli, Odoi, Smith, Sessegnon
Bookings: McDonald (27 mins)
Attendance: 12,052 (1,654 away fans)