Your Fulham v Brentford match report powered by Utilita
Neal Maupay popped up five minutes in to stoppage time to head home an equaliser and give Brentford a share of the spoils in a West London derby against Fulham. The Bees were unfortunate to find themselves a goal down as the second ticked down after a moment of magic from Aleksander Mitrović. But with time just about up, Maupay headed home in front of the Brentford fans to extend his team’s unbeaten run to six and ensure the push for a Play-Off place continues for at least one more week.
A high-quality game looked like being settled by a high-quality goal when Mitrović curled home inside the final 20 minutes but that would have been very harsh on Brentford. The Bees dominated long periods of the first half, had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside and a penalty shout turned down by referee Neil Swarbrick. That, and some missed chances, looked like it would cost The Bees before Maupay’s late intervention.
And that point keeps The Bees in touch with the top six. With three games to go Brentford are tenth in the table but only four points behind Middlesbrough and Millwall, who occupy the final two Play-Off spots. The point, on the other hand, did not help the hosts. Fulham started the day in second but Cardiff City winning at Norwich City leaves Brentford’s West London rivals third in the table, a point behind the Welsh outfit having played a game more.
With so much to play for, the game was surprisingly open. Brentford went on the attack from the first whistle and spent most of the opening 15 minutes playing in Fulham territory. When the hosts tried to play through midfield they found Brentford players harrying, hassling and forcing errors and when The Bees had the ball they looked to get wide men Sergi Canós and Florian Jozefzoon running at the full backs and in to the space in behind. The Bees had the ball in the net six minutes in when Ollie Watkins rounded Marcus Bettinelli after getting on to a Canós pass but he was wrongly adjudged to be offside when a slipping Tim Ream had played him two or three yards on.
Romaine Sawyers flashed a shot from 20 yards wide of the post after a cross was half cleared before Watkins got in behind and played a one-two with Jozefzoon before being crowded out by covering defenders. Bettinelli saved a low Jozefzoon shot and Henrik Dalsgaard fired over the bar after a burst from the back. Jozefzoon then nearly capitalised on a Ream error, one of many made in possession by the hosts early on, when he picked up a loose pass and cut in to the box but his shot was tipped over by Bettinelli.
Fulham were struggling to establish a pattern of play in the early stages. Their attempts to play through their central midfield trio – Kevin McDonald, Tom Cairney and Stefan Johansen – were being stifled and Brentford were threatening. The Bees almost got through again when a clever pass from Ryan Woods released Watkins but Ream got back to make another last-ditch tackle as the Brentford striker prepared to pull the trigger.
The home side started to switch their method of play. They looked to get the ball to their left as quickly as possible and use the explosive pace and trickery of Ryan Sessegnon. The England youth international quickly became their key outlet and the most likely source of inspiration. He saw a snapshot deflect wide before getting on a clever Lucas Piazon pass after some interplay on the left, the cut back may have found Cairney but for an important clearance by Yoann Barbet.
The dangerous Sessegnon exchanged passes with Mitrović later in the half and forced Daniel Bentley to save with his legs. The resulting corner was played short and Piazon saw a shot blocked before the ball was worked to Johansen but he curled over from the left edge of the penalty area. Mitrović also had a shot on the turn blocked as Fulham put together their best spell around the half hour mark.
But Brentford soon regained the initiative and should probably had taken a lead in to the half time break. A curling shot from Canós was saved by Bettinelli after good work by Nico Yennaris and Sawyers before the latter had a shot blocked when found unmarked 15 yards out from a deep Watkins corner. Bettinelli then produced a fine save to turn a flicked header from Barbet over the crossbar, the resulting corner again found Brentford’s French defender and he really should have done better than head down and over from seven yards.
With so much to play for, the game was tetchy at times. The hosts, mostly but not exclusively, were questioning the decisions of Mr Swarbrick and his team but late in the half they were perhaps indebted to the leniency of the officials, again. A Barbet free kick cannoned in to the raised arms of Johansen and away for a corner when it looked like it might be heading in but Mr Swarbrick only awarded a corner. And the whistle was inexplicably blown for half time when Watkins looked like he had got away from Denis Odoi and would be heading through with only Bettinelli to beat.
Prior to that whistle The Bees had gone close again. A free kick dropped loose in the box but Dalsgaard’s shot was blocked, it was then recycled and spread to Andreas Bjelland on the right side of the penalty area, he brought it down and fizzed a shot that whistled inches over Bettinelli’s crossbar. Brentford went in to the break with the initiative but not the lead and were almost hit seconds after the re-start when Cairney worked his way to the by-line and stood up a cross but Mitrović headed it wide.
Johansen also curled a free kick over the bar early in the second half before Brentford again took the initiative, Canós and Jozefzoon were proving a little hot for Fulham to handle with Woods and Sawyers dictating the play and finding spaces in between the home lines. Canós curled a shot over and then almost set up Watkins after getting on to a delicious Woods pass, Ream made a vital clearance to stop Brentford edging ahead.
Yennaris had a shot deflected wide and a Sawyers effort from the resulting corner was blocked. That set up a break for Fulham but Johansen wasted it by blasting high and wide from a tight angle. Barbet shot wide at the other end but the game went in to a lull around the hour. The defensive solidity was overcoming the attacking intent and chances were few and far between, before Mitrović pulled something out of nothing.
Johansen collected a long ball downfield and found space 30 yards from goal, he moved forward and then set up Mitrović and the striker curled home from an improbable position to open the scoring. The Fulham man bent the ball around John Egan and in off both posts from 22 yards giving Bentley no chance and his team the scent of promotion. The hosts then went for the jugular.
Bentley rushed out when Neeskens Kebano got on to a ball played between the Brentford central defence and left side and the Fulham man then had a shot blocked. Cairney then almost bettered Mitrović with a shot from 25 yards that bent away from Bentley and just past the post. At the other end a cross-cum-shot from Barbet nearly caught out Bettinelli but he plunged to his right to stop the effort creeping inside the near post.
As the minutes ticked by Fulham made defensive substitutions and were content to play on the counter-attack. They sat in and invited Brentford on but had a solid defensive base that made them hard to break down. Crosses and through balls were defended as Brentford pressed without joy and it looked like the hosts would take the win.
But as the clocked ticked past the 94th minute Barbet was given time and space to pick a cross, Jozefzoon pulled off at the back post and – perhaps inches offside – nodded back across for Maupay to head in. Bettinelli grasped in vain as the header hit the back of the net and Maupay celebrated in front of the visiting fans. That meant Brentford had their point to start a back-to-back derby week with Queens Park Rangers coming to Griffin Park next week.
Fulham: Bettinelli; Fredericks, Rea, Odoi, Targett; McDonald; Piazon (sub Kebano 54 mins (sub Christie 87 mins)), Johansen (sub Norwood 90 mins), Cairney, Sessegnon; Mitrović
Subs (not used): Button, Fonte, Kalas, Kamara
Bookings: Fredericks (90 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Mepham, Bjelland (sub Egan h/t), Barbet; Woods; Jozefzoon, Sawyers, Yennaris (sub Mokotjo 77 mins), Canós (sub Maupay 69 mins); Watkins
Subs (not used): Daniels, Clarke, Macleod, McEachran
Bookings: Mepham (49 mins) (fourth of season), Maupay (76 mins) (ninth of season)