Ollie Watkins scored twice as Brentford completed a Sky Bet Championship double over Swansea City and made it a memorable final Boxing Day at Griffin Park. The striker took his tally for the season to 15 with a goal in each half as The Bees picked up a 3-1 win. And with just days left before the start of 2020, the year Brentford will leave Griffin Park and move to a new stadium, the win cemented a place in the upper echelons of the table as the second half of the season begins.
The win was a fully deserved one for the home side. Brentford had to deal with a quick start from the visitors, but Bryan Mbeumo scored for the fourth home game in a row – and made it five goals in his last six outings – and Brentford never looked back. Watkins made it 2-0 and then sealed the game late on after Swansea had given the impression they could mount a comeback. But that recovery never materialised, and Brentford made it five home wins in a row.
Swansea started the game very brightly. They got their three attackers high up the pitch and had a decent amount of the ball. They had the better of the opening exchanges, with possession in attacking areas, and prevented The Bees building any momentum. They also had the first sight of goal when André Ayew, who began the game with intent, drifting in to areas to pose a threat, found space in the penalty area, but his shot was blocked by Ethan Pinnock.
Swansea’s start had been all-action and high intensity. Their central midfield trio were working hard to cut off the space and Brentford struggled to play through the lines. Most of the first 15 minutes was played in Brentford territory but even at that stage there were signs that Brentford were finding a rhythm. Mathias Jensen and Josh Dasilva were starting to pick passes and with Kamohelo Mokotjo knitting the play, The Bees began to take command.
Jensen had a shot blocked when he picked up a poor clearance from Matt Grimes and with Swansea starting to be pushed back, Brentford pressed on. Watkins came close to opening the scoring when he cut in off the left and let fly with a shot that flicked Connor Roberts and bounced wide. Referee Andy Woolmer took an inordinate amount of time to award an obvious corner but Brentford were grateful he eventually settled on the correct decision. Jensen delivered a deep one from the right, Pinnock peeled off to nod it back across and Mbeumo headed in. Freddie Woodman got a hand to it but couldn’t keep it out and Brentford had the lead.
Brentford had just begun to assert their authority before the goal. After it, however, they took complete control. They dominated the centre of midfield and were able to play their way up the pitch in whatever fashion they chose. The game could have been over by half time, albeit Ayew had a shot blocked for Swansea soon after the goal when a corner dropped loose.
David Raya picked up that loose ball and turned defence in to attack. Saïd Benrahma got on to the throw and released Dasilva, he was then in the right place to meet a Watkins lay off and see a shot deflect just wide as the move flowed from one end of the pitch to the other at a frightening pace. Mbeumo met the low corner but he shot deflected wide and Henrik Dalsgaard then had a header saved from the next set piece.
The Bees did not, however, had to wait long for the second goal. Once again it came on the break with Benrahma darting over halfway. He played a ball between the legs of Ayew to release Rico Henry on the left and he delivered a cross that was tuned in by Watkins. The Brentford striker was at full stretch but got enough on the ball to send it past Woodman and in to the net for his 14th goal of the season. And Henry’s role in winning a defensive header to release Benrahma and then sending over the crucial cross was applauded by his team mates.
It looked as if Brentford would continue to push on and end the game as a contest before the interval. Pinnock headed a cross from Jensen wide after a short corner and Woodman made a fine save from Benrahma after he had dribbled in to the box. But Brentford did not have it all their own way in the later stages of the first period. They were incisive in attack and put together some fine moves, but Swansea still had ambition and were dangerous when they had the ball.
Grimes lashed a shot well over but there was a sight of goal for Sam Surridge when Pinnock missed his kick, but his shot from the angle was saved by Raya. The Brentford defenders were putting their bodies on the line to keep Swansea out – first Ayew’s effort from a low corner was blocked and then Dasilva used every inch to prevent a George Byers effort flying towards the target from 25 yards. The half ended with another corner dropping to Byers, but Pontus Jansson made his large frame even bigger to prevent the shot troubling Raya.
Brentford went in to half time with a two-goal cushion and control of the contest but knowing Swansea were still in it. Ayew shot wide early in the second half and Bersant Celina then darted in to the box off the left before steering a shot wide of Raya’s far post. And with 25 minutes to go, they got the goal were searching for. And it was almost all about Ayew. The attacker fed a long ball in to the path of Celina and was then there to tap in when Raya had let a shot slip from his grasp. The effort from Celina dipped and bounced in front of Raya and seemed to swerve viciously, which prevented Raya gathering it and Swansea had a goal back.
It came just after they had made a double attacking change, introducing fresh legs to reinvigorate a performance that was starting to go stale. And it came just after Brentford had seen chances to kill the contest come and go. Pinnock and Dalsgaard both got their heads on a Jensen corner but Jansson couldn’t finish it as it dropped. The next corner was played short and Mokotjo fed Benrahma, but he lashed high and wide at the near post.
Just before Swansea’s goal, Brentford came within inches of getting their third. A superb move that started in the left back area with Henry, involved Dasilva and Benrahma, ended with Mbeumo cutting inside and lashing a shot a fraction wide of the far post. Woodman was stationary as the ball whistled past him but beat his far post.
When Swansea scored soon after it gave them a lift and they went on the attack. But Brentford slowed the game down, they were content to keep possession – in their own half if required – and asked Swansea to chase the ball. Ayew and Celina had shots blocked and Jansson had to make a clearance to stop Borja Bastón getting on to a loose ball in the box, but The Bees weathered the storm.
The home side also went looking for the goal to restore the cushion. A Raya kick was nodded by Watkins in to the path of Benrahma and he whistled a shot just over. Watkins and Dasilva then combined to set up Benrahma again but this time his shot was blocked and saved. Substitute Jan Žambůrek played a one-two with Dasilva, who seemed to be involved in all the attacking play, and then shot in to the side netting and fellow replacement Joel Valencia saw a shot blocked before lashing an effort inches wide with Woodman again a spectator.
The third goal came with two minutes remaining and it was no surprised that Dasilva and Watkins were the men involved. Dasilva worked space in midfield and timed a pass to perfection to put Watkins in behind. The striker raced away and left Ben Wilmot – who was, perhaps, lucky to still be on the pitch after a horrific foul on Mbeumo – for dead, he kept the defender at bay and poked past Woodman to seal the win. Brentford celebrated as Swansea knew the game was done.
Watkins almost grabbed a hat-trick at the death when he worked space in the box, but his shot was blocked. And there was still time for Barry McKay to lash in a shot for Swansea that cleaned out Ayew and failed to trouble Raya but both teams knew the contest was done. When the final whistle blew Brentford celebrated a second win over Swansea – after a 3-0 win in Wales in October – which took them up to third after the afternoon games and closing in on the automatic promotion places.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Dasilva, Mokotjo, Jensen (sub Nørgaard 77 mins); Mbeumo (sub Valencia 72 mins), Watkins, Benrahma (sub Žambůrek 84 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Roerslev, Jeanvier, Thompson
Swansea City: Woodman; Roberts, Cabango, Wilmot, Bidwell; Byers (sub McKay 86 mins); Grimes, Carroll (sub Kalulu 63 mins); Ayew, Surridge (sub Bastón 63 mins), Celina
Subs (not used): Nordfeldt, Fulton, McKay, Routledge, Naughton
Bookings: Wilmot (71 mins), Grimes (74 mins)
Attendance: 11,848 (1,178 away fans)