Scott Hogan scored twice as Brentford became the first team to beat Brighton and Hove Albion on their own patch since the start of the year. The hosts, one of the promotion favourites, had not conceded a goal at home this term but Hogan got in behind twice to end that run and give The Bees the points. The 2-0 win was Brighton’s first defeat at their American Express Community Stadium home since Wolverhampton Wanderers inflicted a New Year’s Day loss on The Seagulls.
And over the course of the 90 minutes, Brentford deserved it. The Bees had to weather a storm from the hosts in the opening exchanges but Daniel Bentley did not have too many saves to make, mainly thanks to the outstanding defensive work of those in front of him. And when the visitors got a chance, Hogan took it just before the half hour. The second half was end-to-end but Brentford were the more incisive side and merited the second goal they got with 20 minutes to go and the win that gave them.
Brentford started on the front foot and one early surge in to the penalty area from Romaine Sawyers was ended by a defensive challenge from Shane Duffy that may, in other circumstances, have been penalised. But it was the hosts who had the better of the first ten minutes. They started the game with wide players Anthony Knockaert and Jamie Murphy hugging the touchlines but they had permission to roam. Knockaert, in particularly, often popped up centrally while Brentford had to use Maxime Colin and Josh Clarke to close down the threat of Murphy on the left.
It was Murphy’s early thrusts forward that led to the first chances. Glenn Murray had a shot well blocked by John Egan after a nice turn and from another Murphy run a shot was deflected wide. The resulting corner was played short to Knockaert but his effort was again deflected behind. Bentley was called in to action midway through the first half to tip a near post shot from Knockaert over the bar but Brentford had largely weathered the early storm.
As the half wore on Brentford were getting tighter in midfield. They were not allowing Brighton the space to play the quick, direct football that has won them so many Championship games in recent years. The Bees were doubling up on the flanks, closing down the room for the wide men to run and when they got Ryan Woods on the ball they were able to dictate play in midfield. There were no clear cut chances for The Bees before Hogan’s goal but they showed signs they could create.
Brentford always looked dangerous when they attempted to get Hogan away behind a high home defence, particularly behind Brighton right back Bruno Saltor. It was no surprise that when the Brentford goal came, it came in that way. Lewis Macleod drifted infield and picked out a pass that set Hogan away, he drew David Stockdale and drilled the ball inside his near post. It was Brentford’s first shot but not particularly against the flow of recent play.
Hogan could have had a second later in the half in a very similar way. This time Callum Elder released him in the inside left channel, he got clear and cut back on to his right foot but the powerful shot was saved by Stockdale. Brighton, however, responded well to the goal and ended the half with the initiative. Bentley saved a low Knockaert shot before Murray blasted wide at the near post. Knockaert then shot over following another short corner.
The home side should have levelled in first half stoppage time. Knockaert again was the architect, teasing his way to the by-line and lifting in a cross, Murray headed back and Tomer Hemed nodded towards goal but Egan and Harlee Dean combined to prevent the ball crossing the line. That summed up Brentford’s first half showing. They had to do a bit of defending but most of it was done exceptionally well and it was enough to give them a half time lead.
And that lead could have been doubled within seconds of the re-start when Hogan met a Josh Clarke cross at the near post but Stockdale saved. Moments later Clarke got away again on the right and drilled a ball across that Macleod was just unable to turn in at the far post. Those opening signs were an indication of what was to come in the second half. Brighton attacked with numbers to try and pull level but Brentford were playing with increased confidence and created numerous chances after the break.
The one they took came 20 minutes before the end. The Bees thought they had scored seconds earlier when Andreas Bjelland, on for the injured Elder at half time, met a Macleod corner and flicked a header towards the far post but Knockaert nodded it off the line. Brentford recycled the ball and Bjelland moved it on, Dean fed it inside and Hogan smashed a shot past Stockdale’s right hand and in to the roof of the net.
That goal had been coming. Stockdale had saved a low Macleod shot before a Clarke effort was blocked following a quick break. Another break saw Bjelland and Macleod combine to release Hogan in behind, he raced clear but his low shot was saved by Stockdale. Dean put the striker in again soon after with a clever dinked pass and Hogan worked his way past Lewis Dunk but Stockdale saved again and when Nico Yennaris nodded in to Sawyers’ path the Brentford man blasted the loose ball wide.
Clarke had a shot blocked but that led to the corner that saw Hogan, eventually, grab Brentford’s second and there was no way back for Brighton. While the hosts had created openings after the break, Brentford were on top and producing a brilliant defensive display. Bruno seemed unable to join in as much, fearful of Hogan running in to his defensive channel, and Knockaert was largely marshalled by Bjelland.
Hemed headed one chance straight at Bentley before the Brentford goalkeeper saved a long range Murray effort. Bentley then saved a deflected Knockaert shot before a corner was half cleared and then blasted back in, Hemed met it but Brentford blocked and cleared. The hosts tried to respond after Hogan’s second but Murphy blasted well wide before substitute Elvis Manu had a near post effort that Bentley beat away.
Clarke had a shot blocked for The Bees before running clear and delivering a ball that Duffy had to block to prevent Hogan grabbing his third. Murray had an effort blocked and Bruno blasted over but Brighton were running out of time and ideas. Duffy missed the target with a header before Beram Kayal blasted wide from distance. That summed the afternoon up. Brighton could not find a way through Brentford’s well-organised defence and could not keep Hogan out. It meant Brentford took the points.
Brighton and Hove Albion: Stockdale; Bruno, Duffy, Dunk, Bong; Knockaert, Kayal, Norwood (sub Stephens 66 mins), Murphy (sub Skalak 78 mins); Murray, Hemed (sub Manu 61 mins)
Subs (not used): Maenpaa, Sidwell, Goldson, Hunt
Bookings: Knockaert (32 mins), Hemed (45 mins), Bong (60 mins), Manu (63 mins), Stephens (75 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Colin, Dean, Egan, Elder (sub Bjelland h/t); Yennaris, Woods; Clarke (sub Saunders 85 mins), Sawyers, Macleod (sub Kaikai 79 mins); Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, McEachran, Kerschbaumer, Hofmann
Bookings: Woods (26 mins) (third of season), Egan (43 mins) (second of season)
Attendance: 26,388 (1,405 Bees fans)