Brentford were denied a third win in an unbeaten four-game start to the Sky Bet Championship season by a last second equaliser from Aston Villa striker Jonathan Kodjia. The Bees looked set for all three points as they lead deep in stoppage time at Villa Park. Neal Maupay has scored twice for the visitors, either side of a Kodjia goal, to put them 2-1 up. But Kodjia struck again to level it up and earn his team a draw.
A point a piece was probably fair on the balance of play. Villa had much the better of the first half and Maupay’s first goal to put Brentford in front came against the run of play. Kodjia equalised late in the first half but some changes after the interval enabled The Bees to dominate the later stages. And when Maupay put them in front with eight minutes to go it looked like that would be enough for the win. But Kodjia found a last gap leveller to make it 2-2 and share the spoils.
Villa were quickly out of the blocks and had Brentford penned back for much of the early stages. They matched up Brentford with three central midfield players and seemed to be slightly quicker to the ball in that area. The home side dominated possession in the opening minutes and probably should have been ahead inside 90 seconds when John McGinn darted in to the box on to a Kodjia lay off and toe poked narrowly over the crossbar.
That was one of a few early openings for the home side, as well as an appeal for a penalty waved away by referee Jonathan Moss when Henrik Dalsgaard got very tight to Albert Adomah and the Villa man tumbled over inside the box. Daniel Bentley dropped a deep free kick and the Brentford goalkeeper was fortunate to see a clearance from Dalsgaard hit Ollie Watkins and bounce wide. A James Chester header deflected over the top and, after Ezri Konsa had given the ball away, Bentley had to save from Jack Grealish after the stylish attacking midfield man had picked up an Ahmed Elmohamady pass and wriggled free.
Bentley had to deny Grealish again when Brentford failed to deal with a cross that Adomah couldn’t turn home and the Villa man found space to shoot low. The Brentford goalkeeper was then well-positioned to save above his head when Glenn Whelan let fly from 30 yards as the resulting corner was half cleared.
It had been a difficult opening 20 minutes for Brentford. They were forced on the defensive and had little attacking possession. Villa were making it hard for The Bees to play up the pitch, the central midfield players had little possession and the attackers were starved of service. There had been half an opening when Josh McEachran combined with Yoann Barbet and Romaine Sawyers to free Maupay and he created some space before Axel Tuanzebe came back to make a vital tackle.
But that was Brentford’s only real sight of goal in the first 20 minutes and it took until the midway point of the half for their first shot. It came from a sustained spell of possession that ended with Sergi Canós breaking in to the box, he was tackled and the ball fell to Lewis Macleod, but his snap shot flew over the bar from 18 yards. When The Bees went ahead moments later, it was very much against the run of play.
The goal came when Canós got away on the right after good work by McEachran and Macleod and Alan Hutton was slow to track him. The Spanish winger was able to play a ball to the far post where Watkins cushioned a header in to the path of Maupay and the striker made no mistake, lashing in to the top corner as the ball bounced up. It was a superb finish and well executed goal but one that The Bees didn’t really deserve. And it was almost two soon after when a deep Macleod corner found an unmarked Maupay ten yards out, his header was destined for the corner but Whelan cleared off the line.
The goal could have rocked the hosts but they hit back and soon regained the initiative. There was no let-up in their pressing as they harried all over the pitch and simply stopped Brentford playing through them. They also used the pace they had in attack to drive The Bees back and they were soon creating chances to level.
An Elmohamady header deflected wide and Mile Jedinak nodded a McGinn corner across the face of goal before Grealish created space on the edge of the box and lifted a shot over. Bentley saved from Kodjia but was helpless moments later when the Villa striker levelled. Kodjia isolated himself on Konsa in the inside left channel and wriggled away from him before lashing past Bentley at his near post. The Brentford goalkeeper had little chance after Kodjia beat Konsa and Brentford’s lack of covering defenders meant beating one man had the striker in on goal.
Canós had seen a shot blocked just before Villa’s equaliser but there was no doubt the home side deserved to be level and they had the upper hand in the later stages of the half without being able to fashion another good opening. And the home side soon regained control at the start of the second half.
Brentford made a change at the break with Kamohelo Mokotjo replacing Macleod and it looked as if that would have an impact. The Bees had a lot of the ball in the early stages of the second half and created a chance when Maupay broke free in the inside right channel, but Chester raced back to affect the shot and Orjan Nyland made the save. But Villa were soon back on their game, harrying intensely and stopping Brentford’s forward momentum. They also went looking for the game’s crucial third goal.
A Jedinak header was desperately scrambled away after a deep Grealish corner before McGinn curled a shot over from the edge of the penalty area. McGinn missed the target again soon after before Grealish found acres of space on the left, wriggled his way past Mepham and forced Bentley in to a save with a fierce near post shot. The best chance of that spell fell to Kodjia when he met an Adomah cross with a volley after a run down the left but Bentley was well position and gathered comfortably.
With the game heading past the hour mark Nico Yennaris was brought in to the game. His athleticism and freshness, alongside Mokotjo, gave Brentford an extra midfield presence and Villa’s hold on the game reduced. They no longer had control of central areas, their ability to press was diminished and Brentford were able to force mistakes from the home side. Yennaris almost marked his introduction with a goal when he let fly from 25 yards but Nyland got down well low to his right to push it behind.
Yennaris was in the action moments later as he surged through a Villa midfield looking increasingly tired and fed Watkins but his low shot deflected wide of the near post. A Konsa header was blocked soon after as Brentford started to look like the team most likely to get the next goal. And so it proved.
There was a huge gap in the home midfield for Barbet to move in to and he fed Watkins. Tuanzebe was left for dead as Watkins burst in to the box and he let fly with a shot that Nyland superbly saved. But as the ball looped up, Maupay reacted quickest, getting a boot to the ball and forcing it home from close range to restore Brentford’s advantage.
That lead should really have been extended as Brentford pressed in. Saïd Benrahma met a Barbet cross with a diving header that Nyland somehow kept out, forcing Mr Moss to check the technology to see if it had crossed the line. Moments later Yennaris won the ball back deep in Villa territory and Watkins worked his way to the by-line, the ball was pulled back and Maupay’s shot was bravely blocked by Conor Hourihane. The ball dropped loose and Benrahma let fly but the ball hit Maupay and bounced wide.
And those missed chances proved crucial as Villa struck. Mr Moss penalised Chris Mepham for a soft foul and a free kick was taken quickly, the ball was worked to the right and delivered in the box, it flicked a head and reached Kodjia at the far post who looped a header over Bentley and in to the net. It was a cruel end to the evening for The Bees but they earned themselves a point and remain unbeaten with eight points from four Championship games.
Aston Villa: Nyland; Tuanzebe (sub Hourihane 82 mins), Chester, Jedinak, Hutton; Whelan (sub Hepburn-Murphy 85 mins); Elmohamady, McGinn, Grealish; Adomah (sub Green 70 mins); Kodjia
Subs (not used): Moreira, Taylor, Bjarnason, Elphick
Bookings: Kodjia (16 mins), Chester (67 mins), Grealish (68 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet; McEachran (sub Yennaris 60 mins); Canós (sub Benrahma 72 mins), Sawyers, Macleod (sub Mokotjo h/t), Watkins; Maupay
Subs (not used): Daniels, Jeanvier, Woods, Judge
Bookings: Watkins (32 mins), Benrahma (75 mins)