Second half fightback not enough for Brentford as Burnley win at Griffin Park
A second half comeback was not enough to prevent Brentford slipping to a home defeat against Burnley. It looked as if it was going to be an evening to forget for The Bees as they were put to the sword by an incredibly impressive Burnley team in the first half at Griffin Park. The visitors, playing some of the most incisive football seen at Griffin Park in recent memory, made the most of a poor Brentford performance. They scored three first half goals and could have had a couple more.
Brentford’s preparations for the match were not helped when central defender James Tarkowski declared that he would not play and the evening went downhill from there. But a double substitution at half time sparked a comeback and Alan Judge reduced the arrears around the hour mark. The Bees had chances to make it an uncomfortable end of the match for Burnley but couldn’t get the second goal they probably merited. It meant the visitors could see the game out, take a 3-1 win and the three points they deserved due to their fine first half showing.
Burnley went on the attack from the first whistle and, in a sign of what was to come, Brentford failed to clear a cross and were fortunate that David Jones pulled a shot wide. The visitors set up in a traditional 4-4-2 system that was in reality anything but. Wide players George Boyd and Scott Arfield drifted all over the pitch, linking with strikers Andre Gray and Sam Vokes. That left space for Matthew Lowton and Stephen Ward to get forward from full back and with the visitors trusting Joey Barton and Jones to control the middle of the pitch, they poured forward.
Burnley were happy to mix it up, knowing they had the pace and strength in attack as an outlet but playing through the centre of the park when they could. Button pushed a low Arfield shot away when he burst in to the box before Gray met a cross from Ward and Jack O’Connell did very well to deflect it over the bar. Arfield then forced Button in to another save after Gray had failed to connect with a Boyd cross and Michael Keane turned a low corner wide at the near post.
Ward then blasted wide after Gray had got away from O’Connell but the goal Burnley had been threatening came soon after. The ball was worked forward from the right back area and after Gray had laid it off, Arfield curled it in to the top corner from 25 yards. It was a goal the visitors deserved and it was expertly executed.
The goal did appear to wake Brentford up and they had a decent spell of pressure after falling behind. Burnley had pressed high up the pitch for the first 15 minutes but eased off a little and Judge was able to find pockets of space to play in. He was able to link with John Swift and Jake Bidwell and get Brentford moving on the left side. With Maxime Colin also keen to get forward on the right, The Bees were finding a way back in to the game.
They almost got a goal when David Button’s kick allowed Judge to find Colin and his cross dropped to Swift at the far post but his shot was blocked by Lowton when it appeared to be heading in. Swift had another shot blocked and a Judge effort was saved but Burnley were soon back in to their stride, fighting to win the ball back and using it effectively when they got it. O’Connell had to make an important tackle to prevent Vokes getting a shot off but when Ryan Woods was penalised for a foul on Jones 25 yards out, Barton flicked the free kick over the wall and in to the top corner off the post to make it two.
Chances continued to come for Burnley, who were cutting Brentford open at will at times. Vokes fired an Arfield cut back over from ten yards when he should have tested Button and a Gray shot was blocked soon after. Gray and Boyd then set up Vokes for another chance that was blocked and the striker then saw a shot saved after a melee at the edge of the penalty area.
And it wasn’t long before there was a third goal, another of high quality. A cross was headed away by O’Connell but only as far as Boyd and he smashed a volley back past Button and in to the corner from 20 yards. Gray had chances to make it even worse for The Bees before the break. First the former Brentford striker fired wide after getting away from Harlee Dean and then missed the target with an effort on the swivel from a Barton cross.
Brentford went in to the break with the game just about dead. They were fortunate to only be three down and with the momentum the visitors had built up, The Bees would have to change the flow of the contest before they could think about getting back in to it. But a double substitution did just that. Sam Saunders and Lasse Vibe were introduced and Brentford started to pass the ball better. There were more options for every ball forward, extra energy in and out of possession and a clearer attacking threat.
Saunders curled a shot wide following a short free kick and then set up Colin for a header that was blocked. Judge volleyed wide and Saunders curled a shot over the bar as Brentford took the game to their visitors. And they got a goal their pressure deserved just before the hour mark. Toumani Diagouraga won a challenge in Burnley territory and Judge teased his way past Lowton before firing a low shot from a tight angle under Tom Heaton and in to the net.
Button had to save a Ben Mee header soon after but there was no doubt Brentford had the initiative. Saunders headed just wide and Judge, who was leading the charge, curled a free kick in to the side netting moments after crossing for the aerial effort. Barton almost made the game safe at the other end with a fierce shot that flew inches wide with Button stranded but it was Brentford who were doing most of the attacking. The visitors were trying to keep their shape and deny Brentford space but chances kept coming.
A curling Saunders effort was saved by Heaton and, following a corner, Nico Yennaris was crowded out when trying to find space for a shot before Vibe’s follow-up was blocked. O’Connell, up for another set piece, saw a shot blocked before Colin burst forward and fired in to the side netting. Life was getting uncomfortable for Burnley and Vokes shot over as they looked for the extra breathing space before Rouwen Hennings curled an effort wide.
And Brentford continued to pile on the pressure. Diagouraga missed the target with a shot from the edge of the box before an acrobatic overhead from O’Connell was blocked and the ball cannoned in to Yennaris and in to the arms of Heaton. Judge had a shot blocked after another incisive run from the impressive Yennaris before Dean’s shot was deflected wide. Yennaris then had a shot blocked and Dean headed wide but Brentford’s time was up and Burnley had the points.
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, O’Connell, Bidwell; Diagouraga, Woods; Canós (sub Saunders h/t), Judge, Swift (sub Yennaris 67 mins); Djuricin (sub Vibe h/t)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Barbet, McEachran, Hofmann
Burnley: Heaton; Lowton, Keane, Ward, Mee; Boyd, Barton, Jones, Arfield; Vokes, Gray (sub Hennings 65 mins)
Subs (not used): Nizic, Duff, Marney, Kightly, Taylor, Darikwa
Attendance: 10,039 (1,123 away fans)