Ten-man Brentford were condemned to defeat by a late goal scored by Bristol City’s Niclas Eliasson. The visitors took the points at Griffin Park, scoring the only goal of the game in the 89th minute after Chris Mepham had been sent off for Brentford just before the hour mark. It meant defeat for Thomas Frank in his first game as Brentford Head Coach and one that didn’t feel entirely deserved.
The Bees were on top for most of the first half and saw some very good chances come and go. Ollie Watkins also hit the post in the second period when Brentford were a man down but the game was all square. City had created little before the sending off and it took until the dying seconds for them to fashion the golden chance but when it came, Eliasson was able to take it.
A change in Head Coach did not mean a change in style for Brentford and they looked to dominate possession from the first whistle. The Bees had lots of the ball in the opening exchanges and the first meaningful touch from a City player was when goalkeeper Max O’Leary claimed a Josh McEachran free kick. It was a boost for the goalkeeper, making his Football League debut, and most of the early action was at his end.
Brentford dominated the first 15 minutes. Romaine Sawyers and McEachran saw a lot of the ball and were able to get wide players Sergi Canós and Watkins in to the game. With Yoann Barbet and Henrik Dalsgaard happy to push on from full back, Brentford had City pinned in their own half.
The Bees should have one ahead inside the first ten minutes when Sawyers created some space and threaded a pass through the eye of a needle to the overlapping Dalsgaard, the ball was pulled back to Neal Maupay but he failed to connect properly when five yards out and City escaped. Maupay had a shot blocked soon after and then picked up a Sawyers header before laying it back to the midfield man for a shot that fizzed inches wide from 20 yards. O’Leary then almost cost his side when dithering in possession, he was harried by Maupay but managed to squeeze the ball away.
When the game was brought to a halt as City defender Nathan Baker suffered a head injury, Brentford had complete control. But that stoppage was lengthy, and Baker was eventually replaced, which gave City a chance to regroup and reshape their defence. Substitute Jay Dasilva, on at left back, looked to get forward, which gave Brentford something to think about defensively, and City had some attacking possession, albeit they could not create a clear-cut chance.
The visitors did have the ball in the net, long after an offside flag had been raised, but it was Brentford who regained the initiative as half time approached. When a corner was half cleared, O’Leary failed to gather a high ball and Canós got to it as dropped but was unable to force it in. And there was a better chance soon after when Sawyers got clear on the right and cut a ball back to Watkins on the edge of the box, his shot was firm but straight at O’Leary and Lewis Macleod fired the rebound over on the stretch.
For all Brentford’s dominance of the first half, City could have gone in at the break with the lead. After a spell of possession, and with Brentford unable to hold the ball in midfield, Eliasson delivered a cross that Matty Taylor turned towards goal and Daniel Bentley had to be alert to claw it away. The resulting corner was half cleared, Eliasson delivered again and Andreas Weimann headed in. However, the City forward was in an offside position and the goal was ruled out, much to the Weimann’s displeasure and he was booked for his protests.
There was still time before the interval for Barbet to whip a free kick over the wall from 30 yards and it took a superb save from O’Leary, diving away to his left, to keep the score line blank at the break. And Brentford also went close early in the second half as O’Leary got down low to his right to keep out a Canós effort after good work by Ezri Konsa and Dalsgaard. Konsa also then saw a low Macleod corner ricochet around the penalty area, off him and wide before a deflected Watkins shot was saved.
City had begun the second half with a higher starting position. They made it difficult for Brentford to play out and build any momentum and the game was being played more in The Bees’ defensive third. But the visitors had not looked likely to create much until the game swung their way just before the hour mark. Chris Mepham had been booked early in the second half after getting involved in a melee when Marlon Pack was trying to kick the ball out from underneath a prostrate Kamohelo Mokotjo, making plenty of contact with the Brentford man. When Eliasson then tumbled over as he ran past the defender, referee Robert Jones decided a second cautionable offence had been committed and sent Mepham off, ignoring protests there had been no contact.
That forced Brentford in to a reshuffle with Barbet moving to centre back and Moses Odubajo brought on at left back and City had the wind in their sails. The resulting free kick dropped loose and Bentley made a smart smothering save to deny Weimann. Eliasson then shot well over before Josh Brownhill lashed high and wide from distance.
Eliasson wasted another good position by firing over after cutting in off the right and substitute Famara Diédhiou then headed wide on the stretch. A ball in behind then allowed Jamie Paterson a shot on goal but Bentley clawed it away to his right. For all City’s chances, it was Brentford who almost went ahead with 20 minutes to go. A corner was half cleared and Odubajo fed Watkins, he created a yard and drilled in a shot that beat O’Leary but cannoned off the inside of the post. No Brentford player could force it in as Mr Jones indicated it had not crossed the line and City escaped.
There was another opening for Brentford late in the half when Maupay found space and fed Watkins, the striker then got on to the loose ball, wriggled free and fired in a shot that was blocked inside the six-yard box. But most of the opening were coming at the other end. Bentley got down low to his right to save a Liam Walsh free kick and the resulting cross was met by Lloyd Kelly with a header that deflected over. Kelly then met the next ball in to the box but headed it wide.
City created another opening with a ball in to the box that Adam Webster headed wide and as the minutes ticked down the game became feisty. City were chasing the winner as Brentford looked to counter attack when they could and the game was ultra-competitive. It always looked as if one goal would win it.
And City got that goal with 90 seconds remaining. The visitors took a throw-in short and worked space for Dasilva to cross, the ball was delivered deep and Eliasson arrived at the far post to volley back across Bentley and in to the corner. It was a well-executed and finished goal and it gave City the points.
Brentford: Bentley; Dalsgaard, Konsa, Mepham, Barbet; McEachran (sub Mokotjo h/t); Canós (sub Odubajo 61 mins), Macleod (sub Yennaris 70 mins), Sawyers, Watkins; Maupay
Subs (not used): Daniels, Clarke, Judge, Benrahma
Bookings: Yennaris (82 mins), Sawyers (84 mins) (second of season), Maupay (90 mins) (fourth of season)
Sent Off: Mepham (58 mins) (second bookable offence)
Bristol City: O’Leary; Hunt, Webster, Baker (sub Dasilva 21 mins), Kelly; Pack, Brownhill (sub Walsh 73 mins); Eliasson, Weimann, Paterson; Taylor (sub Diédhiou 68 mins)
Subs (not used): Wollacott, Hegeler, Watkins, Morrell
Bookings: Weimann (45 mins), Pack (50 mins), Kelly (65 mins)
Attendance: 11,182 (1,645 away fans)