Bees climb in to Championship top three with win in Cardiff
Brentford picked up their seventh win in eight Sky Bet Championship matches and climbed to third in the table with a magnificent win away to Cardiff City.
In the archetypal game of two halves The Bees battered their hosts for long stages of the first period and went in 3-0 up at half time in front of a stunned home crowd.
But Cardiff roared back after the break, scoring early in the second half and then getting a second inside the final 15 minutes.
Brentford were under the cosh at times but got a 3-2 win that their first half display, and particularly the finishing that came from a league even higher than then Championship, deserved.
The home side looked to get on the front foot early.
There was nothing subtle about their play with long balls, set pieces and long throws but The Bees spent much of the first ten minutes inside their own half, albeit an early injury to Harlee Dean – which he recovered from – meant there was a lengthy interruption in those opening moments.
Brentford did not take long to get in to their stride and were soon moving the ball around the pitch in the eye-pleasing manner that has become a trademark.
With Alan Judge, Jota and Alex Pritchard able to influence the game in the chasm between Cardiff’s defence and midfield, Brentford were creating chances.
Andre Gray had the first sight of goal after a run from Jota but his shot deflected wide but the opening goal was not long in coming.
Judge, popping up on the right, delivered a cross after a sweeping move that Cardiff could not clear, Jota killed it and fed Pritchard and he smashed it in to the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Cardiff had an early sight of goal when Peter Whittingham set up Craig Noone but his shot hit Federico Macheda and looped in to the arms of David Button.
But Brentford were the side playing all the football and were looking to turn posession in to goals.
It took a fine tackle from Ben Turner to prevent Gray volleying home a Judge cross and Jota shot over soon after.
Cardiff had attacking threat – Kadeem Harris shot wide after the far post after weaving his way off the right flank and Button saved a deflected Noone shot – but Brentford were more incisive, proving it with their second goal midway through the half.
Pritchard found yards of space in midfield, not for the first or last time, and set Gray in behind Turner, the Brentford striker lifted the ball over David Marshall and in to the net off the underside of the crossbar.
Cardiff tried to respond – a Noone shot hit Macheda and, when The Bees couldn’t clear, a combination of Dean and Button prevented Adam Le Fondre scoring on the turn from close range.
Button denied Whittingham but Marshall made a better save at the other end to prevent Jota firing home after picking up a Gray pass.
The Cardiff goalkeeper was, however, helpless, moments later when the Spaniard made it three.
It came from a Cardiff corner and Button sent Pritchard away, he ran from penalty box to penalty box before setting up Jota, who curled the ball in to the top corner from 20 yards.
No goalkeeper in the world would have kept it out and Brentford had real breathing space.
They came close to a fourth soon after when they broke again from a corner, Pritchard fed Gray and he released the overlapping Jake Bidwell, when the cross came in Jota bounced a volleyed shot that Marshall had to push over at full stretch.
Cardiff ended the first half strongly, looking for a goal to take in to the break.
Macheda should have provided it but headed over when unmarked eight yards out and Button denied Noone soon after, pushing the ball away from arriving Cardiff players.
Harris, now on the left, sliced a shot when well-placed and Macheda again headed wide as Brentford maintained their three-goal lead in to half time.
It did not, however, last long afterwards.
Harris was the creator, delivering a cross from the left that Noone nodded home at the far post.
That did not change Brentford’s approach, although they had to do without Jonathan Douglas in the second half – replaced by Jon Toral.
Moses Odubajo had a shot blocked and Judge fired wide as The Bees continued to attack.
Cardiff made the switch to a diamond midfield at the break.
It stopped Brentford playing as they had done in the first half but gave The Bees space on the flanks and meant the game was more congested at a time when the visitors were happy for that to be the case.
As the game entered the final quarter, Cardiff introduced Kenwyne Jones and that gave them a new lease of life, as the game had started to drift.
Le Fondre was just unable to turn in a Noone cross and Toral did well to block a Whittingham shot.
Le Fondre should have scored when Whittingham delivered a cross and Jones headed down but he dithered and Button scrambled it away.
Button saved a Whittingham free kick soon after but Cardiff got their second with 15 minutes remaining.
A cross was half-cleared and, following a ricochet, the ball bounced back to Jones, the striker turned and scored to set up a thrilling finish.
Tony Craig made a vital block from a Le Fondre shot, not the first time the Brentford captain had come to the rescue, as Cardiff pressed.
Roared on by a vociferous home crowd, and playing more direct than they had done for much of the second half, Cardiff fought for the equaliser.
Jones came close to setting it up when he got away from Dean and Craig and crossed but Jake Bidwell cleared as Noone arrived and Toral hacked it away.
Toral cleared again when Jones got above Button to meet a cross and Harris shot wide.
Jones again shot over before Button saved from Whittingham in the dying seconds and ensured Brentford had their win.
Cardiff City: Marshall; Brayford, Manga, Turner, Fabio (sub John 77 mins); Harris, Whittingham, Gunnarsson, Noone; Le Fondre, Macheda (sub Jones 65 mins)
Subs (not used): Moore, Connolly, Adeyemi, Ralls, Morrison
Bookings: Harris (73 mins)
Brentford: Button; Odubajo, Dean, Craig, Bidwell; Douglas (sub Toral h/t), Diagouraga; Jota (sub Dallas 73 mins), Pritchard, Judge; Gray (sub Smith 82 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Tarkowski, Saunders, Proschwitz
Bookings: Judge (37 mins) (fourth of season), Bidwell (55 mins) (fourth of season), Jota (67 mins), Button (78 mins) (second of season)
Attendance: 21, 784
By Chris Wickham