Ollie Watkins scored a second half equaliser as Brentford earned a point against pre-season promotion-favourites Stoke City. The Bees fell behind before the break after handing Stoke a golden opportunity which Benik Afobe gladly took. But they put that behind them, hit back to level after the interval and should probably have gone on to win the game.
A point was the least The Bees deserved from their afternoon. Stoke’s goal came out of nothing and Brentford limited their hosts to very few chances. At the other end, Jack Butland more than earned his corn with some fine saves while other chances came and went. The Bees dominated possession and territory and will feel disappointed to have taken just a point from the game.
Brentford were on the front foot from the early minutes. They looked very comfortable in their surroundings and dominated possession and territory. The Bees were quicker to the second balls in midfield when Stoke looked to play long and they passed up the pitch with confidence and quality. Josh McEachran dictated play from the base of midfield but there were pockets of space for Lewis Macleod and Romaine Sawyers to play in as well which enabled Brentford to create chances.
They should have been ahead inside five minutes when Watkins robbed Ryan Shawcross and Neal Maupay had a run at goal, but Bruno Martins Indi ate up the ground as he chased back and as the Brentford striker waited for the perfect chance to shoot, the tackle was made. Yoann Barbet had a shot blocked from the resulting corner and forced Butland in to a save from a free kick later in the half as Brentford pressed. Macleod also saw a shot deflect wide after another move where Brentford played their way through the home midfield.
Stoke didn’t look comfortable with Brentford’s all-action style. The Bees forced mistakes as they harried their hosts all over the pitch. There was quality on show for the home side but only seen in fits and starts in the opening exchanges as they couldn’t get the ball in to dangerous areas. Their only real sight of goal early on came from a Moritz Bauer long throw that Shawcross got a head to but Daniel Bentley saved comfortably.
At the other end, a ball in to the penalty area from Henrik Dalsgaard almost created an opening for Watkins but he was crowded out. Another attack soon after led to Dalsgaard getting in a good position on the right and lashing a shot wide at the near post before Sergi Canós got on to a poor pass from Bauer and let fly from 20 yards but Butland saved low down.
Stoke had hardly been in the game and had lost Martins Indi to injury just before the half hour. But that break seemed to give them time to regroup and when Brentford handed them a goal soon after, the game swung in their favour. The goal came from an innocuous long ball forward, it bounced 25 yards from Brentford’s goal and Bentley started to come as Chris Mepham followed the flight of the pass towards his net, the defender then nodded it past the onrushing goalkeeper as communication broke down and Afobe was able to run on and tap in to an empty net.
It was a goal out of nothing, one Stoke didn’t deserve and one Brentford handed to them. The hosts then pushed on looking to make the most of the gift. A Tom Ince shot was blocked and James McClean headed wide later in the half. There could have been a second goal just before the break when, after Bentley appeared to be fouled as he came for a high ball with Shawcross challenging, Ince had a header cleared off the line by Ezri Konsa.
But Brentford weathered a bit of a storm and arguably had the better of the later stages of the half. They could have levelled when Canós got clear and slipped Maupay in but the striker’s lofted effort bounced the wrong side of the post after beating Butland. Canós also lashed over later in the half before a low Watkins shot was saved. Sawyers also had a sight of goal when Watkins fed a Dalsgaard ball back in to his path but he was crowded out as he went to pull the trigger.
That meant The Bees went in to the interval one down with the home crowd roused but knowing they had done enough in the first half to be at least level. And they went out after the break determined to get themselves back on terms. Stoke sat deeper after the break, inviting The Bees to play in front of them. That ensured Brentford dominated possession but there were few really good chances.
Macleod saw a shot saved after good work by the increasingly lively Canós and the provider then almost scored himself with a drive in to the box and a shot that deflected in to the side netting. A poor touch from Maupay almost enabled Stoke to grab a second when Ince was played through on the right side but his shot was deflected wide. And that block from Barbet proved vital when Brentford equalised midway through the half.
It was a goal to savour for the 1,400 travelling fans as The Bees moved the ball down the left from back to front. Watkins picked it up and moved through the gears, he stepped inside and exchanged passes with Maupay before drilling a shot from 20 yards past Butland and in to the net. The England goalkeeper had no time to set himself as the shot fizzed past him and Brentford were level.
That set up a grandstand finish as Brentford sensed that three points might be available to them. Watkins blasted just wide after good work from substitute Nico Yennaris and a low effort from Saïd Benrahma, also off the bench, was pushed out by Butland, just away from Maupay. Bentley gathered a weak header from Shawcross at the other end but it was Brentford that were pressing for the winner.
The Bees looked as if they had it when Sawyers and Yennaris combined to free Watkins in the inside left channel, he cut inside and blasted towards the top corner but Butland made a superb stop to push the effort away. The resulting corner reached Barbet but he blasted wide and Benrahma had another shot blocked soon after before referee Andy Davies waved away penalty appeals when it looked as if Watkins had been fouled by Erik Pieters. Maupay also saw a shot roll inches wide with Butland beaten after he got on to a Watkins pass.
Stoke had been unable to create much in the later stages as Brentford pushed them back. Afobe had half a sight of goal when he got on to a long ball but Mepham quickly shut the door and a long-range effort from Peter Etebo flew well over. Even in the dying seconds it was Brentford pressing, Maupay found space 20 yards out and let fly but his shot was blocked and that was the last chance of winner gone.
Stoke City: Butland; Bauer, Martins Indi (sub Williams 26 mins), Shawcross, Pieters; Allen, Fletcher (sub Crouch 77 mins); Ince, Bojan (sub Etebo 64 mins), McClean; Afobe
Subs (not used): Federici, Diouf, Berahino, Edwards
Bookings: McClean (13 mins), Allen (53 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet; McEachran (sub Mokotjo 56 mins); Canós (sub Benrahma 67 mins), Sawyers, Macleod (sub Yennaris 67 mins), Watkins; Maupay
Subs (not used): Daniels, Clarke, Jeanvier, Judge
Attendance: 24,806 (1,390 Bees fans)