Your Middlesbrough v Brentford match report powered by Utilita
Brentford earned themselves a point against big-spending promotion-favourites Middlesbrough with a 2-2 draw at the Riverside Stadium. The Bees led twice in the North East thanks to goals from Yoann Barbet and Ollie Watkins and arguably did enough to win the game. But they were pegged back twice as the hosts found two equalisers. The first from Martin Braithwaite came midway through the second half after The Bees had led at the break and Fábio da Silva earned his team a draw with a goal 14 minutes from time.
The point was the least Brentford deserved from their afternoon’s work. When they went ahead through Barbet just before the half hour it was a lead they fully merited having taken control of the game following an even start. The hosts were forced to change shape and plan as they chased a leveller and eventually got one from a free kick only for The Bees to restore their lead almost immediately. But Fábio had the final say and ensured the game finished all square.
The first 20 minutes of the game were, by and large, even. Brentford had more than their fair share of possession and looked to get their midfield forward to support striker Neal Maupay. For their part Middlesbrough’s first thought was to look to get right winger Adama Traoré on the ball. The speedy attacker looked to isolate him on Rico Henry and had a couple of early runs without finding the right final ball. Full backs Fábio and Cyrus Christie also joined in for the hosts as they tried to test Brentford at the back.
Middlesbrough had the best chance of the first quarter when Britt Assombalonga escaped on the right and cut the ball back, he found Braithwaite and the Danish striker turned but shot wide from 18 yards. Brentford, however, probably had more attacking positions in those opening exchanges. They had appeals for a penalty turned down when it looked like Kamohelo Mokotjo had been hacked down by Adam Clayton but referee Paul Tierney put his whistle to his lips and then did nothing as Brentford’s midfield man found Nico Yennaris on the edge of the penalty area. The shot from Yennaris was blocked, as was one seconds later from Florian Jozefzoon, and the chance was gone.
Barbet shot wide from 35 yards after being allowed to wander forward unchallenged before a clever header from Henrik Dalsgaard put Jozefzoon in to space in the inside right channel but his shot flew across the face of goal and just past the far post. By the time Watkins robbed Clayton and weaved his way in to the penalty area and saw a shot deflect wide the home fans were booing and jeering their own players and Brentford had control of the game.
The work of Yennaris and Mokotjo in midfield stifled the hosts and when The Bees got the ball they attacked with menace. And just before the half hour, they had the lead. The goal came from a well-executed but relatively simple dead ball. Watkins delivered it from the inside right channel and Barbet found himself unmarked to head in to the bottom corner from ten yards. Goalkeeper Darren Randolph was left helpless by the shoddy marking in front of him and Brentford’s domination of proceedings had turned in to a lead they undoubtedly merited.
The afternoon took a sour turn soon after when Henry challenged Traoré and landed awkwardly. After a few minutes of treatment on his knee he was removed on a stretcher and Josh Clarke came on to play at left back. That could have given the hosts a boost but The Bees till retained their control of the game as half time loomed. Maupay was crowded out when Chris Mepham nodded a corner down and Watkins then curled a shot wide after picking up a loose ball.
Marvin Johnson blasted well over for the hosts and Daniel Bentley gathered when Assombalonga challenged for a loose ball but Brentford came closest to adding the second goal of the game before the break. After Watkins and Jozefzoon had been crowded out when they failed to make the most of a run at the defence the ball was recycled and a Dalsgaard cross found Maupay in front of the home defence but he steered the ball wide.
Brentford’s display had given them the lead and forced Middlesbrough in to a half time re-think. Traoré was withdrawn and Ashley Fletcher, a striker, came on in his place. That did little to alter the shape of the game and the only early chance for Middlesbrough was when Assombalonga headed over. At the other end Watkins saw a shot deflect wide and then had one blocked as The Bees utilised the growing space on the Middlesbrough right.
Jozefzoon burst in to the box but pulled a shot wide and The Bees had another penalty appeal soon after when Watkins appeared to be bundled over by Christie after getting on to a Clarke pass. Once again Mr Tierney waved play on and Maupay’s shot was blocked. That proved to be a key moment as Middlesbrough levelled minutes later. A free kick was played in to the box and not fully cleared, Ben Gibson nodded down and Braithwaite swivelled to smash in from close range.
That could have deflated Brentford but The Bees went back on the attack. Middlesbrough were overcommitting men in attack and after umpteen attempts, Brentford made the space count. Clarke started it with a burst from deep and then fed Jozefzoon on the right, his cross should not have found Watkins on the far post but when it did the Brentford man smashed home with glee to give his team the lead for the second time.
Unfortunately, that lead only lasted four minutes. Jonny Howson was the architect for the hosts as he won the ball and then darted forward. He played a clever give and go with Fletcher before squaring the ball, it reached Fábio at the far side and he slotted home. That set up a grandstand finish but Brentford – with the newly introduced Romaine Sawyers and Josh McEachran – looked just as likely to get the crucial fifth goal.
They almost struck immediately when Jozefzoon had a shot blocked after getting on to a McEachran pass. Brentford then recycled the ball and Watkins had a shot blocked before another Jozefzoon effort deflected wide. Bentley made a fine low save from Christie and then saved at the feet of Assombalonga when a free kick dropped loose.
There were chances at the death for both teams and more controversial moments. Christie looked as if he had been felled when he burst in to the box but once again Mr Tierney did not give a penalty. He also failed to book Christie for a dive and then avoided giving the full back a second yellow card again moments later for a cynical pull on Watkins. The Bees then almost won it when a deep free kick was nodded back across by Dalsgaard but the ball was scrambled away and, following a goalmouth pushing and shoving match that saw further cautions dished out, that was that.
Middlesbrough: Randolph; Christie, Shotton, Gibson, Fábio; Howson, Clayton; Traoré (sub Fletcher h/t), Braithwaite (sub Baker 79 mins), Johnson (sub Bamford 64 mins); Assombalonga
Subs (not used): Konstantopoulos, Friend, Leadbitter, Fry
Bookings: Christie (70 mins), Bamford (90 mins), Randolph (90 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Mepham, Barbet, Henry (sub Clarke 36 mins); Woods; Jozefzoon, Mokotjo (sub Sawyers 73 mins), Yennaris (sub McEachran 73 mins), Watkins; Maupay
Subs (not used): Daniels, Sørensen, Archibald, Shaibu
Bookings: Dalsgaard (67 mins) (second of season), Watkins (90 mins) (second of season), Maupay (90 mins) (third of season)
Attendance: 24,545 (332 Bees fans)