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Match Reports

Brentford 5 Birmingham City 0

Bees run riot and record big win at Griffin Park

20 February 2018

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Brentford completed a Sky Bet Championship double over lowly Birmingham City with a win that equalled their biggest in the second tier since they resumed hostilities at the level in 2014. Ollie Watkins and Neal Maupay scored two each, albeit one of Neal’s has been given as an own goal, and Florian Jozefzoon scored the other as Brentford recorded a win every bit as convincing as the 5-0 final score suggests. The Bees grabbed four of those goals in a 24-minute spell either side of half time as they warmed up a cold West London night with a memorable victory.

The game always promised to be an entertaining one with a gaggle of former Brentford employees in the Birmingham ranks. And with Bees fans reminding Harlee Dean and Jota, among others, of their former status, the atmosphere at Griffin Park crackled under the floodlights. Watkins put The Bees in front and Jozefzoon added a second before the break as Brentford capitalised on Birmingham mistakes. Maupay grabbed a four-minute double early in the second period before Watkins nodded home the fifth late on.

Birmingham were perhaps relived that it only ended 5-0 as Brentford had the chances to threaten their record league victory. Watkins and Maupay could both have taken home the match ball while David Stockdale made a series of saves to go with some calamitous errors. The visitors also had their chances but the difference between the teams in the two penalty areas showed in the final score line.

The game started at a helter-skelter pace. Brentford were on the front foot from the first whistle and the opening exchanges were mostly played in Birmingham territory. Maupay had a shot blocked inside the first three minutes and when Birmingham failed to clear, Josh McEachran worked the ball back to the French striker and he curled a shot wide. Romaine Sawyers sliced wide when a Jozefzoon cross was half cleared and John Egan then diverted a McEachran free kick off target. There was still time inside the opening ten minutes for a Maupay effort to deflect wide when a Yoann Barbet cross was half cleared.

Birmingham’s attacking intent had contributed to Brentford’s bright start. They started with three attacking midfield players high up the pitch and looked to get the ball forward quickly. They helped the game continue at a frantic pace and had early appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Geoff Eltringham when Sam Gallagher went over on the edge of the box under a challenge from Andreas Bjelland.

Craig Gardner wasted a good break for the visitors by blasting high and wide from distance before Kamohelo Mokotjo had a shot blocked at the other end. The ball was then recycled and Sawyers’ cross was turned wide by Maupay. Brentford’s quick start had not led to an early goal and Birmingham started to work their way in to the game. Their aggressive intent was posing Brentford difficulties and they were started to gain a territorial foothold.

Cheikh N’Doye almost opened Brentford up with a run in to the left side of the penalty area but he pulled his shot wide and Daniel Bentley then saved well from Gallagher after a clever Gardner pass. Bentley was in the action again soon after when Jason Lowe let fly from distance and Birmingham were starting to control. That had, however, come with McEachran starting to struggle and he was replaced by Ryan Woods 20 minutes in.

The introduction of the busy Woods gave Brentford a bit more bite in midfield. He was always an outlet for a pass and was a robust presence in the centre of the pitch. As such Brentford were stopping the Birmingham tide and starting to move the ball through midfield. With Maupay providing a fine focal point, The Bees were able to get their attacking midfield players in to the game. They were also forcing errors in a panicky visiting defence and when they failed to clear, Maupay set up Sawyers for a shot that flew well over.

The next mistake from a Birmingham played, was a crucial one as it caused the opening goal. There didn’t look to be a great deal of danger when Watkins turned 40 yards out and made his way towards goal. His low shot from 28 yards had power but Stockdale got down to it and would have expected to save it. However, the ball squirmed through his grasp and ended up in the back of the net.

The goal came at a time when the game was fairly even but the mistake clearly deflated Birmingham and Brentford went through the gears. Sawyers saw a deflected shot saved before another mistake led to another goal. Maupay robbed the dawdling Lowe in midfield and headed towards goal, he slipped the ball to Jozefzoon and the winger rounded Stockdale before slotting home. It initially looked as if Jozefzoon had run too wide but he remained composed and slotted home to make it 2-0 at the break.

In fact, it could have been three before the interview when Watkins weaved his way in to the penalty area but his shot was blocked by Marc Roberts. Birmingham needed to make changes at the break and substituted both their wide attackers. They could have pulled one back immediately when a cross was half cleared, a Che Adams shot was blocked and Gallagher lashed over from 15 yards.

That might have changed the game and Adams shot over soon after as the visitors looked to turn things around but a double strike from The Bees soon ended their hopes. Maupay got on the score sheet when Henrik Dalsgaard bundled his way through in the inside right channel and got to the by-line, he drilled it across and Maupay converted from close range. And three minutes later, it was four. Stockdale inexplicably let a ball slip from his grasp on the edge of the penalty area and presented it to Watkins, he fed Maupay and the striker lashed the ball in off the crossbar. The official statistics have given the goal as a Roberts own goal, citing a touch unclear on first viewing, but Maupay may end up with the goal.

Between Maupay’s goals, N’Doye could have reduced the arrears when he headed over from close range but Birmingham’s heads were dropping. Stockdale had already saved from Maupay before the striker’s double and he was becoming the busiest man on the pitch. The goalkeeper went low to his left to save a Watkins effort and then got up quickly to keep out the follow-up before a Maupay shot was blocked.

Cohen Bramall made a fine block when Sawyers fed Watkins inside the box and Jozefzoon then curled inches wide from the resulting corner. It should have been five when Jozefzoon played a simple give and go with Mokotjo and cut the ball back to Watkins but he placed it wide from eight yards. Stockdale denied Watkins again soon after, getting down well to save a header, and the follow-up from Barbet was blocked before substitute Alan Judge blasted over after a quick break.

Barbet missed the target with a volley before Judge shot well wide as Brentford threatened to really make it a night to remember. At the other end, Birmingham’s efforts were summed up by an attempted lob from Adams that Bentley gathered by his knees ten yards out. The fifth goal eventually came inside the final ten minutes, started and finished by Watkins. The attacker picked up the ball and drove forward before spreading it to the right, when Jozefzoon returned it, Watkins was there to head home.

Lowe had a shot blocked at the other end before a Brentford break led to a chance for Jozefzoon but his effort was blocked. Barbet could have made it six when he nodded a Judge free kick inches wide inside the final seconds but Birmingham should have had the final say. Bramall worked his way to the by-line and delivered a superb cross, Gallagher met it inside the six-yard box but Bentley made the save. The ball dropped loose and Adams fired wide. As Brentford congratulated themselves, Birmingham’s heads drooped again. It summed up the night.

Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Egan, Bjelland, Barbet; McEachran (sub Woods 20 mins); Jozefzoon, Sawyers (sub Judge 70 mins), Mokotjo, Watkins; Maupay (sub Emiliano 75 mins)

Subs (not used): Daniels, Mepham, Clarke, Ogbene

Birmingham City: Stockdale; Colin, Roberts, Dean, Bramall; Gardner, Lowe; Maghoma (sub Jota h/t), N’Doye, Boga (sub Adams h/t); Gallagher

Subs (not used): Trueman, Jutkiewicz, Jenkinson, Morrison, Seddon

Bookings: Gardner (45 mins), Lowe (87 mins)

Attendance: 9,511 (1,167 away fans)

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