Brentford made the perfect start to their 2018/19 Sky Bet Championship season with a comprehensive home win over Rotherham United. Neal Maupay scored twice and there were further goals for Sergi Canós, Ollie Watkins and Lewis Macleod as The Bees picked up a 5-1 win. Maupay opened the scoring inside four minutes before Canós doubled the lead just before the break. Watkins made it three just after the re-start and Maupay’s second came soon after. Macleod added a gloss to the score line in the dying minutes before a late consolation from Will Vaulks for Rotherham.
And it would be hard to argue that 5-1 was not a fair reflection of the game. Rotherham, newly promoted from League One, were simply overmatched. Brentford spent most of the afternoon playing around and through them and created stacks of chances. The visitors did create some openings of their own and perhaps deserved their goal, but it was Brentford’s attacking that caught the eye on a day when temperatures rose past 30°C and the football was as hot as the conditions.
The visitors actually went on the attack inside the opening minutes and had a free kick that Brentford needed to deal with. But The Bees went on the break from that clearance and that set the tone for the afternoon. Maupay got his goal moments later and Brentford never looked back.
The goal was a superbly worked one by The Bees. Maupay started it with a clever spin in midfield and Watkins was involved as the ball was worked to the left. Yoann Barbet delivered a cross and Macleod arrived late to meet it, there was a superb save from Marek Rodák to stop the Brentford midfield player scoring but Maupay arrived to tap in and open his account for the season.
That Rotherham got to the half hour mark only one down was largely due to Rodák, as well as the woodwork and some fortune. Brentford produced scorching football in soaring temperatures, attacking with vigour down both flanks and pulling Rotherham’s two banks of four all over the place. Romaine Sawyers was at the heart of most of it and he generally looked to his left where Watkins had the beating of Zak Vyner and Barbet was a willing participant on the overlap.
Richard Wood was booked inside the first ten minutes for one hack at Watkins and the resulting free kick was delivered deliciously by Macleod, Maupay couldn’t connect but Chris Mepham released a fierce shot that was bravely blocked by Rodák. A Watkins effort was blocked after he got away from Vyner and on to a Barbet pass and the resulting corner was rolled short to Sawyers, his shot fizzed towards the net only for Rodák to tip it on to the crossbar. When Henrik Dalsgaard got on to the loose ball, Rodák was called in to action again to save at the feet of Maupay.
Sawyers had a shot blocked soon after as Brentford continued to press but the momentum was halted by referee Oliver Langford deciding, probably correctly, that the conditions warranted a water break. Rotherham’s huddle was led by their bench and the visitors were reinvigorated after the interruption. Indeed, they should have levelled moments later. The ball was chipped in to the box and Michael Smith fed Jon Taylor, his cross was met powerfully on the volley by Joe Newell and Daniel Bentley had to make a superb save to his right.
The visitors dropped David Ball in to midfield to try and disrupt Brentford. It was harder for Josh McEachran to start play from deep and Ball was finding more space to get on to flicks from Smith, Rotherham’s main outlet. The game was more even, and Rotherham pushed men forward as their hope grew, but that just gave Brentford the space to counter-attack and score a second.
Canós won a corner when he burst free on the right and on to a long throw from Dalsgaard. He might have picked out Maupay or Watkins in the box but instead earned the set piece as the Rotherham clearance ricochet just past the post. Macleod delivered the corner low, Ezri Konsa flicked it in to the path of Canós and he took a touch before lashing it past Rodák and in to the net. The 2-0 half time lead was a fair reflection of the game and gave Rotherham a mountain to climb after the break.
And when two became three minutes after the interval, the game was just about over. Maupay picked up a loose pass in midfield, got away from Vaulks and found Watkins, he drove in to the box, skinned Vyner and lashed a shot past Rodák and in to the top corner. The Rotherham goalkeeper could do little as the shot whistled past him and Brentford had the three points in the bag.
With the game effectively over, Rotherham played as if the shackles had been lifted. They committed more men to attack and got involved in an end-to-end contest. That gave them a chance of getting a goal and perhaps putting a twist on the afternoon but opened them up to a Brentford team becoming increasingly rampant in the summer sunshine.
Wood could have reduced the deficit when he headed a corner wide at the far post and Smith almost got in behind the home defence and on to a chipped pass but Mepham came across to block his shot. Bentley also made a save from a Vaulks header as the visitors tried to find a response. But they were increasingly overworked at the other end.
A Maupay dummy allowed Sawyers to get on to a pinpoint Dalsgaard pass and it took a fine tackle from Wood to prevent a shot coming in. Rodák saved from Canós soon after but that just delayed the fourth goal. And it was another to savour for Brentford. After a spell of possession, the ball was fed to the left and Canós teed up Barbet, the reverse pass found Macleod and his low shot was saved by Rodák, Maupay, however, was waiting to gobble up the loose ball and double his tally for the afternoon.
Brentford continued to press as they looked to add to their goal count. Sawyers put Canós in to space in the inside right channel, but his lofted effort was saved by Rodák. A free kick from McEachran then whistled across the face of goal, just waiting for the final touch, before Watkins set up Sawyers and Rodák got down low to save the powerful shot.
With the temperatures still high, both teams made substitutions as the game entered its final phase and there was another water break to disrupt the flow of the game. There was a Brentford debut for Mohamed Saïd Benrahma and his trickery further lit up the afternoon, but The Bees were slightly less incisive going forward in the later stages.
Rotherham substitute Kyle Vassell, a former Brentford youth player, could have marked his return to West London with a goal. He headed straight at Bentley from six yards when he got on to a Mattock cross and then forced the Brentford goalkeeper in to an unconvincing save with a long-range shot. Taylor then curled a free kick over the bar as the minutes ticked down.
Brentford got their fifth with a minute left on the clock. Alan Judge spread play to the left and then almost got a pass back from Macleod after Benrahma had cut back inside. When the pass to Judge was intercepted, Macleod let fly from the edge of the penalty area and his shot whistled past Rodák and in to the bottom corner. There was still time for Rotherham to get their goal when a long throw was half cleared and Vaulks lashed it back past Bentley and in to the net from 20 yards. It meant Brentford didn’t have their clean sheet, but they did have their win.
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet; McEachran; Canós (sub Benrahma 67 mins), Macleod, Sawyers, Watkins (sub Mokotjo 80 mins); Maupay (sub Judge 67 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Clarke, Yennaris, Jeanvier
Rotherham United: Rodák; Vyner, Ajayi, Wood, Mattock; Taylor, Palmer, Vaulks, Newell (sub Williams 71 mins); Smith (sub Wiles 67 mins), Ball (sub Vassell 57 mins)
Subs (not used): Price, Robertson, Raggett, Jones
Bookings: Wood (9 mins), Vaulks (43 mins)
Attendance: 9,756 (941 away fans)