Brentford’s 2016/17 Sky Bet Championship campaign ended with a home defeat against Blackburn Rovers. The visitors began the afternoon in the relegation zone but with hopes of escaping the drop and they were well worth their 3-1 win. They went 2-0 up inside the first 20 minutes and a late penalty ensured a 3-1 victory after Lasse Vibe had halved the deficit. In the end, the win did not prevent Blackburn being relegated but it did allow them to end their season on a high.
From the moment Charlie Mulgrew curled Blackburn in to the lead with a superb free kick, an away win always looked the likely outcome. A deflected Danny Guthrie strike made it two soon after and Brentford were not able to find their way back. The Bees started the second half well and when Vibe halved the deficit it looked as if they might find a way to take the points but Harlee Dean was sent off when conceding a late penalty and at 3-1 the game was over, albeit wins for Nottingham Forest and Birmingham City meant Blackburn went down anyway.
Blackburn knew they had little chance of staying in the Championship unless the won the match and started like a team desperate for the points. They played with high intensity, their three central midfield players and striking pair working hard to stop Brentford playing out from the back. The visitors’ centre halves challenged ferociously for loose balls and while they could not prevent Brentford cutting through them a couple of times in the early stages, their physical attributes gave them a foothold in the game.
Blackburn strikers Sam Gallagher and Danny Graham almost combined to give them the lead inside the first two minutes. The hard-working Gallagher got away on the right and his low cross was met by Graham at the near post but the ball dribbled wide. The presence of Dean probably prevented the opening goal but the visitors did not have to wait too long for it. They were awarded a free kick 20 yards out in the inside right channel and Mulgrew curled it over the defensive wall and in to the top corner of Daniel Bentley’s goal. The Brentford goalkeeper was left groping at the ball entered the net at the angle of post and crossbar.
While Blackburn had started the match on the front foot, Brentford had probably had the better of the first ten minutes and could have been ahead themselves a few minutes earlier. Sergi Canós, who had a livewire start, got on to a Jota pass and spun away from Mulgrew in the penalty area but blazed high and wide with Vibe waiting for a cut back. Dean headed over from a Jota corner but Blackburn got a second just past the quarter hour when Gallagher got away on the right and sent in a cross that was cleared as far as Guthrie, his shot seemed to take two or three deflections and bobbled past Bentley and in to the net.
Gallagher headed over soon after but with other results going their way at that point, Blackburn started to retreat. They had done the hard work and got their lead and now looked to defend it. Gallagher and Elliott Bennett dropped in to make a four-man midfield in front of a five-man defence and Brentford were invited to play in front of them. The Bees dominated possession for the rest of the half and had the ball in Blackburn territory but could not find a way through.
David Raya saved low to his left from Jota and the Blackburn goalkeeper denied the same man soon after when Brentford’s Spanish attacker intercepted a poor Guthrie pass and set off towards goal. Elliott Ward then made an important clearance deep inside his six-yard box after Vibe had broken away on the left and looked set to find Jota with his cut-back. A Canós shot then hit Yennaris as it arrowed towards goal before a fine move involving Dean and Kerschbaumer set up Jota to shoot narrowly over from the edge of the penalty area.
Blackburn could have given themselves further breathing space when a Bennett cross found Gallagher arriving late at the far post but he lifted his shot over on the stretch from inside the six-yard box. Derrick Williams then wasted another chance when set up by Graham, Bennett and Ryan Nyambe, firing high and wide from 12 yards. But most of the action was at the other end, as Blackburn looked to defend their lead. A Yoann Barbet shot was blocked but Kerschbaumer set up Vibe and his low shot was superbly saved by Raya.
Barbet headed a corner wide before Canós set up Jota for a shot that deflected wide. A late goal for Forest in their game against Ipswich changed the atmosphere as half time approached. Blackburn’s two-goal win was no longer keeping them out of danger and their defensive mindset changed. They began to push more bodies forward in the dying seconds of the half and Bentley had to be alert to prevent Gallagher getting on to a long Raya kick and rounding him to score. But the visitors did hold their two-goal cushion at the break and knew at the interval that a goal at any one of three games could keep them up.
Brentford’s primary concern at the break was their performance levels and the second half started in the same way most of the first had gone, with The Bees on the front foot. Canós curled a shot wide after getting on to a Yennaris lay off before a Jota backheel set up Dean to deliver a cross from the right-wing position, Vibe got in front of his man and diverted an effort across Raya and in to the corner. That looked as if it would set up a great Brentford comeback and Vibe had a shot blocked before Canós fired wide.
But Blackburn now knew they needed goals and went on the attack. Bentley saved well from Gallagher after he cut inside and Craig Conway then set up Graham but he wasted a golden chance by shooting over from 12 yards. The game was starting to stretch with Blackburn needing goals and Lucas had a shot blocked for the visitors before Yennaris headed wide at the other end. Raya then denied Vibe before Barbet headed a Jota corner wide.
Alan McCormack, on for his last Brentford appearance, then had a shot blocked before Canós fired over the bar. A great move involving Andreas Bjelland and Vibe enabled Jota to shoot from 25 yards and Raya tipped the fierce drive over the crossbar. Then, from the resulting corner, Yennaris had a shot blocked. Blackburn thought they had won a penalty when Josh Clarke appeared to trip Conway but referee Tony Harrington decided no foul had been committed, He then booked Dean and Conway when the two debated the decision at close proximity.
That proved to be a key moment as João put Marvin Emnes through soon after and Dean fouled him as he attempted to stop him scoring. This time Mr Harrington pointed to the spot and he sent Dean off for a second bookable offence. Conway drilled the penalty down the middle to put Blackburn 3-1 up and end the game as a contest.
The visitors knew they needed goals to try and salvage their second-tier status. Three more in the final ten minutes against ten men would have kept them up. Emnes had a shot blocked before João did likewise. The home defence then denied Conway before Bentley saved from Bennett at the death. Mr Harrington brought the game to a close soon after and ended Brentford’s season with a loss. But the consequences for Blackburn were far greater and they will be playing League One football next term.
Brentford: Bentley; Clarke, Dean, Barbet, Field (sub Bjelland 64 mins); Sawyers; Jota, Yennaris, Kerschbaumer (sub McCormack 64 mins), Canós (sub Jozefzoon 87 mins); Vibe
Subs (not used): Bonham, Egan, Westbrooke, Hofmann
Sent Off: Dean (82 mins) (second bookable offence)
Blackburn Rovers: Raya; Lenihan, Ward (sub João 66 mins), Mulgrew; Nyambe, Lowe, Guthrie (sub Conway 58 mins), Williams; Bennett; Gallagher, Graham (sub Emnes 72 mins)
Subs (not used): Steele, Hoban, Feeney, Akpan
Bookings: Conway (78 mins)
Attendance: 11,969 (1,658 away fans)