Brentford once again recovered from conceding inside the opening minutes to pick up a third win in seven days and a third win at Middlesbrough in the last three years. The Bees conceded inside three minutes with a goal that will go down as a David Raya own goal, but they bounced back. Ivan Toney levelled before half time and The Bees moved through the gears in the second half. They took the lead through Vitaly Janelt before Mathias Jensen made it three. Toney’s second of the afternoon, and 22nd of the season, confirmed a 4-1 win late on to go with recent 1-0 and 2-1 victories on Teesside.
The nine point week had seen The Bees notch 14 goals as Middlesbrough went the same way as Wycombe Wanderers and Bristol City, the latter of whom also took the lead very early on. And this was the best win of the three. The Bees trailed for more than half an hour on a wet and wild afternoon in the freezing North East and with the home side content to slow the game down. But they got level before half time and once Janelt had put Brentford in front, they never looked like losing the lead, mostly thanks to the excellence of Raya.
Middlesbrough won an early corner on the left inside the first two minutes and while The Bees defended the initial delivery, the second dead ball became the opening goal. The hosts played it short and Neeskens Kebano delivered it in to the middle, George Saville jumped with Raya and put him arm in to the face of the Brentford goalkeeper. Referee Darren Bond decided no foul had been committed so awarded a goal as the ball hit Ethan Pinnock and then Raya and rolled over the line. Brentford questioned whether the officials had seen the arm in to the face of their goalkeeper but it was deemed to be fair if they did and The Bees were behind.
The goal came before any pattern of play had been established and Brentford immediately looked for a response. Henrik Dalsgaard dashed forward from right back and on to a pass from Ghoddos before being eased off the ball by Jonny Howson as he went to shoot. Mr Bond again adjudged no foul had been committed by the home side. Toney had a shot blocked for The Bees and Tariqe Fosu shot wide when a long throw was cleared to him 30 yards out.
Middlesbrough seemed mostly content to defend their lead and the game was largely played with Brentford on to the front foot and in opposition territory. Dalsgaard headed a Rico Henry cross wide on the stretch when a corner was cleared and The Bees almost equalised with a fine move. Pinnock ran from deep before delivering a ball to Saman Ghoddos inside the penalty area. Ghoddos chested it to Jensen and then turned in to space on to a clever return pass, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Raya saved an effort from Yannick Bolasie at the other end, but Brentford had the initiative in the contest. Middlesbrough had a solid defensive line but were being pulled in to awkward positions by Brentford’s movement and passing. The Bees did not always move the ball quickly enough but when they did, Ghoddos was finding pockets of space and the visitors had attacking impetus. The Bees could have equalised when a swerving free kick from Ghoddos was saved unconvincingly by Marcus Bettinelli, the ball was recycled and Janelt delivered a cross that found Pinnock at the back post, but his header missed the target.
The goal Brentford had been pressing for came moments later, accompanied, once again, by loud protests. The Bees won the ball back in their own half and went on the attack with Bolasie and Britt Assombalonga on the floor appealing for free kicks, accompanied in stereo by the home coaching staff. Dalsgaard played a ball long to Toney and he flicked it on to Fosu, breaking past Paddy McNair, timing his run to stay onside. Fosu darted in to the penalty area, staying on his feet as McNair nibbled his heels, and squared for Toney to tap in to level it up.
As the ball hit the net, the volume from the home coaching staff went up and the officials would have had earache by the end of the half. It was a half that ended all square, albeit only just. Sam Morsy burst in to space on the right and picked out Assombalonga with a cut back inside the area, he let fly with a shot that Raya spectacularly tipped on to the post. The ball bounced back to Saville, but he failed to make good contact and as Assombalonga tried to finish from close range the offside flag went up, leading to more protests from the home team.
The first half had started with a goal for the home side and there were chances for both teams at the start of the second. The home side came within a whisker of scoring with a clever move on the right. They worked a throw in and Darnell Fisher delivered a low cross, Bolasie dummied and Assombalonga turned the shot towards goal, but Raya made a superb block. There was pinball in the Brentford penalty area and Janelt almost scored an own goal, but Raya blocked again and Brentford cleared.
Moments later a brilliant pass from Jensen released Henry on the left side and he was able to pick out Ghoddos in the middle. Ghoddos turned but could not get a shot off and fed Sergi Canós who did shoot but the effort was blocked. Raya saved from Bolasie when a free kick was half cleared before Henry again broke in to space on the left and delivered a cross looking for Toney in space in the penalty area, but the ball was a fraction too high and the Brentford striker could not get his header on target.
But just before the hour mark, the third goal came, and it went the way of The Bees. Mads Bech Sørensen was allowed to stroll in to the Middlesbrough half unchallenged and spotted Toney, who had peeled away from McNair. The ball was played in to Toney and he nodded it back to Janelt, who met it with a shot with his right foot from 18 yards and wheeled away with delight as he watched it bounce past Bettinelli and in to the corner of the net. Sørensen, Toney and Janelt had moved almost unchallenged and Brentford had the lead.
And five minutes later, 2-1 became 3-1. McNair dithered in possession in the centre circle and then slipped to allow Jensen to break free. McNair watched on his hands and knees in horror as Jensen darted clear, rounded Bettinelli and stroked the ball in to the back of the net to give Brentford breathing space.
And Middlesbrough showed that Brentford might need that breathing space as they pushed on in the later stages. When the hosts turned the tables on The Bees, repelling a Brentford counterattack with one of their own, Bolasie delivered a cross from the left and the ball dropped to Saville after a lucky ricochet. Saville shot from ten yards, but Raya somehow stuck out an arm to make the block. Saville headed a cross wide soon after.
The difference in the penalty areas was exposed with nine minutes to go as Brentford made it four. Jensen won the ball in midfield and Jam Žambůrek released Bryan Mbeumo on the left, he crossed and the ball arrived at the feet of Henry. Henry turned brilliantly and let fly with a shot that Bettinelli miraculously tipped on to the crossbar. The ball bounced back to Mbeumo, he steered it back in to the middle and Toney headed down, past Bettinelli and in to the net.
Saville had an effort blocked for the hosts and Duncan Watmore almost conjured a goal with a run down the left but Janelt was there to deflect it over the crossbar. A Chuba Akpom shot also deflected wide. And it was Brentford that came closest to the sixth goal of the afternoon.
Ghoddos and Toney battled to win a bouncing ball in the Middlesbrough penalty area inside the final ten minutes to create a chance. As the home defence dithered, Toney toe-poked an effort just past the post. Jensen also hit the outside of a post with a shot from 22 yards after another unchallenged run from deep. A 5-1 score line would definitely have been unjust on the hosts, who will rue the performance of Raya, but there was no doubt the better team took the points as Brentford extended their unbeaten run to 20.
Middlesbrough: Bettinelli; Fisher, Dijksteel, McNair, Bola; Howson; Kebano (sub Spence 68 mins), Morsy, Saville, Bolasie (sub Watmore 83 mins); Assombalonga (sub Akpom 68 mins)
Subs (not used): Archer, Johnson, Hall, Coulson, Fletcher, Mendez-Laing
Bookings: Saville (29 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Pinnock, Sørensen, Henry; Jensen, Janelt, Ghoddos (sub Reid 83 mins); Fosu (sub Žambůrek 72 mins), Toney (sub Forss 83 mins), Canós (sub Mbeumo 67 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Stevens, Roerslev, Gilbert, Dasilva
Bookings: Fosu (21 mins), Janelt (50 mins) (sixth of season)