Brentford won away from home in the Sky Bet Championship for only the second time this season, shocking promotion-chasing Middlesbrough. The only time The Bees had won on their travels this term was in January, when they beat Rotherham United. But they added the North East side, who are in the Play-Off places and came from behind to do so. After trailing six minutes in, The Bees responded well and then scored twice in three minutes in the second half to win at Middlesbrough for the first time since 1938.
Saïd Benrahma scored the winner after a Ryan Shotton own goal had levelled it up as Brentford stood up strong in the face of adversity to take the points. They had to deal with the loss of Julian Jeanvier to injury before kick-off and Daniel Bentley was substituted with a shoulder problem. The Bees also had two goals ruled out and hit the crossbar in the first half. But Shotton turned home a Henrik Dalsgaard shot to equalise Ashley Fletcher’s opening goal and minutes later Benrahma finished off a superb move to win the game.
The home side could have scored inside the first minute when a ball from the right from Jonny Howson drifted inches wide of the far post. The cross-cum-shot had Bentley racing towards his far post but, in the end, drifted wide. The home side did not, however, have to wait long to take the lead.
A ball in behind the Brentford defence allowed Britt Assombalonga to get away from Mads Bech Sørensen and get in a shot that Bentley pushed away. Brentford were, however, unable to clear and when Howson worked the ball back, Mo Bešić let fly from the edge of the penalty area, Bentley was unable to hold on to the shot and Fletcher was alert to tap in. Brentford had a few chances to clear and the shot could have been both blocked and held but once it dropped loose, Fletcher was never going to miss.
The early goal was even more deflating for The Bees as they had a great early opening of their own. A ball from Moses Odubajo in to the inside right channel enabled Neal Maupay to get ahead of Shotton, he lifted the ball over the advancing Darren Randolph but was unable to get the right direction and it bounced wide. Romaine Sawyers also had a shot blocked inside an entertaining opening ten minutes and an effort from Sergi Canós deflected narrowly over the top.
Despite falling behind, Brentford would not have been too unhappy with their start to the game. They were dominating possession and while Middlesbrough had a high starting position, Brentford were able to play through. Canós and Benrahma found pockets of space in central areas and while it was not as often and as effective as Brentford would have liked, there were signs they could create. The hosts tried to force errors in possession, turn the ball over quickly and counter-attack when they could.
Assombalonga was a threat in behind and when he got on to a long ball and away from Sørensen, it looked as if the Brentford defender – drafted in late when Jeanvier was unable to complete the warm-up – may have barged him. But referee Jeremy Simpson said no foul had been committed and Assombalonga was unable to get a shot away as Bentley rushed out. Assombalonga also shot over and Bentley saved an effort from Fletcher as Middlesbrough build a bit of momentum as the halfway point of the first period approached.
There was a chance for Daniel Ayala when a long throw was half cleared but he failed to make a good contact with Shotton’s cross and his header deflected wide off Dalsgaard. The resulting corner was half cleared and a shot from Bešić dropped to Lewis Wing, but he blasted over. Bentley then saved again from Wing as Middlesbrough made the most of their limited possession.
But Brentford were showing they could also be incisive. Maupay thought he had levelled when he headed in a Benrahma cross, but he was adjudged offside. Canós also had the ball in the net soon after when he slotted under Randolph but Maupay was adjudged to have fouled George Saville as they battled in the penalty area. It was a decision that Mr Simpson was sure about but not everyone else in the stadium was.
A superb move involving three or four players in the inside right channel ended with Canós firing a shot against the crossbar from 22 yards with Randolph well beaten while Saville could have scored at the other end when he tried to finish off a quick break but blasted well wide. The end of the half would have given Brentford confidence. They started to find more spaces in Middlesbrough territory and were able to play behind John Obi Mikel and Bešić and they looked to build on that after the break.
The Bees could have been level just after the re-start when, following an extended spell of possession, a ball from Dalsgaard was curled towards the top corner by Canós but Randolph made a superb save high to his right. The corner was played short and Benrahma saw a shot blocked. Another good move ended with another shooting chance for Benrahma but Ayala, who was becoming Middlesbrough’s key man, made an important block.
There was also chance for the home side just after the break when a corner was half cleared, Fletcher lifted it back in and Mikel challenged for it six-yards out. He was stopped from making a proper contact by the increasingly impressive Ezri Konsa and Bentley landed on the ball. Unfortunately, the Brentford goalkeeper suffered a shoulder injury in the process and was never able to fully recover. He tried to battle on but was clearly hampered.
Middlesbrough tried to make the most of Bentley’s injury and there was a shooting chance worked for Howson but there was a superb block from Konsa. Fletcher then met a cross from the right by Shotton with a header that beat Bentley but bounced past the far post. Surprisingly, the hosts then made a chance with George Friend replacing Assombalonga. They changed shape and retreated and although Ayala headed a free kick over soon after, the change took the momentum out of their play.
The game went in to a lull. Brentford were conscious of an injured goalkeeper and trying to adjust to a new shape for their opponents while Middlesbrough seemed to be aiming to win the game 1-0. It proved to be their downfall as, out of almost nothing, Brentford scored two goals in just over two minutes.
The first came from the sort of defensive mistake that would not have been expected from the best defence in the division. The Bees worked the ball down the left and Odubajo cut inside Shotton, his cross was met by Dalsgaard but looped up and the danger appeared to have been averted. But Saville got no distance on a header, Dalsgaard got on to the loose ball and smashed a shot across where it hit Shotton and flew in to the net. Ayala may have got a touch but the shot from Dalsgaard was not going in before Shotton swung a leg and levelled the game.
Brentford visibly grew and within two minutes, they exploited a Middlesbrough weakness with a goal to be savoured. After another spell of possession Sawyers played a pass between Saville and Friend that opened Middlesbrough up. As Saville watched, Dalsgaard raced clear and waited for Benrahma to peel off, the pass was unerring and the finish was sublime, the ball flying through the legs of Randolph to give Brentford the lead.
The home fans grew angry, singing for the departed Assombalonga but Bentley’s injury was finally too much for him to continue and Patrik Gunnarsson was brought on. The Icelandic youth international had played professionally in the Icelandic lower leagues but the thrown as Brentford battled for a historic win. And he made an early save, tipping a header from Jordan Hugill over the crossbar.
Middlesbrough sensed an opportunity but failed to really trouble the 18-year-old goalkeeper. Hugill lashed over after getting on to a Fletcher lay-off and Howson had a shot blocked but the home side largely played in front of The Bees. With Konsa imperious, Sørensen growing by the minute and those around them working like trojans, Brentford held the hosts at bay. And when The Bees had the ball, Sawyers was able to dictate play with Odubajo and Ollie Watkins testing Middlesbrough on the left and Kamohelo Mokotjo dominating the middle of the field.
Howson was even booked for diving at the death as Middlesbrough found no way through. And Brentford could have sealed a more comfortable win. When Dalsgaard won a tackle he had no right to, Maupay fed Watkins but Ayala made a block. There was a better chance for Watkins soon after when he burst through in to the penalty area but blasted over from 15 yards. A third goal would have made the eight minutes of stoppage time go a little quicker, but it wasn’t needed and The Bees had the win.
Middlesbrough: Randolph: Shotton, Ayala, Fry; Howson, Mikel, Bešić (sub Hugill 74 mins), Saville (sub Tavernier 88 mins); Wing; Assombalonga (sub Friend 62 mins), Fletcher
Subs (not used): Konstantopoulos, Clayton, McNair, Downing
Bookings: Assombalonga (31 mins), Mikel (38 mins), Ayala (71 mins), Hugill (88 mins), Howson (90 mins)
Brentford: Bentley (sub Gunnarsson 74 mins); Konsa, Sørensen, Barbet; Dalsgaard, Sawyers, Mokotjo, Odubajo; Canós (sub Marcondes 84 mins), Maupay, Benrahma (sub Watkins 78 mins)
Subs (not used): Oksanen, Forss, Dasilva
Bookings: Konsa (68 mins) (fourth of season)
Attendance: 22,069 (298 Bees fans)