John Egan scored an 88th minute equaliser as Brentford took a point from their trip to Villa Park. The Bees trailed for much of the match after falling behind inside the first quarter but dominated for long periods. They controlled possession and, in the second half in particular, had the territorial advantage without creating lots of chances. But when one fell to Egan in the dying stages he lashed home, with the aid of a deflection or two to give The Bees a share of the spoils.
And it was a point they deserved overall. Aston Villa started well and had threat in attack but failed to kill Brentford off after Jonathan Kodjia had put them in front. The hosts then sat deeper and deeper as the match wore on, inviting Brentford on. The Bees had a claret and blue wall to deal with but eventually found a way through and earned their point.
Villa selected a very attacking starting line-up. They had multi-million pound signing Kodjia, normally a central striker, playing on the right side of their midfield and both he and left winger Jordan Ayew were keen to get forward and join strike pair Rudy Gestede and Ross McCormack. With McCormack happy to drop off the play and allow his wingers to go past him, the home side posed Brentford some early problems. Gestede set up Kodjia for a shot that Daniel Bentley tipped wide at the near post and, from the resulting corner, a Mile Jedinak shot was blocked.
Brentford did not, however, come to defend. They looked to get on the front foot and tried to get their attacking midfield players – Josh Clarke, Romaine Sawyers and Lewis Macleod – playing deep in opposition territory. They spent a lot of time in the Villa defensive third in the first quarter of the match, winning corners and free kicks, but failed to really trouble Pierluigi Gollini in the home goal. A Sawyers flick from a Macleod free kick was cleared by the home defence deep inside their penalty area and Maxime Colin had a shot saved soon after.
But Villa had the upper hand and looked the team more likely to open the scoring. Bentley pushed a drilled Kodjia cross away before Ashley Westwood saw a shot blocked from a cleared corner. Nico Yennaris sliced a shot well wide for Brentford before the goal Villa were threatening came just before the 20-minute mark. The host swept the ball out to Kodjia on the right and he cut inside Andreas Bjelland before drilling a shot in to the top corner with his left foot from 20 yards. Bentley was left with no chance and Brentford were left to rue giving Kodjia the chance to shoot. And they were probably frustrated that the goal came just as it looked as if they had weathered the early storm.
Bentley was able to make a save soon after, denying Gestede after Richie De Laet had robbed Macleod, but Brentford needed to regroup. The Bees slowed the game down, started to dominate possession and invited Villa to try and press them and win it back. That meant that when the visitors could get at the home defence, they could create chances. Macleod pulled a shot wide before delivering a corner that Colin headed wide.
Gestede headed wide for Villa at the other end but Brentford ended the half on the front foot. There were signs that the hosts would not track runners, particularly when Colin got forward, and Sawyers was starting to pull out of the centre in to areas where he could influence the play. Egan had a header saved before Scott Hogan got in behind on to a Macleod pass, capitalising on a Tommy Elphick error, but he shot early and Gollini was equal to it.
The Bees could have levelled at the end of the first half when Yennaris burst in to the box on to a clever Sawyers pass but his fierce shot was blocked by Aly Cissokho and when the ball was recycled, Clarke blasted over. Brentford would have been looking to build on that momentum and Villa came out after the break looking to hold what they had. They replaced McCormack at half time with winger Jordan Amavi and sat with two banks of four, inviting Brentford to break them down.
The Bees dominated possession after the break, and played mostly in Villa’s half but there were not too many chances. Hogan got in behind on the left side and forced Gollini in to a save at the near post and the home goalkeeper also denied substitute Sullay Kaikai after he had met a deflected Colin cross.
Villa’s tactics may have upset their fans, with cat calls and whistles when they did not press The Bees or kept possession in their own half, but it had proved to be very effective for most of the second period, albeit they appeared to have a lucky escape when an onside-looking Hogan had a goal ruled out for an assistant’s flag. And Villa had chances to make the game safe. Gestede failed to connect when a corner dropped loose inside the six-yard box and Kodjia then turned an Ayew cross wide when well-placed. Ayew shot over before Bentley saved from Kodjia.
The hosts then went even more defensive, taking off Gestede, and Brentford were able to set up camp in the Villa half. Eventually the pressure told. Kaikai created space to deliver a cross from the left that found Egan, up from an earlier attack, at the far post, the central defender drilled his shot past Gollini and two defenders on the line who could not keep it out. The Irish centre half celebrated wildly in front of almost 2,000 travelling Brentford fans while the Villa Park boos grew louder.
And they would have been deafening if Brentford had got the winner they pressed for. Lasse Vibe had a shot blocked after more good work by Kaikai before a low shot from the irrepressible Ryan Woods was tipped around the post by Gollini. Harlee Dean almost won it at the death with a rasping shot that was blocked while Villa struggled to keep Brentford out and keep the ball themselves. In the end, the final whistle probably suited the hosts as Brentford left with a point.
Aston Villa: Gollini; De Laet (sub Bacuna 67 mins), Chester, Elphick, Cissokho; Kodjia, Westwood, Jedinak, Ayew; Gestede (sub Gardner 82 mins), McCormack (sub Amavi h/t)
Subs (not used): Bunn, Baker, Richards, Green
Bookings: Bacuna (86 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Bjelland; Woods, Yennaris (sub McEachran 83 mins); Clarke (sub Kaikai 56 mins), Sawyers, Macleod (sub Vibe 76 mins); Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, Barbet, McCormack, Saunders
Bookings: Colin (41 mins) (third of season), Woods (70 mins) (fourth of season)