Three goals in 17 first half minutes was enough to give Brentford a home win over fellow top-six side Reading. The Bees extended their unbeaten run to 13 with a 3-1 win over The Royals, who started the day above Brentford but ended it four spots below their hosts, who climbed in to the top four in the Sky Bet Championship. Mathias Jensen opened the scoring with an effort that Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral would have expected to save before a Bryan Mbeumo brace gave The Bees a lead, they never looked likely to relinquish.
Brentford were well worth their win and secured it in that first half blast. They were clinical in the first period, creating three good chances and scoring them all. Reading pulled one back after the interval, but The Bees still had the better openings in the second half and hit the crossbar late on as they picked up a fifth win in their last eight games.
Brentford started the game on the front foot, making the most of a passive opening from the visitors. Reading sat deep out of possession in the early exchanges, they tried to hold two lines of three in front of their back four across the pitch. That gave Brentford the opportunity to play through and get the ball in to Reading territory.
Any plan the visitors had to stifle the game went out of the window 11 minutes in when The Bees went ahead. Rico Henry played a ball down the line to Sergi Canós and he found Jensen inside the penalty area with a clever pass. Jensen let fly with a shot that took a deflection and flew straight at Rafael Cabral. Inexplicably, the goalkeeper let it through his grasp and watched as it rolled over the line and in to the net.
Jensen’s shot had power, but it should not have gone in. That it did roll over the line meant the Denmark international his second goal in English football and The Bees had the lead. It also forced a change of plan from Reading.
They changed the shape of their front three with Michael Olise pulled out to the right. They got higher up the pitch without the ball and tried to condense the pitch. They responded well to falling behind and got the ball to key danger man Ovie Ejaria on the left. When Ejaria nutmegged Josh Dasilva, he created space for Alfa Semedo to shoot, but his effort lacked the power to beat David Raya.
An Olise free kick from the right caused Brentford difficulty soon after and Canós had to get in front of Tom Holmes inside the six-yard box. The resulting corner reached Liam Moore at the far post, but his volley was saved by Raya. At the midway point of the first half Reading arguably had the initiative but Mbeumo’s double changed everything.
Both his goals came in a five-minute spell and both were brilliant in their own right. The first was a superb strike from the edge of the penalty area. Dasilva played a raking pass from right to left that isolated Mbeumo against Tomás Esteves. Mbeumo created some space as he cut inside and bent a shot with his left foot from the left channel out of the reach of Cabral and in to the bottom corner.
Two became three just five minutes later. This time the goal came from a throw-in on the left side. Henry played a quick pass and Canós flicked the ball in to space for Ivan Toney. The striker fed a pass to Mbeumo inside the penalty area and seconds later the ball was in the net. Mbeumo took a touch, turned free and drilled a shot past the left hand of Cabral and in to the net.
With less than half an hour on the clock the game was just about done. Brentford had scored with their first three shots and while they had put together other attacking possession, they were their only chances of note. Reading tried to respond before the break and had more of the ball in the later stages of the first half, but they could not get a goal to give them a lift before the break.
Ejaria created another opening before half time with a clever piece of play on the left. This time the shot came in from Josh Laurent and Raya pushed it away. Raya had to save again just after the break when Sam Baldock got away on the right and cut the ball back to Ejaria. The shot was low to Raya’s left and he pushed it away.
Reading found a way through just past the hour mark through substitute Sone Aluko. Olise managed to find enough time to deliver a cross from the left in one of the rare moments he was able to stay on his feet and found Aluko ten yards out. The header was low and powerful and beat Raya to reduce the deficit.
The goal would have given the visitors hope but they had not offered much after the break. The game was more open and both teams had an attacking outlook. Brentford’s midfield continued to rotate around Vitaly Janelt as it had done in the first half. Jensen and Dasilva, before he was withdrawn just after Reading’s goal, found space all over the pitch, sometimes dropping in next to Janelt and others being close to the front three. Emiliano Marcondes came on to replace Dasilva and replicate that role for the last half hour.
The Bees could have added a fourth before Reading’s goal. Mbeumo was the focal point of the attack with a run on the right, he slipped the ball through to the overlapping Dominic Thompson and he fired across the face of goal. Thompson could have picked out Ivan Toney with a cut back but went for goal and just missed.
Thompson had replaced Henry at half time to join a defence with four different players to the four that have started most games this season. Tariqe Fosu coped superbly with Ejaria in the right back role and Thompson looked comfortable at left back. Charlie Goode and Mads Bech Sørensen at the heart of the Brentford defence limited Reading to few chances while Janelt was perfectly positioned when the visitors tried to attack through the middle.
Esteves lifted an effort over for the visitors when a free kick was half cleared but there were few other chances. The one good one came when Ejaria got free in the penalty area and let fly with a shot that Raya saved. Aluko recycled the ball and his cross found Holmes at the far post but his shot was blocked, and Raya gathered.
If the game was to have a fifth goal, it was Brentford that looked more likely to get it. Canós picked up a loose ball and attacked the penalty area before finding Saman Ghoddos but Holmes made a tackle to prevent the shot coming in with Cabral lacking further defensive cover. Cabral saved a Toney header and the Brentford striker, captain for the day, then flicked a corner from Janelt just past the far post.
Marcus Forss shot over for The Bees as the minutes ticked down before Marcondes fed Fosu, he weaved his way in to the penalty area and shot over the bar. A Janelt corner was headed against the crossbar by Toney, Goode’s follow-up header was blocked and a Forss shot was deflected in to the side netting. A fourth might have been a reflection on the difference between the teams inside the penalty areas but it wasn’t needed for The Bees, who sit inside the Play-Off places ahead of Christmas.
Brentford: Raya; Fosu, Goode, Sørensen, Henry (sub Thompson h/t); Dasilva (sub Marcondes 64 mins), Janelt, Jensen; Mbeumo (sub Ghoddos 64 mins), Toney, Canós (sub Forss 78 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Stevens, Nørgaard, Haygarth, Pressley
Bookings: Jensen (45 mins) (second of season), Janelt (90 mins) (fifth of season)
Reading: Cabral; Holmes, Morrison, Moore, Esteves; Rinomhota, Laurent, Semedo (sub Aluko 61 mins); Baldock, Olise, Ejaria
Subs (not used): Southwood, McIntyre, East, Melvin-Lambert, Bristow, Watson, Onen, Dorsett
Bookings: Baldock (53 mins)