Brentford completed an unbeaten festive fixture programme with a 1-1 draw against promotion-chasing Norwich City. The Bees added the Griffin Park point to start 2019 to a win over Bolton Wanderers and draws against Birmingham City and Bristol City in a frantic ten-day Christmas and New Year schedule. Julian Jeanvier scored in the first half as it looked as if The Bees might take a full compliment of points from the contest, but Timm Klose’s header snuck inside the post with just minutes remaining to leave the scores level.
The point was the least Brentford deserved against opponents that started the day second in the table. They had got on top of an exciting game when Jeanvier headed in and looked to have Norwich under control in the second period. But the visitors made the most of a deflection to earn themselves a share of the spoils.
Both teams started the game with an attacking mindset. Brentford looked to get the ball wide, particularly to Sergi Canós, and attack with pace on the flanks while Norwich tried to have their players high up the pitch, stop The Bees playing through midfield and win the ball in dangerous areas. The game was end-to-end from almost the first whistle and it was stretched early on. That meant there were chances at both ends in the opening exchanges.
The best probably fell to Saïd Benrahma when he met a low Henrik Dalsgaard cross, after good work by Canós, 15 yards out but the shot was weak and easily cleared. Mario Vrančić had a similar chance from a similar position at the other end after Jeanvier had given the ball away but he dragged his shot past the far post. A Canós cross then landed on top of the crossbar before good defensive work from Kamohelo Mokotjo stopped Marco Stiepermann meeting a cross from Onel Hernández.
Norwich’s slick interchanges were creating chances and Rico Henry had to come across to prevent Teemu Pukki getting on to one clever pass. The Norwich striker claimed he had been fouled but referee Gavin Ward waved away appeals. And the official did so again moments later when Max Aarons theatrically threw himself to the floor in his own half.
But Norwich’s willingness to attack was also giving Brentford space. The game was a fine spectacle and The Bees were going toe-to-toe with the high-flyers. Neal Maupay saw a shot blocked and then curled an effort just wide after Canós had fed a Mokotjo pass in to his path.
The goal Brentford had been threatening came just past the 20-minute mark and it originated at the heart of defence. Yoann Barbet weaved his way forward before he was brought crashing down by Christoph Zimmermann. The resulting free kick from Benrahma deflected wide but the corner came in and was headed powerfully home by Jeanvier. The French defender rose unchallenged to meet the Benrahma cross and nod in from eight yards to get his first Sky Bet Championship goal.
The pace of the game dropped after the goal. Both teams had spells of possession but were unable to make much of it. Brentford were unable to get Canós in to the game as much as they had but, instead, were using Benrahma on the left, ably supported by Henry. Norwich created a half chance for Pukki with a ball in to the inside right channel, but Barbet made the block and ensured Brentford went in to the break with the lead.
And it could have been a two-goal lead. When The Bees took a quick free kick, Dalsgaard was released on the right and delivered a cross that was met by Maupay but the covering defenders got enough of a touch on the shot to slow the momentum and enable Tim Krul to save. Benrahma had a shot blocked early in the second period after a nice turn as the game continued as it had ended at half time.
Norwich were on the front foot in the early stages of the second half and had a lot of the ball but were largely playing in front of a Brentford defence that was standing firm. And but for Krul, they would have been two down before the hour mark. A Benrahma free kick was deflected and Romaine Sawyers headed on, Ezri Konsa nodded in to the path of Jeanvier and his hook was touched towards the net by Maupay only for Krul to make a superb save to his left.
Krul was indebted to a slice of fortune soon after when a deep Benrahma corner was met on the volley by Maupay and appeared to be flying in, but it hit Konsa and bounced wide. Ollie Watkins then fired wide as the game entered the final 20 minutes. It began to get more stretched as the minutes ticked down with Norwich making attacking substitutions and committing bodies to attack. They also changed their shape to match Brentford’s three central defenders and have even more players free to go forward.
Daniel Bentley was called in to action to make a low save from a Pukki after good work by Hernández on the right and Sawyers then blocked a Zimmermann shot when a corner dropped loose. Vrančić thought he had equalised with 17 minutes left when he curled a free kick over a defensive wall from 25 yards, but the ball hit the outside of the post. Bentley was full stretch and may have got to it had the ball bent inside the upright, but it was not a theory that needed testing.
Watkins had a shot deflected wide for The Bees, but the home side appeared to have things under control when Norwich levelled. The visitors were creating little from open play but when a corner came in from the left, Klose met it, the ball flicked off Konsa and squirmed past Bentley in to the net. It was a goal that looked preventable for The Bees but Norwich had their equaliser.
It could have been worse three minutes later when, after a spell of possession, Norwich worked a shooting chance for Tom Trybull but Bentley made the save and Jordan Rhodes handled as he tried to force home the loose ball. As the minutes ticked down both teams had chances to win it. Krul made another superb save to tip a curling Maupay shot over the bar while Dennis Srbeny dragged a shot wide when well-placed. But the crucial goal wouldn’t come and the teams started 2019 with a draw.
Brentford: Bentley; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Dalsgaard, Sawyers (sub McEachran 79 mins), Mokotjo, Henry; Canós (sub Watkins 63 mins), Maupay, Benrahma (sub Judge 75 mins)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Sørensen, Odubajo, Dasilva
Bookings: Sawyers (24 mins) (seventh of season), Henry (66 mins), Dalsgaard (87 mins) (seventh of season), Watkins (90 mins) (fourth of season)
Norwich City: Krul; Aarons, Klose, Zimmermann, Godfrey; Tettey (sub Rhodes 51 mins); Cantwell (sub Srbeny 83 mins), Vrančić, Stiepermann (sub Trybull 18 mins), Hernández; Pukki
Subs (not used): McGovern, Pinto, Marshall, Hanley
Bookings: Zimmermann (20 mins), Aarons (44 mins), Klose (45 mins)
Attendance: 9,524 (1,641 away fans)