Brentford and Premier League Southampton played an entertaining pre-season friendly draw at an unseasonably wet Griffin Park. The Bees went ahead in the first half through Lasse Vibe and produced a fine showing before the break but Southampton his back and two Charlie Austin goals put them ahead in the later stages. But after a series of substitutions, a Fraser Forster mistake gifted Josh Clarke and equalising goal.
A draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play across the afternoon. Southampton’s quality was evident but they only really had control at the start of the second half. Brentford produced some fine football over the course of the 90 minutes and also gave first appearances to new signings Neal Maupay and Ollie Watkins as well as Griffin Park debuts to Kamo Mokotjo and Henrik Dalsgaard on an afternoon with many positives.
The game was end-to-end almost from the first whistle. Brentford wanted to attack at every opportunity with Romaine Sawyers trying to take up advanced positions to join in with the front three and Josh McEachran looking to both run and pass the ball forward. An early pass from McEachran after a fine run allowed Vibe a sight of goal, after battling past Jan Bednarek but Forster made the save. Moments later Sergi Canós set up Vibe again but this time Oriol Romeu made a superb recovery tackle to prevent the shot.
Brentford had started slightly the brighter. Southampton’s midfield were slightly deeper but they also got bodies forward when they could and had early chances, particularly from set pieces. John Egan had to be alert to block an Austin shot that looked destined for the net after good work from Dušan Tadić and Shane Long and crosses in to the box looked likely to cause problems. Austin headed over from a corner before Daniel Bentley saved a Long header. Tadić then had a shot blocked and Bentley saved from Romeu as the visitors pressed.
Austin had another chance soon after but was just unable to reach to head in a Tadić cross following a half-cleared corner before a Maxime Colin cross at the other end was headed by Vibe in to the path of Sawyers but he was defeated by the bounce and sliced a shot wide. Egan flicked a header over before a wonderful run from Jota almost ended in a goal. The Spanish attacker beat Matt Targett and Maya Yoshida and weaved in to the box before firing inches wide.
Mokotjo was unable to convert a Jota cross following a short corner and Tadić wasted a chance at the other end by theatrically falling after beating Bentley to a through ball and looking like he could roll it in. As half time approached the game started to drift but a moment of magic sent The Bees in ahead at the break. Sawyers threaded a pass in the inside left channel and Canós sped away from Bednarek – the defender desperately trying to pull him back but being unable to even reach Brentford’s speedy wide man – before crossing for Vibe to poke the ball home.
It was a goal of quality in a first half performance that reached a very high level from the hosts. Southampton could have levelled before the break but a Jérémy Pied ball flew across the face of goal but could probably not have too many complaints to be behind at the interval. But the contest was very different after the break. Southampton’s midfield were higher up the pitch, Brentford could not play through and were therefore pressed back by the Premier League side.
The visitors could have levelled when Sofiane Boufal got past Mokotjo, Yoann Barbet and Egan but faced with only Bentley to beat he lifted the ball wide of the far post. That equaliser was not, however, long in coming. A breakdown in communication between Sawyers and Egan enabled the ball to run free on the edge of Brentford’s penalty area, Austin latched on to it and steered a shot past Bentley and in to the corner of the net.
And before the hour mark, Southampton had turned the game around. Substitute Sam McQueen burst forward on the left and delivered a low cross that was met first time by Austin, Bentley got hands to the fierce shot but could only divert the ball in to the roof of the net. Canós turned and shot over for The Bees and then had an effort saved but as the game ticked past the hour both teams started to ring the changes. By the time the game reached the 70-minute mark, the teams had changed 13 of the 20 starting outfield players between them and the game had lost its flow.
When six more changes were made inside the final 15 minutes only Long and the two goalkeepers were left from the starting line-ups. But Forster may have wished his afternoon had ended early as Brentford levelled with eight minutes to go. A Clarke cross from the left appeared to be sailing in to the arms of Forster but with Neal Maupay making a nuisance of himself – albeit not appearing to actually touch the Southampton goalkeeper – the ball bounced through the hands of the England international and bounced in to the net.
The goal will probably be one Clarke will claim, and Forster will not want it, but it gave The Bees the momentum to seek a winner. Watkins almost got it with a powerful shot in to the side netting after a nice run and when Florian Jozefzoon opened the Premier League side up soon after, Maupay missed his kick, Clarke saw a shot blocked and Ryan Woods fizzed an effort just over. Reece Cole saw a free kick deflect wide and a Woods shot flicked a leg and flew wide at the death as Brentford pressed, unsuccessfully, for a winner. But the lack of that goal did not prevent them taking much from an entertaining contest.
Brentford: Bentley; Colin (sub Dalsgaard 67 mins), Egan (sub Dean 77 mins), Barbet (sub Bjelland 77 mins), Henry (sub Field 67 mins); Mokotjo (sub Woods 67 mins), Sawyers (sub Watkins 67 mins), McEachran (sub Cole 77 mins); Jota (sub Jozefzoon 67 mins), Vibe (sub Maupay 67 mins), Canós (sub Clarke 77 mins)
Southampton: Forster; Pied (sub Jones 77 mins), Bednarek (sub Stephens h/t), Yoshida (sub Gardoş 77 mins), Targett (sub McQueen h/t); Davis (sub Højbjerg 62 mins), Romeu (sub Wood 62 mins); Long, Tadić (sub Gallagher 62 mins), Boufal (sub Johnson 71 mins); Austin (sub Gabbiadini 62 mins)