Brentford extended their unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions with a remarkable victory over Blackburn Rovers. The Bees found themselves two down inside seven minutes against a team that had won four in a row and arrived at a cold Griffin Park full of confidence. But Brentford came all the way back. Saïd Benrahma scored in the first half before two from Ollie Watkins turned a half time deficit in to a 3-2 lead. Neal Maupay got his customary goal and Sergi Canós sealed the win with Brentford’s fifth.
Although 5-2 may make the win look slightly more convincing that it was, there was no doubt The Bees earned the points. It was too early for the game to have any pattern when Rovers went two up and Brentford’s persistence and skill in front of goal was well rewarded. The visitors were very good on the counter-attack but their two goal scorers – Bradley Dack and Danny Graham – went off early in the second half and they never looked quite as likely to get a third without them. And when Brentford went ahead, there was no way back.
Although Brentford had the ball in Blackburn territory in the opening seconds, the game could probably not have started in a worse fashion for The Bees. From Brentford’s first attacking possession, Blackburn broke away and scored and within seven minutes the visitors were two goals ahead. On a cold afternoon, the game immediately warmed the Griffin Park crowd as the goals and tackles flew in and an entertaining spectacle unfolded.
Both of Blackburn’s goals in the opening exchanges would have disappointed Brentford. The first came when goalkeeper David Raya released right back Elliott Bennett, Adam Armstrong appeared on the overlap and cut the ball back for the arriving Dack to finish well from 15 yards. The second came when Armstrong was felled needlessly on the right, Harrison Reed delivered the free kick and Graham rose highest to plant a header in to the top corner from 12 yards.
They came within five minutes of each other and within seven minutes of kick-off and set Brentford back. The Bees had looked to get on the front foot from the opening whistle but Blackburn were using the space left as Brentford attacked, particularly on the home side’s left. Raya had made a save from Benrahma between the goals when he linked well with Maupay and The Bees had shown signs they could create space, but they had a mountain to climb.
But before the quarter hour mark, the first steps had been taken as Benrahma grabbed his third goal in three Championship games. And it was a superbly executed one. It came when Maupay dispossessed Dack in Brentford’s half and The Bees broke, Benrahma fed it back to the striker and then got it back via Kamohelo Mokotjo before stepping past Jack Rodwell and curling a shot past Raya and in to the net. The speed of the break left Blackburn floundering and The Bees were back in it.
And that set a pattern for the afternoon. It was attack and counter-attack. Brentford had most of the ball and territory but Blackburn looked to get forward at pace when they got the ball and were probably having the better of the chances. Graham dragged a shot wide when Yoann Barbet failed to clear an Amari’i Bell cross and Rico Henry then diverted an Armstrong shot over the bar. The resulting corner was delivered by Reed and as Daniel Bentley came and failed to make contact, Darragh Lenihan headed over.
Barbet saw a shot blocked at the other end and a Mokotjo effort deflected wide before a free kick from Benrahma was tipped on to the crossbar and over by Raya. Benrahma was starting to take centre stage. The ball appeared glued to his feet at times and he weaved his way between challenges and was the focal point of attack after attack. Not all of them resulted in good chances for The Bees but he did set up Romaine Sawyers for a shot that rose over the bar.
Blackburn held their early lead in to half time but had to defend well to do so. They were well-organised in defence but stretched across the length of the pitch at times as Henry, on the left, and Henrik Dalsgaard, on the right, got forward. When Dalsgaard rose highest to meet a cross and Watkins cleverly dummied, Maupay could have equalised, but he sliced his shot over the bar.
There was still time at the end of the first half for Bentley to make a low save from an Armstrong free kick and ensure Brentford went in only one behind. And that proved to be vital as The Bees made a fast start after the break. The home side went back on attack at the start of the second period. They had chances from the first whistle and equalised before the hour mark.
The goal came from the left, as most of Brentford’s attacking play had done. Mokotjo was crudely taken out by a late tackle from substitute Craig Conway and referee Andy Davies awarded a free kick, albeit deciding it was not worthy of further punishment. Benrahma rolled the ball square and a fierce low shot from Watkins flicked off a couple of legs before dying under Raya and nestling in the bottom corner.
The equaliser was fully merited on the balance of play at the start of the second period and, indeed, throughout the game. Watkins could have scored early in the second half when a Benrahma free kick fell to him ten yards out, but his shot was weak and Raya saved. Substitute Moses Odubajo saw a shot blocked and then led a break on the left before crossing to Maupay but his effort was, again, saved by Raya. When Benrahma left Bennett in his wake and fed Maupay the striker fired in to the side netting rather than across Raya and in to the net.
Bentley saved a Lenihan header, but most of the action was at the other end. Raya pushed away a Benrahma free kick before a short corner was played to Sawyers, his shot was sliced in to the path of Dalsgaard and the defender saw his effort blocked. Those chances all came before Watkins levelled it up and set up an end-to-end last half hour.
Blackburn played their part in the thrilling later stages. Despite Dack and Graham going off, they posed a real threat at set pieces and responded well to Watkins’ equaliser. A Reed corner was scrambled away and if Joe Nuttall had controlled a through ball, he would have been left with only Bentley to beat.
But Brentford were starting to hit top gear. The attacking trio were linking superbly and the introduction of Odubajo had given fresh legs and impetus on the left. Mokotjo and Sawyers were also starting to take control of the midfield and the third goal, while it included a defensive mistake, came from that midfield battle. Mokotjo won the ball and fed Maupay on the left, he cut inside and let fly with a shot that was blocked, it looped up and Raya came to gather but was beaten to it by Watkins and the header bounced in.
Bell could have levelled immediately when Lenihan got his head to a corner and the overhead effort flew just wide of the far post. And that proved to be crucial as Brentford had their fourth moments later with Benrahma once again to the fore. The wide man turned free in midfield and found space, the ball was worked to Sawyers and his through ball was flicked – again by Benrahma – in to the path of Maupay, with only Raya to beat he finished with aplomb to give Brentford breathing space.
Watkins had a shot blocked but there was still time for Canós to come off the substitute’s bench and add the fifth. And once again, it was a marvellous goal. The Spanish attacker led a break and exchanged passes with Maupay before heading towards goal, Canós then played a one-two with Watkins before slotting past Raya to make it five.
It could have been six when Maupay almost latched on to a Canós pass but Raya saved at his feet to deny the French striker. But Brentford were not to be denied. On a day when Brentford FC Community Sports Trust were to the fore with participants featuring in a Community Takeover Day with roles across the Club, The Bees delivered a performance to remember and sent everyone involved home with a smile on their faces.
Brentford: Bentley; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard, Mokotjo (sub McEachran 85 mins), Sawyers, Henry (sub Odubajo h/t); Watkins, Maupay, Benrahma (sub Canós 80 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Sørensen, Dasilva, Ogbene, Odubajo
Bookings: Barbet (45 mins) (fourth of season)
Blackburn Rovers: Raya; Bennett, Lenihan, Rodwell, Bell; Armstrong, Travis, Evans (sub Brereton 62 mins), Reed; Dack (sub Conway 52 mins); Graham (sub Nuttall 52 mins)
Subs (not used): Leutwiler, Williams, Smallwood, Rothwell
Bookings: Lenihan (71 mins)
Attendance: 9,972 (1,435 away fans)