Six-goal thrilled at Griffin Park
Promotion-chasing Brighton and Hove Albion came from 2-0 and 3-2 down to prevent Brentford picking up a second home win in five days. The Bees led 2-0 at the break thanks to goals from Jota and Harlee Dean. After the visitors had fought their way back to level thanks to two goals in three second half minutes, Konstantin Kerschbaumer looked as if he had won it for Brentford with a 94th minute goal. But with seven minutes added there was still time for Brighton to fight back and Tomer Hemed nodded home in the dying seconds to earn his team a point and prevent them going the way of Aston Villa a few days before.
There was little sign of what was to come as Brentford held a relatively comfortable 2-0 cushion with 15 minutes remaining. Lasse Vibe had also seen a penalty saved as Brentford dominated large parts of the game and withstood Brighton pressure either side of half time. But Solly March conjured a goal out of nothing to halve the deficit and Shane Duffy headed in moments later to level it up. Kerschbaumer’s first Brentford goal looked as if it would be the winner but Brighton refused to lie down and Hemed popped up to level matters at the death.
The opening 15 minutes were very even. The teams matched each other up to certain degree with both playing wingers that liked to cut inside and create space for their respective full backs to overlap. Brighton used Jamie Murphy as their second striker, slightly behind Glenn Murray, and looked to use his pace to test the Brentford defence and his work rate to close down the home midfield. Both teams had plenty of possession in the opening exchanges and looked to attack on the flanks but the only chance in the first ten minutes was when Steve Sidwell arrived late to meet a Murray cross and diverted it narrowly over.
Brentford had half an opening when, following some interplay on the edge of the box, Florian Jozefzoon had a shot blocked. And from their next spell of possession, they took the lead. Josh McEachran had started to take control of the midfield, with Brighton surprisingly giving him room to pick his passes, and he played a key role in the goal. McEachran was involved on two or three occasions before he fed a pass to Nico Yennaris, a clever ball around the corner freed Josh Clarke and his cross was turned in from close range by Jota. The Spaniard flicked the ball between his legs for his first Griffin Park goal since May 2015 and second since his return from a loan spell at Sociedad Deportivo Eibar.
Brighton could have responded immediately when Murray nodded down and Murphy fed Jiří Skalák but the winger blasted well over. It was Brentford, however, that had control of the game. McEachran was pulling the strings and with Yennaris, Jota and Jozefzoon getting forward to join Vibe, Brentford had an attacking threat. They almost got a second when Jota curled a free kick but a deflection took it on to the roof of the net. From the corner, however, they did score. Jota delivered it, the ball flicked off a Brighton head and reached Dean at the far post and he powered a header past David Stockdale and in to the net.
That second goal seemed to wake Brighton up and while they did not show the form has left them as one of the favourites for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship, they had the better of the second half of the first period. They should probably have reduced the deficit when Murphy met a Skalák free kick unmarked ten yards out but he headed well wide. Daniel Bentley made a fine save soon after when he collected an Anthony Knockaert free kick under severe pressure as it arrowed towards the top corner. Murphy had another chance when he robbed Yennaris in midfield and set off towards goal but he dragged his shot wide from 20 yards.
There was also a chance at the end of the half for the visitors when Knockaert cut in off the right and fired a shot in but Bentley was well positioned to keep it out. That enabled Brentford to keep their two-goal lead at the break and while Brighton had shown signs they could find a way back in to it, Brentford were also dangerous on the break, looking to use the space that was opening up. The visitors also started the second period brightly and when a corner was half cleared, Knockaert cut inside and fired low, the shot was blocked by Tom Field and referee Jeremy Simpson waved away appeals he had used his arms to halt the ball’s progress.
Murphy seemed to get closer to Murray at the start of the second half and Brighton pressed higher up the pitch. They looked to prevent Brentford playing through midfield and tried to force mistakes. The visitors were also aware that one goal could turn the game in their direction. Murray had sight of goal following a quick break but blazed well over and, despite plenty of possession, they did not create much else during their fast start to the second half.
And having weathered a storm from Brighton, they looked for the goal that would probably make the game safe. Vibe had a shot deflected wide but his next sight of goal was much clearer as it came from the penalty spot. Jota won the spot kick with a superb weaving run, he was released by McEachran and darted in to the box before going down under the challenge of Uwe Hünemeier. Mr Simpson awarded a penalty and Vibe drilled it down the middle but Stockdale diverted it over the bar with his foot to keep his team in it.
The importance of that moment only became clear later in proceedings as Brentford continued to dominate. Stockdale tipped over a fierce drive from Yennaris and when Dean collected a deep Jozefzoon corner, spun Duffy and put it back in to the box, Jota headed narrowly over. March, who had come on at the break, Chuba Akpom and Hemed were all introduced by Brighton but were having limited influence. March had shown signs he could get at Clarke but was not receiving enough of the ball to make it count. At the other end Sergi Canós came off the bench and tried to let fly from 20 yards with his first touch but missed his kick.
And just when it looked as if Brentford had the game under control, Brighton struck. The goal came out of nothing, a break had been halted when the ball fell to March and he smashed a shot in to the top corner from 20 yards to halve the deficit. Confidence surged through the visitors and from their next attack, they were level. Knockaert found space on the right and cut back on to his left foot, he delivered an inch perfect cross for Duffy to arrive and power a header home from close range.
From being two down Brighton were level in a flash and it set up a grandstand finish. Brentford had the first chance when McEachran met a Yennaris corner on the volley but the effort was saved and Jota smashed the loose ball over. Jota had a shot blocked soon after before Bentley made a superb stop to keep his side level. A March shot deflected in to the path of Duffy six yards out and he put his foot through the ball but Bentley made himself big to make the save and Hünemeier smashed the loose ball wide.
Bentley then tipped a sliced Dean cross over his own bar before another great cross, this time from March, looked like it would produce a goal for Hemed but the striker headed over on the stretch from four yards. And that looked as if it would be crucial when Brentford scored four minutes in to stoppage time. Alan McCormack started the move with a clever ball to Kerschbaumer and the Austrian exchanged passes with Vibe before steering a shot out of the reach of Stockdale and in to the bottom corner from 20 yards. Kerschbaumer celebrated his first goal in Brentford colours and it left The Bees minutes away from a Championship double over Brighton after a 2-0 win on the South Coast in September.
By this time Brentford’s defence had a makeshift look. Clarke was standing in for the injured Maxime Colin at right back and an injury to Field left McCormack at left back. But The Bees were more interested in attacking than defending. Vibe shot over from 15 yards after a clever exchange with Jota and when the Danish striker weaved his way through moments later, Kerschbaumer fired wide from the edge of the box. And that gave Brighton one last chance. The ball was worked to Knockaert on the left and a McCormack slip gave him a yard of space, that was all he needed to whip a ball in for Hemed to head home and give his team a point.
Brentford: Bentley; Clarke, Dean, Bjelland, Field (sub Kerschbaumer 88 mins); McEachran; Jota, Yennaris (sub McCormack 81 mins), Woods, Jozefzoon (sub Canós 69 mins); Vibe
Subs (not used): Bonham, Egan, Sawyers, Hofmann
Bookings: McEachran (64 mins) (sixth of season), Kerschbaumer (90 mins)
Brighton and Hove Albion: Stockdale; Bruno, Hünemeier, Duffy, Pocognoli; Knockaert, Sidwell, Norwood, Skalák (sub March h/t); Murphy (sub Akpom 65 mins); Murray (sub Hemed 71 mins)
Subs (not used): Walton, Kayal, Tomori, Towell
Bookings: Sidwell (64 mins), Bruno (90 mins)
Attendance: 10,433 (1,644 away fans)