Brentford ended 2019 with London derby defeat against Millwall. The game was settled by a first half goal from the home side, who made the most of dominating the opening stages of the contest. The Bees struggled to find a rhythm early on and were unable to get back in to the game after going behind.
It was a game of few chances and one that Brentford did not deserve to win, albeit they may feel they should have taken a point. The home side were well worth their half time lead and closed the contest down in the second half but created little apart from a goal The Bees handed to them. Brentford had more spells of attacking play after half time but did not get a goal to earn a share of the spoils.
Brentford started the game in a sluggish fashion. Millwall were full of energy in the opening exchanges with a well-executed game plan and Brentford were second best. The home side were quicker to loose balls, stronger in the tackle and played the better football in the first quarter of the contest. They were a goal up at that point and deservedly so.
The goal was one that came from a Brentford error. The Bees had possession in their own penalty area, but David Raya took too long on the ball, his delay allowed Jayson Molumby to prevent him making a clearance, or finding a team mate with a pass, and the ball broke to Aiden O’Brien. The finish from O’Brien had to be first time and firm and it was perfectly executed, finding the bottom corner from 20 yards as Ethan Pinnock tried to recover.
While the goal was not a thing of beauty, Millwall were well worth their lead. Murray Wallace had seen a goal disallowed when he headed home a Jed Wallace free kick from an offside position and Pontus Jansson was forced to block a Tom Bradshaw effort. Shaun Williams worked space for a shot but failed to make a good enough connection and Raya saved. Unfortunately, as he tried to play out, he was robbed, and O’Brien scored.
The goal didn’t really change the pattern of the game. Millwall still chose their times to get their players high up the pitch, often sitting in and allowing The Bees to play in unthreatening areas. Kamohelo Mokotjo tried to link up with the attacking players in front of him to start Brentford moving up the pitch but, with the pitch not conducive to flowing football and Millwall well drilled out of possession, he was unable to do so.
Jed Wallace fired a bouncing ball over for the home side and then met a deep corner with a volley but failed to get a good enough connection to worry Raya. Williams also saw a shot deflect wide as Millwall dominated. O’Brien nearly set up Jed Wallace for a goal when a Henrik Dalsgaard pass was intercepted but when the shot came in, Pinnock was able to block. And Brentford’s one bright spot in the opening 35 minutes was that they were only one down.
The visitors had offered little in an attacking sense during the first half hour. Josh Dasilva had seen a shot deflect wide, but Brentford had been unable to put passes together in Millwall territory with the home side using a back five when out of possession and preventing The Bers building any momentum. Brentford almost scored against the run of play when a raking pass from Pinnock allowed Bryan Mbeumo to pull between defenders, his shot wrong-footed Bartosz Białkowski and the Millwall goalkeeper only just managed to get a hand down late and keep the ball out.
Brentford’s best spell of the first half came in the dying seconds, and gave cause for optimism going in to the break. Rico Henry saw a shot deflected in to the arms of Białkowski after Ollie Watkins had laid a ball back to him. And Watkins was able to use that same position, in the inside left channel, to good effect in the final stages of the first 45.
One run enabled Watkins to drill a ball across the six-yard box that was just lacking a final touch and he may have been in an even better position in the final act of the half but ran the ball out of play. Watkins moved out to the left of Brentford’s front three in the second half and he looked the man most likely to create something. But the start of the second period was even with Millwall perhaps a fraction deeper than for most of the first half while Brentford tried to play their way in to attacking areas.
The only efforts on goal in the early stages of the second half came from the hosts. Tom Bradshaw got up a head of steam on a run from the left but saw a shot blocked by Pinnock. The ball dropped to Mahlon Romeo, but his shot was also blocked. Brentford were starting to get on top of the game, forcing Millwall deeper and playing more in opposition territory but they were not creating many chances. The best of the third quarter of the contest was when Mbeumo saw a header blocked after Watkins delivered a cross from the left but Białkowski was relatively untroubled in the home goal.
Watkins headed a low Mathias Jensen corner wide and when Dasilva delivered one later in the half, Jansson appeared to be having his shirt pulled off his back as he headed wide. The Bees made changes both in terms of personnel and tactics, with Mbeumo utilised as a wing back late in proceedings, but Millwall were resolute. The home side defended with a solid back five and invited Brentford to find a way through.
They should have done so with three minutes remaining. Saïd Benrahma lifted a ball to the far post and Watkins headed down, Jan Žambůrek arrived late and latched on to it but pulled a shot wide from 15 yards. The Czech youth international appeared to miss his kick with the goal gaping and he also saw a cross-cum-shot saved moments later as the last chance came and went and Millwall took the points.
Millwall: Białkowski; Hutchinson, Pearce, Cooper; Romeo, Molumby, Williams, M. Wallace; J. Wallace (sub Skalák 87 mins), Bradshaw (sub Böðvarsson 81 mins), O’Brien (sub Ferguson 81 mins)
Subs (not used): Steele, Smith, Mahoney, Mitchell
Bookings: J. Wallace (23 mins), M. Wallace (51 mins), Williams (60 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry (sub Valencia 80 mins); Dasilva, Mokotjo, Jensen (sub Žambůrek 71 mins); Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Roerslev, Jeanvier, Sørensen, Yearwood
Bookings: Benrahma (45 mins) (second of season)
Attendance: 15,464 (2,009 Bees fans)