Brentford came from behind three times to earn a point in a six-goal thriller against Derby County. The Bees had come back twice in the first half after Harry Wilson and Jayden Bogle had scored for the visitors with Julian Jeanvier and Neal Maupay on target. When Wilson scored again with 12 minutes remaining, it looked like it would be the winner but Saïd Benrahma grabbed the third equaliser of the afternoon to ensure it ended all square.
And that was the least Brentford deserved from their work on a chilly spring afternoon at Griffin Park. Temperatures rose on the pitch as the teams went toe-to-toe in every sense of the word but Brentford had more spells where they held the upper hand and when the game was level at 2-2, The Bees had the chances to kill Derby off. But the visitors responded, and it took the late intervention of Benrahma to give The Bees a point.
The game was staccato in the opening exchanges. There were free kicks in both directions, a lengthy stoppage for an injury to Derby left back Scott Malone, and no rhythm. The Malone injury – which eventually saw him withdrawn after he tried to carry on – came after a collision with Henrik Dalsgaard and when Tom Lawrence, Ezri Konsa and Jeanvier had a disagreement at close quarters soon after, the temperature went up a notch and a more intense game was a better spectacle.
Lawrence was perhaps fortunate to escape without a caution, at least, for his part in the incident – standing aggressively over Jeanvier and moving his feet around the prone defender. But with tackles still flying in, Dalsgaard, Bogle and Bradley Johnson all had yellow cards shown in their direction by referee John Brooks inside the first quarter of the contest. The opening 30 minutes also saw both teams score twice, and a lively contest develop.
The first goal went to the visitors and came soon after the incident between Lawrence and Jeanvier. The visitors were already taking a high starting position and trying to stop Brentford building from the back but the started to snap in to tackles and force The Bees back. They created three chances in quick succession, and took the third.
One came on the break after a robust challenge on Benrahma and saw Wilson exchange passes with Martyn Waghorn and find space to shoot but Luke Daniels saved well to his right. A long ball then caught Brentford out and Waghorn got on to it in the penalty area, but his shot was half stopped by Daniels and cleared by Mads Bech Sørensen. The Bees could not, however, properly clear and after a spell of increasingly desperate passes, Romaine Sawyers was robbed, the ball was worked to Wilson and he fired low and true past Daniels from 18 yards.
Brentford had worked the first chance of the game before Derby’s spell – Maupay failing to really test Kelle Roos from 20 yards after picking up and Ollie Watkins lay-off – but the visitors had applied pressure and made it count. They could not, however, hold on to that lead. Brentford pressed on and earned a corner which Benrahma delivered from the right and Jeanvier arrived unmarked at the near post to power past Roos. The low corner caught Derby out and Jeanvier was unchallenged as he finished with his right foot.
But this time Derby responded to conceding, retaking the lead within three minutes. The goal was a fine one by Bogle, but one Brentford will be annoyed at conceding. The right back set off on a run and weaved his way, a little too easily, through challenges in the inside right channel before finding space in the penalty area and producing a fine low finish. Bogle fired past the outstretched arm of Daniels and in off the far post but should never have got to the position he did.
Waghorn could have given Derby breathing space when he met a Bogle cross 12 yards out, but his header lacked pace and Daniels saved while another low Benrahma corner caused consternation at the other end and a Dalsgaard header was saved. Brentford did not, however, have to wait much longer for their second goal. A superb pass from Sawyers set Benrahma away and he fed the overlapping Rico Henry, the cross came in and was turned home at the near post, on the stretch, by Maupay. The cross from Henry, moving at top pace, was inch perfect and Maupay arrived at the right time to score his 24th goal of the season.
At the point it looked as if the goal and card count could continue to rocket, even in the first half. But while temperatures stayed high, Mr Books was content to keep his cards in his pocket and both teams started to defend a little better. As such, the game was level at 2-2 at half time but there was the promise of much more to come after the interval.
And any thoughts that the second half would continue in the quiet-ish way the first ended went out of the window within minutes. Derby could have scored when Fikayo Tomori met a Mason Mount free kick with a powerful downward header, but Daniels saved to his right. The corner was worked short and Ashley Cole burst in to the box before tumbling when in proximity to Maupay. Mr Brooks decided the former England defender had committed an act of simulation and showed a yellow card.
Cole was so unhappy with the decision that his protests continued for a good few minutes and when another decision did not go his way moments later, his reaction may have been enough for a second yellow card to be shown. When Cole then fired well wide from distance soon after, the Griffin Park crowd delighted in his anger. Benrahma curled an effort wide at the other end after a nice exchange and the same players were involved again soon after as Maupay set up Watkins but his shot was blocked.
After Derby’s bright start to the second half, Brentford began to take control. Kamohelo Mokotjo had been replaced at half time, perhaps due to the number of times he had been fouled in the first period, but Josh Dasilva, on his place, helped Sawyers dominate the midfield. Benrahma and Watkins found pockets of space, linked with Maupay and brought the wide players, particularly Dalsgaard, in to the game. The Bees put together extended spells of possession and should have got ahead.
The best chance probably came when Roos dropped a Benrahma cross at the feet of Watkins, but he could not convert and the Derby goalkeeper reacted quickly enough to dive on the ball as Maupay tried to force it home. Watkins then pulled a shot wide after being set up by Maupay following a sensational turn in midfield before a Sawyers pass put Dalsgaard in to acres of space on the right but he saw a shot blocked rather than picking out a pass. Maupay saw a shot from another low corner deflect wide before Sawyers saw a shot blocked.
In a spell of 20 minutes, The Bees had complete control, dominating possession and territory but they did not take the chances that came that way and they were punished for it. Derby could have scored when Mount got on to a Lawrence touch and fired against a post from 15 yards but that only delayed the killer goal. Tomori created it with a defence-splitting pass after he had been afforded too much space in midfield and the ball picked out Wilson in the inside right channel who took a touch and slotted past Daniels.
Having weathered the storm, Derby celebrated like they had won the game and they could have sealed it with chances soon after. A Mount pass was superbly flicked by Mason Bennett in to the path of Lawrence but Daniels made a fine stop. The corner was worked short and Cole delivered to the far post but a header from Johnson deflected wide.
But this time it was Derby that were made to pay for not taking chances. Brentford attacked down the right and Sergi Canós picked a pass inside, a slip from Richard Keogh allowed Benrahma to receive the ball and he fired past Roos from 20 yards to draw The Bees level again. That left around ten minutes for either team to find a winner, and both went looking for it.
Another great turn from Maupay enabled Dalsgaard to break on the left, he found Benrahma but the shot deflected inches wide. Sørensen then fired over the bar when the corner was played in low and Maupay set him up. Konsa made a fine block to stop Lawrence converting a cross and there was still time for a flashpoint between Canós and Tomori that summed up the afternoon, combative, competitive and close to the edge.
Brentford: Daniels; Konsa, Jeanvier, Sørensen; Dalsgaard, Mokotjo (sub Dasilva h/t), Sawyers, Henry (sub Odubajo 62 mins); Watkins (sub Canós 77 mins), Maupay, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Balcombe, Oksanen, Marcondes, Forss
Bookings: Dalsgaard (15 mins) (tenth of season), Henry (50 mins) (second of season), Canós (90 mins) (second of season)
Derby County: Roos; Bogle, Tomori, Keogh, Malone (sub Cole 18 mins); Johnson; Wilson, Mount, Holmes (sub Bryson 73 mins), Lawrence; Waghorn (sub Bennett 50 mins)
Subs (not used): Carson, Wisdom, Nugent, Huddlestone
Bookings: Bogle (19 mins), Johnson (15 mins), Cole (49 mins), Lawrence (69 mins), Tomori (90 mins)
Attendance: 12,225 (1,647 away fans)