Saunders strikes as Bees draw
A late Leeds United leveller denied Brentford a second win in four days as the spoils were shared at Griffin Park. Brentford had taken the lead through a Sam Saunders goal in the first half but were unable to add to it despite holding the upper hand for the majority of the contest. And Mustapha Carayol came off the substitute’s bench to equalise for Leeds inside the final ten minutes and give his team a 1-1 draw and prevent Brentford adding to their win away to Preston North End on Saturday.
Brentford will rue the fact they could not turn dominant possession in to more than one goal. They had the territorial advantage and dealt with Leads’ threat for most of the match, albeit a second half formation switch helped the visitors, but did not always get their final pass right. And that meant Leeds could take the chance when it came their way to leave with a point.
The game took a while to settle down. Brentford started positively and went on the front foot from the first whistle but the opening stages were stop-start. A strong wind assisted in taking the ball out of play a lot and there were numerous stoppages in the first quarter, including one that saw Leeds forced in to a change as Chris Wood limped off. The Bees would have been happy with their start, and they had the first sight of goal when a Saunders shot was blocked, but the game itself was not much of a spectacle.
Leeds started with a flat four man midfield and maintained it when Wood went off. They seemed happy to let Brentford have the ball and make themselves difficult to break down. Brentford’s defenders were pressed by the Leeds strikers but once the ball went wide there was a yellow wall for The Bees to look at. They tried to play around it, using Maxime Colin and Saunders on the right in particular, with Alan Judge drifting wide to offer support, and they had control of the game with Josh McEachran knitting things together excellently in the centre of the field, moving the ball efficiently to the flanks. Saunders almost created a goal with a fizzed cross that pin-balled around the penalty area and over the crossbar off a Leeds man. A Lewis Cook effort blocked by Harlee Dean was all the visitors offered in the early stages.
However, when Saunders put Brentford ahead it was a still something of a surprise, as so little had happened. It was a goal that came out of nothing. Saunders picked up a poor headed clearance and burst through a gaping hole in the Leeds midfield, as the defence backed off – concerned by the excellent runs made by Lasse Vibe and Judge – the midfield man let fly from 22 yards and his shot rocketed past Marco Silvestri and in to the bottom corner.
That lead was almost erased inside two minutes as substitute Mirco Antenucci found space in Brentford territory, turned clear and shot from 25 yards but David Button flew to his right to claw the ball out of the top corner. Luke Murphy had a shot saved soon after and the same man then burst through midfield and set up Antenucci for a run at goal but Dean got back and eased the striker off as he prepared to shoot. It was a challenge that was probably just on the right side of the law and the Brentford defender was able to come away with the ball.
Leeds responded well to conceding and tried to get on the front foot but with them leaving gaps in midfield, Brentford were able to exploit them. John Swift started to come in to the game, switching with Saunders and Judge to good effect while Vibe could link the play confident there would be runners beyond him and McEachran continued as the game’s most influential player, playing the right passes all over the pitch. Judge curled a shot narrowly over after a weaving run from Swift before Saunders curled a free kick over the bar. Vibe also went close later in the half, curling over after Judge and Swift had linked, as Brentford went in at the break with the initiative and a one-goal lead.
But Leeds changed things at half time. They pushed Souleymane Doukara, who had been partnering Antenucci in attack, over to the left and switched to a 4-2-3-1 system. And it almost had an immediate effect as Button was forced to save at the feet of Antenucci and then got up quickly to stop a follow-up from Stuart Dallas, who had moved infield to play the first through ball. Button then saved a deflected Doukara shot before Leeds had a penalty appeal turned down when Antenucci threw himself down after it appeared he had worked his way past Dean and in to a shooting position.
The game opened up further after half time with Leeds making the change. They had more players in attacking positions and that left space for Brentford to use. Charlie Taylor made a fine tackle to prevent Judge going through and Silvestri saved a Vibe shot when the striker got in behind. A burst forward from Jake Bidwell enabled Vibe and Swift to combine to set up Judge soon after but his curling shot was saved by Silvestri. Swift then set up Saunders but his flicked effort was also saved.
Doukara came close to scoring an audacious equaliser for the visitors when he intercepted a McEachran pass and went for goal from 40 yards with Button stranded but his lofted effort flew just wide. A Liam Bridcutt shot deflected over and Liam Cooper headed wide while a Judge free kick was well saved by Silvestri at the other end. The game looked as if it was starting to drift to the final whistle when Leeds struck. Bidwell failed to make a good connection with a clearance and, after a tackle on the edge of the box, the ball dropped to Carayol and he curled a shot past Button’s left hand and in to the corner from 20 yards.
It was a goal that had not looked like it would come and Leeds set about defending it and ensuring they left with something. Brentford went for the winner but just couldn’t get their final pass right. Marco Djuricin was crowded out when he tried to shoot and when Dean connected with a Nico Yennaris cross, his effort was blocked. And Leeds almost won it as Brentford pushed for a second goal, Button pushing away a fierce shot from Doukara in stoppage time. That was as close as either team came to the winner as both left with a point.
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Bidwell; Woods, McEachran; Saunders (sub Gogia 65 mins), Judge, Swift (sub Yennaris 88 mins); Vibe (sub Djuricin 65 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, O’Connell, Kerschbaumer, Hofmann
Bookings: Djuricin (81 mins) (third of season)
Leeds United: Silvestri; Wootton, Bellusci, Cooper, Taylor; Dallas (sub Carayol 77 mins), Murphy (sub Diagouraga 60 mins), Bridcutt; Cook: Doukara, Wood (sub Antenucci 19 mins)
Subs (not used): Peacock-Farrell, Adeyemi, Phillips, Coyle
Bookings: Cooper (35 mins), Carayol (79 mins), Bellusci (79 mins), Bridcutt (80 mins)
Attendance: 10,051 (1,632 away fans)