Second half goals from Sergi Canós and Ollie Watkins ended a run of nine games without a win for Brentford as they beat Millwall 2-0 at Griffin Park. The Bees had the better of the first half but had to wait until the start of the second for Canós to find a breakthrough. And Watkins came off the bench to score a second late on to give Thomas Frank his first points as Brentford Head Coach and The Bees the bragging rights in their first London derby of the Sky Bet Championship season.
And there was little doubt Brentford were well worth the win. While Millwall caused difficulties for The Bees in short spells, the home side played all the football and created the vast majority of chances. They hit the woodwork in both halve and could have scored more than the two they got, both set up by Neal Maupay, proving the league’s top scorer has more to his game that just goals.
There was a staccato opening to the game with little action of note in the opening exchanges. There was a lengthy stoppage as Chris Mepham suffered a head injury and much of the first ten minutes were played in Brentford territory. The Bees were looking to find a passing rhythm and play through the centre of the pitch while Millwall had a high starting position and stopped Brentford building that momentum.
The home side tried to stick to their philosophy, looking for the short option from the back while Millwall played for set pieces, looking to put the ball in to the penalty area from corners, free kicks and long throws. The visitors probably had the better of the few chances in the first 25 minutes, all from dead ball situations or the second phase of them. But neither team came particularly close to scoring in the first quarter.
Canós had a shot blocked for The Bees when they were able to get some forward momentum after ten minutes or so and then got on to the resulting corner but could only turn it wide. Nico Yennaris saw a shot blocked before Moses Odubajo, who was helping supply Saïd Benrahma on the left and providing a valuable extra attacking option that side, lashed over from distance. But Brentford were finding it hard to build pressure and Millwall were using every opportunity to put the ball in to the penalty area.
Tom Elliott headed wide when a corner was half cleared and then played back in and another half-cleared set piece led to a shooting chance for Mahlon Romeo that Ezri Konsa bravely blocked. Daniel Bentley tipped a looping Jake Cooper header over before Shaun Williams missed the target with an effort from further out. Millwall’s best chance of the first 25 minutes came when Cooper, who had stayed up from an earlier set piece, got on to a deep cross but he headed wide from ten yards.
Brentford had seen penalty appeals waved away by referee Simon Hooper when Yennaris had attempted to break in to the penalty area and seen the ball hit the arm of Cooper and as the half wore on, The Bees took control. Benrahma was constantly running at Romeo and had a regular supply from Josh McEachran, in particular, in the centre of the pitch. Benrahma came within a whisker of opening the scoring when he got free and curled in a shot that beat Ben Amos but bounced away off the crossbar.
An effort from a free kick soon after from Benrahma had Amos scrambling but the shot whistled wide. Odubajo saw a shot blocked and another Benrahma effort whizzed wide of the far post before a superb move almost opened Millwall up. After a spell of possession in defence, Bentley found Maupay and the striker turned clear in midfield before releasing Benrahma, Yennaris – on the overlap – delivered a ball that had to be scrambled away with Canós waiting to arrive and tap in.
There was still time later in the half for a low Benrahma corner to cause confusion, but Henrik Dalsgaard was unable to profit and The Bees went in at the break with the initiative but not the lead. That lead was not, however, long in coming. Yennaris won the ball back as Millwall tried to break after Romeo and Odubajo had tangled on the left, Maupay was then able to thread a pass through to Canós and he slotted calmly past Amos to put Brentford in front. Millwall had begun to appeal for offside before realising that Romeo was still coming back in to position and was the last defender and once Canós was left with only Amos to beat, he made no mistake.
The visitors could have taken the lead just before the Canós strike. Odubajo had been run out of play on the left and a collision with the advertising hoardings delayed his return to the fray, Millwall overloaded on their right and when the cross came in, Ryan Leonard headed wide from ten yards when he should probably have hit the target. Canós scored two minutes later and Brentford had something to build on.
The Bees tried to get forward in the minutes after the goal, looking for a second that would give them breathing space. More good work from Canós enabled Romaine Sawyers to release Benrahma on the left, the first shot was blocked and when the ball came in, it just eluded the stretching Maupay. A low corner then dropped to Dalsgaard on the edge of the box but his shot on the turn was high and wide.
The pressure was mounting but Millwall rang the changes and shifted the momentum. They brought on experienced striker Steve Morison and he was followed by Jed Wallace as the visitors looked for some attacking possession. And there was an immediate change in the game. Millwall had impetus and fresh legs, they were able to stop Brentford playing through and started to get a territorial foothold.
Morrison created a chance for Lee Gregory but the effort screwed wide. Jed Wallace then curled a free kick over the bar and shot wide from distance as Millwall started to threaten. But there was nothing particularly subtle about the Millwall approach, they looked to get the ball in to Morison and then try to build attacking possession and win free kicks or corners. The Bees played in to the trap for a few minutes but soon regained their poise and could have put the game to bed.
Canós saw a shot deflected wide and when the resulting corner came in, Dalsgaard flicked on and Maupay headed against the crossbar. The ball came to Maupay a few yards out and with Romeo in close attention he had to react quickly, but he would have expected to score. The striker could have put that right soon after when he was released by Watkins, he stepped away from Shaun Hutchinson and fired in a shot that beat Amos but flashed just past the far post.
Gregory turned a cross wide on the stretch for Millwall and then was unable to turn home a cross thanks to some fine defending from Dalsgaard, who didn’t give him room to get off a powerful shot. Bentley completed a comfortable save low to his right and a few minutes later, Brentford had their second goal to seal the win. As the ball bounced around in midfield, Yennaris headed down and a clever first time pass from McEachran released Watkins, he played a one-two with Maupay and then lashed under Amos.
That was McEachran’s last involvement and Brentford were able to bring on Josh Dasilva for a debut. He made an impact, driving forward from midfield and with Alan Judge also offering fresh legs and The Bees having a two-goal lead, the later stages were a joy to behold. Brentford’s only complaint will be that they did not add to their lead.
A quick break saw Maupay streak free on the left and a pass inside that would have given Watkins a chance to shoot was just a fraction heavy. Maupay was then just unable to convert after a good run from Dasilva, the ball dropped to Sawyers and his effort deflected inches past the post. A third goal would not have flattered Brentford but two was all they needed to get back to winning ways.
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Odubajo; McEachran (sub Dasilva 88 mins); Canós (sub Watkins 73 mins), Sawyers, Yennaris, Benrahma (sub Judge 83 mins); Maupay
Subs (not used): Daniels, Barbet, Carroll, Clarke
Bookings: Sawyers (24 mins) (fourth of season)
Millwall: Amos; Romeo Hutchinson, Cooper, M. Wallace (sub Bradshaw 79 mins); Skalák (sub J. Wallace 63 mins), Williams, Leonard, Ferguson; Gregory, Elliott (sub Morison 57 mins)
Subs (not used): Archer, Meredith, Tunnicliffe, O’Brien
Bookings: Leonard (32 mins)
Attendance: 9,476 (1,654 away fans)