Halil Dervişoğlu and Saman Ghoddos combined to put Brentford through to the Fourth Round of the Emirates FA Cup. The Bees beat Middlesbrough 2-1 on a freezing West London night with Ghoddos creating the first for Dervişoğlu before the favour was returned for the winning goal in the second half. Middlesbrough had levelled just after half time but could not find a way back and Ghoddos’ strike proved to be the winner.
It was a first goal in Brentford colours for both players, who made their mark in a much-changed line-up. Brentford made nine changes from the team that lost in the Carabao Cup Semi-Final to Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday and were also without Head Coach Thomas Frank, who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week. But the Club’s other Head Coach – Brentford B leader Neil MacFarlane – stepped in to the breach and oversaw the start of what may become another cup run. The evening was also notable for debuts handed to Brentford B players Alex Gilbert and Lewis Gordon and a first start for teenager Fin Stevens, in a defensive midfield role.
Both teams selected line-ups that were full of attacking players and it was little surprise that the game was open almost from the first whistle. Brentford started the game with Ghoddos and Alex Gilbert, making his first start in professional football, with Stevens in a midfield three and they would usually be found further forward. The visitors had three attacking midfield players behind striker Chuba Akpom and also committed to play on the front foot.
Both sides had sights of goal inside first eight minutes – Tariqe Fosu pulled a shot wide for Brentford when a cross was half cleared while Hayden Hackney, for the visitors, made the most of a lucky bounce inside the penalty area to fire in an effort that flew across the face of goal. Middlesbrough had the better of the opening exchanges and created the clearer openings. Brentford were largely playing in unthreatening areas in the first quarter of the contest while the visitors were a little more incisive when they attacked.
Akpom picked up a misdirected throw-in from Mads Roerslev and let fly from 22 yards but was denied by a flying save from Luke Daniels. The resulting corner was half cleared, Marc Bola delivered a cross-cum-shot from the left that Daniels again held well. Daniels was in the action again soon after, pushing away a shot from Marcus Browne at his near post after a quick break by the visitors. Ethan Pinnock then blocked an effort from Lewis Wing as Middlesbrough pressed.
Middlesbrough sensed they had the initiative and pushed on, but that left gaps and Brentford almost made the most of it just past the midway point of the first half. Dervişoğlu broke away in the inside right channel and fed Ghoddos, moving ahead of him, the shot came in, but it lacked power and Jordan Archer was able to save. There was a better chance for Brentford when Fosu robbed Nathan Wood in his own half, a run from Marcus Forss created the space and the ball went to Dervişoğlu ten yards out on the right of the penalty area. Dervişoğlu only had Archer to beat but fired in to the side netting,
Dervişoğlu eventually made his mark with ten minutes remaining in the first half. The Bees won a corner on the right that Ghoddos delivered and it dropped in the middle for Dervişoğlu to turn it home. The ball cleared the Brentford players attacking the near post and Dervişoğlu managed to steer it past Archer and inside the post on the half volley for his first goal for The Bees, just after returning from a loan spell with FC Twente in the Netherlands.
That goal was, however, against the balance of overall play in the first half. Middlesbrough had more of the ball in attacking areas and Daniels was the busier goalkeeper. He saved from Marcus Tavernier after some untidy play on the edge of the Brentford penalty area. Daniels denied Akpom when he got on to a Tavernier pass and there was a better stop from a Wing free kick, high to his right. Browne got on to the loose ball but lifted it over.
Browne had another sight of goal after a great pass from Wood released him on the left, he cut inside and got a shot off that was blocked. The ball bounced up and his Stevens on the arm, but referee Tim Robinson waved away Middlesbrough appeals for a penalty. Browne had probably been Middlesbrough’s most dangerous player, but his evening ended in horrible fashion just before half time. He challenged with Roerslev just outside his own penalty area and immediately collapsed, holding his left knee, indicating a serious injury. After lengthy treatment he was withdrawn from the game and Middlesbrough went in to the break a goal down and having lost a key player.
But that did not affect the visitors at the start of the second half. They went on the attack straight after the restart and equalised within three minutes. The goal was well worked but with an element of fortune. Marc Bola stepped out of defence and the ball was worked to Patrick Roberts via Tavernier. The shot from Roberts was blocked but it broke straight to Sam Folarin, the man who replaced Browne, and he tucked it home.
Daniels was diving to prevent the first shot beating him and was left helpless as Folarin slotted in to level it up. Given the way Middlesbrough had played to that point, it was hard to question they deserved to be all square. And it could have been worse for The Bees soon after. Fosu was robbed by Djed Spence and a pass from Wing put Tavernier away, with Pinnock chasing back the shot came in and the Brentford man was able to stop it either troubling Daniels or finding a player arriving in support.
With ten minutes gone in the second half Middlesbrough appeared to have the upper hand, but Brentford responded well. Ghoddos started to play a bit closer to Stevens in the middle of the pitch while Dervişoğlu and Fosu stretched Middlesbrough out wide. The Bees were seeing more of the ball, playing in areas to trouble the visitors and creating openings. Ghoddos had a shot blocked after good work by Fosu and Dervişoğlu before Mads Bech Sørensen appeared well placed to head in a deep cross but was unable to direct it towards goal.
When The Bees went back in front just past the hour mark, it was a superbly worked goal. Sørensen fed a ball in to Forss and he found Dervişoğlu. The next pass released Ghoddos in between defenders, he stepped away from Bola and fired a shot low past Archer and in to the net. It was a superbly worked and finished goal and proved to be the winner, despite Middlesbrough’s pressing.
The Bees were playing with confidence after getting back ahead and they could have pulled clear when Max Haygarth had room to shoot after a good run by Fosu, but his shot was blocked. Fosu, Forss and the newly introduced Haygarth tried to stretch Middlesbrough on the counter-attack, pulling in to space left by defenders moving forward and being available for a pass. But the game was mostly being played in the centre of the field with Middlesbrough trying to push on.
The closest the visitors came to levelling was when Bola found Roberts with a pass and his shot appeared to have wrong-footed Daniels. But the Brentford goalkeeper got down well to save and keep his team in front. Daniels also denied Folarin, who then shot wide on the turn after good work by Akpom and Hayden Coulson.
Akpom headed wide for the visitors when well-placed and Tavernier had a shot blocked before Coulson fired high and wide at the near post. Substitute Isaiah Jones curled a shot over the bar in the dying seconds for Middlesbrough, but Brentford had done enough. With Pinnock and Sørensen, supplemented by Charlie Goode for the later stages, dominant in defence and Stevens providing the defensive nous and solidity of someone twice his 17 years, Daniels was largely untroubled, and The Bees were in the Fourth Round.
Brentford: Daniels; Roerslev, Pinnock, Sørensen, Gordon (sub Goode 70 mins); Ghoddos, Stevens, Gilbert; Dervişoğlu (sub Haygarth 70 mins), Forss, Fosu
Subs (not used): Shepperd, Canós, Pressley
Bookings: Ghoddos (7 mins)
Middlesbrough: Archer; Spence, Wood, Bola, Coulson; Wing, Hackney; Tavernier (sub Jones 90 mins), Roberts, Browne (sub Folarin 45 mins); Akpom (sub Burrell 90 mins)
Subs (not used): Brynn, I. Fletcher, Kokolo, Sykes
Bookings: Tavernier (78 mins), Hackney (88 mins)