Brentford’s run in the Carabao Cup came to an end at the Third Round stage at The Emirates Stadium as Arsenal progressed to the last 16. A spectacular free kick from Alan Judge had given Brentford hope of overturning a 2-0 half time deficit but there was no way back for The Bees. Those two Danny Welbeck goals gave Arsenal a winning lead and Alexandre Lacazette added a third late on to give the home side a 3-1 victory.
The home side deserved to progress, particularly on their first half showing, but Brentford gave them a fright after the break. Judge scored just before the hour mark to set up a thrilling finish and The Bees had chances to level. But Arsenal used the strength they had on the bench to get them over the line and in to the Fourth Round.
The evening almost started in the best possible way for The Bees, albeit not by their design. Shkodran Mustafi played a simple back pass to his goalkeeper but Bernd Leno’s first touch of the match was to fail to control it and watch, thankfully, as the ball rolled inches wide of his post. If he had been standing between his sticks, Brentford would have been a goal to the good. The resulting corner dropped to Kamohelo Mokotjo on the edge of the penalty area but his shot was blocked.
Arsenal were not as charitable when they had their first sight of goal moments later. A corner was played short to Matteo Guendouzi and, under very little pressure, he was able to deliver a cross for Welbeck to divert a header past Luke Daniels and in to the net. The delivery, and lack of pressure on the cross, plus the movement of Welbeck in the middle meant the final finish was simple and Daniels had no chance.
The pattern of the first quarter of the contest had been established inside the first minutes. Arsenal dominated possession and held a high line to stop Brentford playing through. When The Bees had the ball at the back they found up to four Arsenal players pushed to the edge of their penalty area and every poor touch enabled the home side to get possession. Brentford were brave on the ball and tried to pick passes but were not faultless and that meant Arsenal had the openings.
A ball over the top allowed Emile Smith Rowe a run through and it took a fine recovery tackle tom Julian Jeanvier to stop him scoring. When Brentford played themselves in to trouble soon after, Alex Iwobi found Henrikh Mkhitaryan breaking in to the penalty area but poor control prevented a shot with only Daniels to beat. Iwobi, who was tucking in off the left to find pockets of space, also curled a shot wide and was involved in the first check of the Video Assistant Referee when he tumbled under a challenge from Jeanvier. Referee Mike Dean waved away appeals and his video support backed that decision.
As the half wore on, Brentford began to find space to play. Romaine Sawyers got on the ball more and The Bees were able to get wide players Judge and Sergi Canós in to the contest, albeit they were not able to put together sustained spells of good attacking possession. Ollie Watkins had a shot blocked when he got on to a Judge pass and Nico Yennaris lashed the resulting corner high and wide when the ball dropped. Moses Odubajo also had a shot blocked as Brentford began to make an impact on the match.
Brentford’s best chance of the first period came just past the half hour when they forced the home side in to a mistake in their own territory. Canós found Watkins and he weaved past Mustafi to create space for a shot. The effort was blocked and moments later Welbeck had his second. The goal was a masterclass in how to exploit a faction of space. Stephan Lichtsteiner won a header that took Yoann Barbet out of the game, Mkhitaryan had space to run in to and found Iwobi, Nacho Monreal arrived on the overlap and crossed for Welbeck to tap in. The goal was ruthless and clinical, and Arsenal had breathing space.
They took that lead in to the break and could have scored early in the second period to really put the game to bed. First Jeanvier turned an Iwobi cross just past his own pass and the resulting corner was cleverly worked for Lichtsteiner to chip a pass to Mkhitaryan eight yards out but Daniels was quickly out to smother the shot and keep Brentford in the game. And The Bees made the most of that. After a slow start Brentford decided the best way to approach the game was to go toe-to-toe with The Gunners and they went for the jugular.
Although two down, Brentford played with freedom. They pushed their attacking players high up the pitch and looked to force the hosts in to mistakes. Judge and Canós ran at the full backs and with Watkins pulling cleverly in to pockets and Yennaris buzzing around, there was a new dimension to the Brentford attack. Approaching 9,000 Bees fans found their voice and it became a very different contest.
A clever turn from Yennaris created a shooting chance for Canós that he pulled inches past the far post and Barbet then fired in a shot that deflected in to the arms of Leno. Canós saw another shot blocked as he cut in off the left and it took a desperate tackle from Rob Holding to prevent Watkins getting a shot off after he got on to a clever Odubajo pass. An equally desperate tackle from Guendouzi when Odubajo burst through moments later proved to be less effective.
The Arsenal man was penalised and Judge lined up a free kick 22 yards out. The Irish international curled the ball over the wall and left Leno standing as he whistled it in to the net. Judge’s first goal for around 30 months after his recovery from a serious broken leg brought the Brentford fans to their feet and gave a contest that was starting to simmer an extra injection of life.
The Bees almost levelled seconds later when Watkins forced a mistake and Sawyers found Canós, but his shot flew over the bar and a Barbet header deflected wide soon after. Leno then saved from Canós, on the volley, and Judge, after an exchange of passes with Yennaris and a delicious back heel, as Brentford pressed. So much so that Arsenal were forced to reinforce their midfield and bring on record signing Lacazette.
Daniels was forced in to a point blank save from a Monreal header and Lacazette then blocked a Lichtsteiner shot that may have troubled the Brentford goalkeeper as Arsenal looked for the third goal that would kill the game. Mustafi also had a header saved before Lacazette burst through, exchanged passes with Aaron Ramsey and blasted wide. Welbeck then failed to convert an Iwobi cross at the far post.
Arsenal’s changes had shifted the momentum. Barbet had a shot saved after being set up by Judge but the home side looked the more likely to get the next goal as the minutes ticked down. And so it proved. Lacazette won a midfield battle and got away from the defence, he reached the edge of the penalty area and lashed it past Daniels to settle the tie.
The 3-1 final score may have been a little harsh on The Bees and they could point to a late penalty shout at 2-1 when Barbet appeared to be fouled as he burst in to the box but Mr Dean again waved away appeals. Arsenal had the ball in the net a fourth time but Iwobi was adjudged offside. That would have been very tough on Brentford on a night when they could have progressed but ultimately came up short.
Arsenal: Leno; Lichtsteiner, Holding, Mustafi, Monreal; Guendouzi, Elneny (sub Ramsey 84 mins); Mkhitaryan (sub Torreira 75 mins), Smith Rowe (sub Lacazette 63 mins), Iwobi; Welbeck
Subs (not used): Martinez, Bellerin, Kolasinac, Nketiah
Bookings: Lichtsteiner (28 mins), Welbeck (63 mins)
Brentford: Daniels; Odubajo (sub Dalsgaard 63 mins), Jeanvier, Konsa, Barbet; Mokotjo; Canós (sub Maupay 74 mins), Sawyers, Yennaris, Judge; Watkins (sub Benrahma 79 mins)
Subs (not used): Bentley, Mepham, McEachran, Macleod
Bookings: Konsa (36 mins)