Brentford picked up a point against Sky Bet Championship leaders West Bromwich Albion after drawing 1-1 at The Hawthorns. The Bees dominated for most of the first half and fully deserved the lead they secured in the last stages of the opening period when Henrik Dalsgaard headed in his first goal of the season. But West Brom grabbed an equaliser amid controversy just before the interval and that was enough to give them a point.
The home side’s goal came just seconds after Brentford had loud claims for a penalty waved away by referee Darren Bond. A handball shout against Kyle Bartley was not given and instead of Brentford lining up a spot kick, West Brom won a corner and equalised from it. That gave them parity at the interval and gave them an opportunity to build on it in the second half.
The second period was more even with chances at both ends. The home side had a goal ruled out for offside, a decision given by the same assistant that missed Bartley’s handball, but failed to really test David Raya while Brentford went close on a couple of occasions at the other end. Over the full 90 minutes Brentford may feel they did enough to win but will be happy to have tested the side that leads the league at Christmas and pushed them all the way.
Brentford went for the jugular from the first whistle. They dominated the early exchanges, particularly in the centre of midfield, where Josh Dasilva and Mathias Jensen were able to find pockets of space to link with each other and their attacking team mates. Saïd Benrahma drifted all over the pitch, picking the ball up and running at the home defence and West Brom were pressed back.
The only disappointment Brentford would have had with their first 20 minutes is that they did not score, as they should have done. The Bees almost went ahead within 100 seconds and it would have been a goal to savour. Christian Nørgaard, Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins were all involved before Benrahma – who played a part earlier in the move – set up Bryan Mbeumo inside the penalty area, he cut back and fired low, but Sam Johnstone made a superb low save.
Johnstone arguably made a better one soon after when Benrahma let fly from 25 yards and he went full stretch to his right to push it away. Mbeumo met a deep Dasilva free kick and headed it back across but, unfortunately for Brentford, not to a team mate before Benrahma had a shot blocked. Benrahma then lashed a free kick high and wide while Jensen had a shot blocked as Brentford dominated without being able to get themselves ahead.
West Brom were rattled and were making mistakes. A loose pass from Semi Ajayi presented the ball to Nørgaard on the edge of penalty area but he curled his shot wide when he should have tested Johnstone. The home side then fell asleep as Brentford took a corner shot and it took a brave header from Bartley to prevent Ethan Pinnock sneaking in at the far post to nod home a Nørgaard cross. The ball was recycled and Benrahma was beaten to Watkins cross at the far post. The resulting corner then dropped loose but Dasilva lashed over.
For all Brentford’s control of the game, particularly in terms of possession and territory, the home side could have gone ahead on the half hour. Matt Phillips delivered a corner low and Ajayi, sitting a fraction deeper as everyone attacking the six-yard box, turned it over from ten yards. Anything on target would have been a severe test for Raya, who got to that point without making a save. A Hal Robson-Kanu shot deflected wide off Pinnock and the resulting corner was fed back to Jake Livermore, but he fired over from 22 yards.
As half time approached, the game got more stretched. West Brom were happy to commit men to attacking areas, inviting Brentford to be brave and push their midfield beyond that of the home side. It meant chances at both ends in the later stages of the first period. Watkins was just unable to reach a Benrahma cross and turn it in and then seemed set to head home a Dalsgaard cross. Referee Darren Bond deemed the Brentford striker had missed the chance when it appeared Bartley got a touch on it.
At the other end, a shot from Matheus Pereira deflected wide and he also created a golden chance for Kyle Edwards. Pereira’s pass put Edwards in behind the Brentford defence and he tried to round Raya, but the Brentford goalkeeper stuck out a hand and diverted the ball away. That was a sign of the frantic nature of the end of the first half that was to come and produced two goals and other talking points.
Both goals came from corners and were both scored by right backs. Brentford got the first when Jensen delivered a corner from the left and Dalsgaard got ahead of the near post to flick a header across Johnstone and in to the far corner. The delivery, the run and the power and placement of the header meant it was unstoppable and Brentford had a lead they deserved on the balance of play. Unfortunately, it did not last long.
West Brom equalised in the first half stoppage time when Phillips delivered from the right and Darnell Furlong made a very similar run to the one Dalsgaard made at the other end. The header was again flicked from in front of the near post and in. This time the header was from a little closer in and the pace took it past Raya and in to the roof of the net.
But that only told a fraction of the story. The goal came after serious penalty appeals at the other end. Brentford found space on the other side of the West Brom midfield for the umpteenth time and Jensen delivered from the right. Watkins appeared to be well placed to finish but Bartley managed to divert the ball away. Mr Bond waved away appeals that the defender had used an arm despite it seeming to be the only part of the body that could have got in to the position to prevent the ball reaching Watkins and him scoring. West Brom broke away and won a corner as Nørgaard overran the ball in his own area, Furlong scored, and the hosts were level at the break despite not really deserving to be.
They did, however, go up a gear at the start of the second half. It was they that dominated possession and also took control of the game territorially. Brentford were pushed back and forced to play in uncomfortable areas while West Brom created all the openings in the early stages of the second half, albeit without really testing Raya.
Phillips was unable to get up high enough to head in an Edwards cross and Livermore had a shot blocked when a cross was cleared. Robson-Kanu wasted a good position in the inside left channel by pulling a shot weakly wide and when Livermore lined up another effort soon after, but it lacked power and Raya saved. Raya also saved from Edwards, another effort that lacked real power, and Romaine Sawyers fired high and wide as West Brom pressed on, looking for the game’s crucial third goal.
Arguably the best opening came when Pereira, who drifted in and out of the game but showed his quality on occasions, got away from Dasilva and put Phillips in on goal. Phillips was faced with only Raya to beat, but his touch was heavy and the Brentford goalkeeper was able to gather. Jeanvier headed a Nørgaard cross wide at the other end and a Benrahma shot, after he had played a delicate one-two with Jensen, deflected just wide with Johnstone stationary.
Watkins had a shot deflected wide after good work by Dasilva and the resulting corner dropped to Nørgaard, but he lifted an effort well over. Mbeumo had a shot blocked and also won a free kick inches outside the penalty area after harassing Nathan Ferguson but Dasilva’s low delivery was turned wide by Watkins. And as the game entered the final stages both teams gave the impression they felt they could win it. Brentford had more chances as the game approached the final five minutes but West Brom were seeing more of the ball and perhaps looked slightly the more likely to get the crucial goal.
They thought they had it inside the final 90 seconds when substitute Filip Krovinović created space for Pereira inside the penalty area, his shot was saved by Raya but Charlie Austin was there to tap in. The goal was, however, ruled out as Austin was deemed to be in an offside position and Brentford were able to breathe again. And The Bees then almost won it at the other end. Benrahma chipped a free kick to the edge of the penalty area and Nørgaard met it on the volley, the ball skipped across the turf and past Johnstone but fizzed wide of the post. Seconds later the final whistle was blown and the spoils were shared.
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; Furlong, Bartley (sub O’Shea 49 mins), Ajayi, Ferguson; Sawyers, Livermore; Phillips (sub Austin 72 mins), Pereira, Edwards (sub Krovinović 78 mins); Robson-Kanu
Subs (not used): Bond, Brunt, Townsend, Barry
Bookings: Livermore (56 mins), Ferguson (76 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jeanvier, Pinnock, Henry; Dasilva (sub Žambůrek 90 mins), Nørgaard, Jensen (sub Mokotjo 71 mins); Mbeumo (sub Valencia 86 mins), Watkins, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Roerslev, Sørensen, Thompson
Bookings: Mbeumo (37 mins) (second of season)
Attendance: 24,961 (1,465 Bees fans)