Neal Maupay scored the only goal from the penalty spot as Brentford booked a place in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round. The striker came off the substitute’s bench to stroke home with ten minutes to go and send Brentford through. A solitary goal from the spot was enough for The Bees to see off Sky Bet League One Oxford United and win the Third Round tie.
And while it was not the most convincing of wins, Brentford probably did enough to progress. The Bees dominated the first half and should have been ahead at the break. They were then able to bring Maupay off the bench to win the penalty and score his 16th of the season in the later stages to earn a place in the last 32.
Brentford took control of the game early in proceedings. Oxford tried to press high up the pitch at times and stop The Bees playing in and out of midfield but were largely unable to do so. With Josh Dasilva and Josh McEachran dictating play from the centre of the pitch, The Bees dominated possession, territory and chances, albeit it took a few minutes for them to start creating clear-cut openings.
Ollie Watkins saw an early shot blocked and McEachran forced Simon Eastwood in to the first save of the afternoon with an effort from the edge of the penalty area. A clever pass from Moses Odubajo put Sergi Canós away on the right and he picked out Watkins with a cut back, but the shot was miss-hit and Saïd Benrahma could not get an effort away as defenders massed. Eastwood was then forced in to a good low save when Dasilva let fly from 25 yards, pushing away the shot low to his left.
Oxford had been unable to mount much in attack, but James Henry did test Luke Daniels with a shot from 25 yards that the Brentford goalkeeper spilled before he recovered to gather. But most of the action was at the other end. Brentford were dominant in midfield, had space on the flanks and were overloading with support from their wing backs and centre halves.
A superb move that involved McEachran, Benrahma, Canós and Watkins eventually saw Odubajo let fly with a low shot that Eastwood saved well and the resulting corner was flicked wide at the near post by Yoann Barbet. Barbet went closer moments later when a shot corner eventually led to Canós delivering a cross, the defender controlled and let fly with an effort that Eastwood saved well to his left. Another Odubajo shot hit Watkins moments later as Brentford continued to press.
Rico Henry was almost the unlikely supplier of the opening goal just before the half hour mark when he met a cross from Odubajo on the stretch but was unable to convert from close range. It took a fine piece of defensive work from Jamie Hanson soon after to prevent Henry getting on to another Odubajo cross as The Bees continued to attack with purpose. But they were unable to find a breakthrough before the interval and went in at half time all square.
Brentford would have been mostly happy with their first half display. They attacked throughout and created some good chances while Oxford offered little, albeit they did have appeals for a penalty waved away by referee Jeremy Simpson when Jordan Graham went down under a challenge from McEachran. But The Bees would have been looking to move through the gears after the interval, playing a little quicker and being more incisive around the Oxford penalty area.
But The Bees found it hard going in the early stages of the second period. Oxford had been resolute in the first half and the break had allowed them to further strengthen their defensive structure. They also tried to have a higher starting position, which made it harder for Brentford to start their attacks with pace. Marcus Browne saw an early shot blocked and then delivered a low free kick Jamie Mackie flicked on, but Daniels comfortably saved.
Once Brentford got going in the second half, they took control of the game. But Oxford were proving to be difficult to break down and The Bees were unable to fashion many good chances. Watkins had the best of the early stages of the second half when Benrahma’s pass released him in the inside right channel, but he sliced a shot well wide. A deflected effort from Canós was saved before a low free kick set up a shooting chance for Dasilva 20 yards out but the effort was blocked.
But as the minutes ticked down, the pace went out of the game. Brentford were finding it hard to create much against a well-drilled Oxford defence and were short of the inspiration to open it up. Alan Judge and Maupay were introduced as Brentford went looking for the winner but Oxford should probably have gone ahead when The Bees failed to deal with a cross and the ball dropped to John Mousinho 18 yards out but he dragged his shot wide.
And that proved to be a crucial miss. After a spell of possession in defence, Brentford created space for Barbet to split the Oxford defence, Maupay raced in to space in the inside left channel and weaved in to the box, as he was about to shoot he was fouled by Mousinho and Mr Simpson pointed to the spot. Maupay took the responsibility and sent Eastwood the wrong way to make the crucial breakthrough.
Brentford could have scored just before that when a Dasilva pass allowed Henry to drill in a cross that was scrambled away by the Oxford defence. And moments after the goal, more good play by Maupay created space for Dasilva to fire in a shot that Eastwood saved low. His defenders then came to his aid to prevent a Brentford player getting on to the loose ball.
But Oxford responded well to going behind. They had more than held their own in the second half and went on the attack, looking for an equaliser that would earn them a replay. A free kick from Browne was deflected and then saved before Daniels tipped a curling shot from Henry over the crossbar.
Browne missed the target with an overhead effort as the minutes ticked down and with eight minutes of time added on, Oxford sensed a chance. A late long ball in to the penalty area caused confusion but Henry couldn’t get the vital touch and the chance had gone. And that proved to be the last chance, despite lots of balls in to the box, Oxford could not find a goal and Brentford progressed.
Brentford: Daniels; Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet; Odubajo, Dasilva, McEachran, Henry; Canós (sub Judge 68 mins), Watkins (sub Ogbene 90 mins), Benrahma (sub Maupay 68 mins)
Subs (not used): Balcombe, Racic, Sørensen, Mokotjo
Oxford United: Eastwood; Hanson, Dickie, Nelson, Ruffels; Mousinho; Whyte, Henry, Browne, Graham (sub Norman 88 mins); Mackie (sub Baptiste 64 mins (sub Garbutt 74 mins))
Subs (not used): Stevens, Raglan, Long, James
Bookings: Mousinho (45 mins), Nelson (60 mins), Browne (90 mins), Henry (90 mins)
Attendance: 6,106 (1,605 away fans)