Yoann Barbet scored a stoppage time goal as Brentford extended their unbeaten run at Griffin Park with a 2-2 draw against Reading. The Bees had gone ahead thanks to a Neal Maupay goal but conceded either side of half time and trailed going in to stoppage time. They were also a man down as Saïd Benrahma had been sent off. But Barbet headed in late on to earn his team a draw.
The 2-2 score line only tells a fraction of the story. Brentford appeared to be in complete command of an entertaining game before conceding a soft equaliser and then an even softer second to hand Reading the initiative and a greater incentive to kill the game. But they battled back and Barbet popped up in the closing stages to ensure Brentford had something to take from the game.
Both teams started the game with attacking intent. Brentford tried to burst in to Reading territory from kick-off but when possession was turned over the visitors looked to respond. And that was the way of it for most of the first quarter. The early goal may have helped, but it was a game that was end-to-end at times with Reading counter-attacking to match Brentford’s positive mindset and both teams could have scored in the opening exchanges.
Romaine Sawyers almost marked his 100th Brentford appearance with a goal but he was just unable to stretch and turn in a Benrahma cross after good work on the right by Henrik Dalsgaard. Lewis Macleod saw a shot blocked soon after while at the other end a dangerous Leandro Bacuna cross was met by Tiago Ilori and deflected narrowly over. That was the start of a frantic 75-second spell that ended with Maupay’s goal and produced other near misses.
The resulting corner was met by Jón Daði Böðvarsson and Dalsgaard had to be alert to head off the line and that set up a Brentford break. A Benrahma cross was half cleared and Sawyers’ shot was heading towards the corner before Bacuna made a block. The Bees recycled the ball from the throw-in, Benrahma crossed, Maupay wriggled free from Liam Moore in the penalty area and slotted past Sam Walker to open the scoring.
A goal certainly appeared to be coming given the start both teams had made and that only served to further ignite the match. John Swift fired well over for the visitors after collecting a half cleared cross while Watkins attempted to divert a lofted Josh McEachran pass over Walker at the other end but failed to make a good contact. He had a better chance soon after when he controlled a deep Benrahma cross but this time the toe-poked effort from Watkins flew wide of the far post.
At the other end, a Moore header from a corner was saved by Daniel Bentley and Böðvarsson should have done better when he found space in the penalty area and met a Bacuna ball but he failed to direct his header and the chance had gone. Moments later, however, Reading were level. And it was a goal to forget from a Brentford perspective.
The away side pressed high and Brentford played themselves in to trouble in defence. A slip from Chris Mepham almost conceded possession inside the area and Barbet was then unable to find a team mate with a ball forward. Brentford never regrouped and a Swift shot was spilled by Bentley, as he tried to recover, Böðvarsson arrived to get an extra touch that took the ball over the line and levelled the score.
That goal removed Reading’s attacking instincts and Brentford moved up a gear to dominate the later stages of the first period with the visitors’ counter-attacks becoming fewer and further between. They had all the possession and territorial advantage and created openings but were unable to find the breakthrough. Walker did well to get down and save a cross-cum-shot from Barbet before great work from Benrahma set up a shooting chance for Macleod but the effort deflected over.
Reading wasted a good chance to breakaway when Yakou Méïté had a shot blocked with players waiting for a pass but most of the action was at the other end. Walker was tested by a fierce shot from Barbet, saving above his head, and then watched as Benrahma cut inside and lashed a shot just past the post. Despite controlling long periods, Brentford were in to the break all square and would have been looking to turn their possession to goals after the break.
Unfortunately for The Bees, they were unable to build any momentum in the second period. A flashpoint – where McEachran and Bacuna were booked – at a free kick did not help the flow of a game that was already starting to get a bit staccato with Reading resorting to time wasting tactics and niggly fouls early in the second period. When the free kick was eventually taken by Benrahma, he beat Walker but whipped his effort inches past the post.
The second half turned in to a horrible viewing experience, and that suited the visitors. Barely any time went by without a stoppage, be it a free kick or a player in need of assistance from the side lines, and that meant Brentford had no momentum. Mo Barrow fired across goal for the visitors and they then took the lead 20 minutes after the interval. And again, it was one to forget for The Bees.
Benrahma appeared to be fouled on the right and then looked as if he had nicked the ball from Böðvarsson as he tried to retrieve it. A free kick was awarded – and, crucially, Benrahma was booked, which enabled Swift to let fly from 22 yards and his free kick burst through the hands of Bentley. The Brentford goalkeeper appeared to be trying to push the ball over his crossbar but it bounced down and over the line to give Reading the lead.
The first 20 minutes of the second half had been a tough watch for the football purist and the later stages were even worse as the stoppages, time-wasting and semi-subtle fouls increased. Brentford were struggling to find a rhythm, they wasted possession a few too many times and were unable to find the momentum they needed, committing fouls to relieve the pressure at times. The Bees also started to suffer with the inconsistency of the officials.
After waiting until the 53rd minute to start cautioning players, referee Geoff Eltringham produced his yellow card for almost every foul in the later stages of the game. Benrahma was adjudged to be guilty of a second cautionable offence and did not make it to the end of the match. Brentford had tried to respond after the goal as Maupay headed against the outside of a post when a corner dropped inside the box and then fired narrowly wide after a nice turn. Sergi Canós also shot wide after being set up by Maupay.
The sending off forced a tactical switch from The Bees. Dalsgaard pushed up higher on the right and Alan Judge took up a role just behind Maupay. With the home fans roused by the red card, and the decision to play ten minutes of added time, Reading started to retreat and shrink. And the additional time, caused by their time wasting, enabled Brentford to equalise.
Macleod delivered a corner from the right, Mepham flicked on and Barbet rose highest at the far post to head in and level it up. There was no doubt the goal was deserved, and The Bees had chances before getting it. Canós had a shot blocked after a nice run and Ilori diverted a brilliant Dalsgaard cross away from the arriving Judge soon after.
That interception led to the corner that produced the goal and it was Brentford, with ten men, that went looking for a winner. They might have got one when another Macleod corner found Dalsgaard inside the six-yard box, but he couldn’t shift his weight to turn it towards goal. That ensured Reading got their point, but Brentford extended their unbeaten home run that now stretches back more than six months.
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet; McEachran (sub Mokotjo 71 mins); Benrahma, Sawyers (sub Judge 80 mins), Macleod, Watkins (sub Canós 69 mins); Maupay
Subs (not used): Daniels, Jeanvier, Odubajo, Yennaris
Bookings: McEachran (53 mins), Watkins (55 mins) (third of season), Maupay (78 mins) (second of season), Judge (90 mins)
Sent Off: Benrahma (86 mins) (second yellow card)
Reading: Walker; Gunter, Ilori, Moore, Yiadom; Ezatolahi; Méïté (sub Aluko 82 mins), Bacuna, Swift (sub Kelly 90 mins), Barrow (sub Sims 71 mins); Böðvarsson
Subs (not used): Jaakkola, Blackett, McNulty, Rinomhota
Bookings: Bacuna (53 mins)