Your Cardiff City v Brentford match report powered by Utilita
Two first half goals condemned Brentford to defeat against high-flying Cardiff City and ended their long unbeaten run. The Bees headed to South Wales having not lost in nine Sky Bet Championship fixtures but fell behind inside the first ten minutes. Chances to level came and went – with Neal Maupay missing one particularly gilt-edged opening – and the hosts struck again before the break. They maintained that 2-0 lead through to the end to take the points and maintain their hold on a top three spot.
The defeat was only Brentford’s second in the league since mid-August and the first since a loss to Sheffield Wednesday a few weeks later. And it is one they may find hard to take. They fell behind when failing to deal with a set piece and then did not score when dominating a spell in the first half. They second goal gave The Bees a second half mountain to climb and more chances came and went as they failed to find the crucial goals they needed.
The game sprung to life immediately with Brentford on the attack from the first whistle. They earned themselves two early corners and Nico Yennaris had a shot blocked from the second. That caused a comical delay as the ball burst when the players made contact and Cardiff eventually cleared. Although Brentford had the first attack, it was the home side that started the brighter and when they took the lead eight minutes in, it had been coming.
Cardiff looked to get the ball forward quickly. They were playing for set pieces, including long throws, and tried to pin Brentford in their penalty area. Daniel Bentley saved a Sean Morrison header when a free kick was played deep in the penalty area. But the Brentford goalkeeper then dropped a corner and Andreas Bjelland failed to clear, the ball dropped to Sol Bamba but Bentley redeemed himself with a brave block.
Brentford were, however, showing a fallibility when balls came in to the box and Cardiff punished them. Morrison delivered a long throw, Brentford could only head it half away and Joe Ralls fired in a shot from 12 yards that fizzed past Bentley and in to the net. It was a goal the hosts had been threatening but Brentford responded strongly.
Playing with the confidence of a long unbeaten run, they tried to take the game to Cardiff. The home side tried to congest the midfield but Brentford found space to play through and started to create chances. A low shot from Maupay after a nice turn was saved by Neil Etheridge and, after a nice move on the right involving Josh Clarke, Yennaris and Romaine Sawyers, the Cardiff goalkeeper then pawed a shot from Brentford’s French striker around the post.
Danny Ward sliced a shot wide for Cardiff before a clever free kick from Ollie Watkins presented Yoann Barbet with a shooting chance 15 yards out but he blazed over. As the midway point of the first half approached, Cardiff started to shut down some of Brentford’s play. They got a bit tighter in midfield and stopped The Bees playing through. Brentford still had the majority of possession and dominated territorially but there were few chances. And at the other end Morrison shot wide at the far post before Bentley saved from Ralls and Craig Bryson fired over.
The key moment of the game arguably came just past the half hour mark. Watkins and Maupay put Etheridge and Morrison under pressure and won the ball, leaving the two of them with only the Cardiff goalkeeper to beat. Watkins squared it and left Maupay to tap in but he inexplicably delayed and then fired wide as Bamba hared back to defend the line. The French striker tried to place the ball in a tiny spot between Bamba and the post rather than shooting in to the yards of space on the other side of the goal and a big chance had gone.
The importance of that moment was emphasised when Cardiff doubled their lead a few moments later. Bruno Ecuele Manga won the ball in midfield and burst powerfully through. He completed a clever exchange of passes with Loïc Damour before squaring for Ward to toe-poke in from close range. If the two-goal lead was perhaps not a fair reflection of the game, Cardiff’s clinical finishing had shown why they are chasing promotion.
Bentley saved a low free kick from Junior Hoilett as half time approached but the game largely drifted towards the break. Brentford looked a little dazed with finding themselves two down while Cardiff were content with the lead they had built. That lead was almost halved seconds after the restarted when Maupay got on to a Barbet cross and turned clear but his shot was deflected past the far post.
Brentford would have known they needed to start the second half better than they ended the first. And a goal would perhaps give them a chance to get something from the game. Maupay looked like the man most likely to provide it. First, he got on to a Yennaris lay off and whistled a shot inches past the post. And then he fizzed a shot narrowly over the crossbar from 20 yards and picking up a Ryan Woods pass.
Maupay also battled bravely to win a free kick on the edge of the penalty area that Barbet curled in to the defensive wall. As Brentford pushed forward the game became stretched and Cardiff used the space left in behind The Bees to break. When Hoilett recycled a Liam Feeney cross he found Ward but the shot flew wide. Ward then fired over after picking up a poor kick from Bentley before, after another break, the Cardiff striker fed Hoilett but the shot flew over the bar.
Most of the action was taking place in the Cardiff half as Brentford probed for a way back in to the game. The Bees introduced Sergi Canós and Lasse Vibe as they looked for the goal that would give them a lifeline and the duo almost provided it. Watkins played a ball to the right, Yennaris delivered a cross and Canós’ shot was superbly saved by Etheridge. The ball looped up and both Canós and Vibe tried to force it in but Bamba cleared and referee Andy Madley indicated the ball had not crossed the line.
Etheridge saved a curling Sawyers shot and then a deflected effort from Canós as Brentford pressed without success. Bentley then denied Feeney at the other end after the Cardiff attacker had picked up a Ward lay-off and shot powerfully from 20 yards. John Egan lifted an effort across goal after getting on to a Canós cross and Watkins then saw a shot deflect for a corner before curling one over the bar.
As the game entered the final five minutes Brentford were almost camped in Cardiff territory but the home defence was largely holding firm. Watkins looked like he had got in behind but was pulled back by Ecuele Manga. Mr Madley decided a caution was sufficient punishment and Barbet’s free kick hit the wall. Barbet then met the resulting corner but Bamba cleared inside the six-yard box.
Bentley denied Hoilett and Frédéric Gounongbe fired across the face of goal as time ticked down and it became clear the points were staying in South Wales. There was still time for Barbet to have a fierce shot blocked and for a Sawyers effort to deflect in to the arms of Etheridge. And even in the dying seconds, Etheridge made a fine save from a fierce Canós shot. The resulting corner was headed over by Watkins and that was that.
Cardiff City: Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Ralls, Bryson; Feeney (sub Paterson 73 mins), Damour (sub Gunnarsson 70 mins), Hoilett; Ward (sub Gounongbe 80 mins)
Subs (not used): Murphy, Tomlin, Pilkington, Connolly
Bookings: Ecuele Manga (84 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Clarke, Egan, Bjelland, Barbet; Woods (sub McEachran 77 mins); Jozefzoon (sub Canós 61 mins), Sawyers, Yennaris, Watkins; Maupay (sub Vibe 61 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Mepham, Mokotjo, Macleod