A single goal from Bradley Dack 11 minutes in was enough to condemn Brentford to a Sky Bet Championship defeat against Blackburn Rovers. The Bees were second best for much of the opening exchanges and the home side made them pay, scoring early on. But Brentford will argue that they did enough after the interval to earn a share of the spoils.
As the contest progressed, Brentford began to take control. They hit the woodwork, had an effort cleared off the line and had other shots whistle just past the post. It could be said that they did not hit the target enough, and Blackburn also had chances at the other end, but The Bees will think they let a point slip away on a wet night at Ewood Park.
The home side started the brighter and by the time they took the lead, they probably deserved it. Brentford had a lot of possession in the early stages but were unable to make progress. They generally kept it in their own half, often their own defensive third, and played in front of a well-drilled Rovers side.
The hosts tried to stay narrow but were prepared to work incredibly hard to prevent Brentford getting the ball wide. They outnumbered Brentford in midfield and then looked to overload wide when they could. And that is how the goal came.
Blackburn could have scored just before when a cross enabled them to double up on Rico Henry and Adam Armstrong fed Dack, but his shot was weak and Danny Graham was offside as he tried to convert. They did not, however, have to wait long. They turned defence in to attack as they broke from right back, Armstrong found Lewis Travis on the left as the play was spread and Stewart Downing arrived on the overlap to deliver a low cross that Dack converted. The goal was superbly executed and clinically finished as Rovers made the most of the space offered.
Brentford did, however, respond well to the goal. There was a touch more purpose to their passing and the ball was moved forward more efficiently. There were also signs that Blackburn could not maintain their all-action start. The Bees could have levelled when a deep Mathias Jensen free kick was met at the far post by the late-arriving Henrik Dalsgaard, but he could not turn it in. A Dalsgaard pass then released Ollie Watkins in behind but Tosin Adarabioyo made a tackle to stop a clean shot and Christian Walton saved.
Dalsgaard headed another cross wide, this time from Saïd Benrahma, later in the half and there was a great chance for Jan Žambůrek, on his full Championship debut. He made a clever run to get on to a chipped Jensen pass but volleyed wide from ten yards. Brentford were starting to take control but it took a fine tackle from Ethan Pinnock to stop Dack shooting from eight yards after a lucky ricochet for the hosts in the penalty area.
There was an even better chance for the home side when Downing delivered a free kick from the left and Dack found space ten yards out, but he headed over when he should have at least hit the target. But as the half wore on, Brentford were forcing the hosts back. They were deeper and deeper as half time approached and The Bees started to find space in attacking areas. Henry got in behind but failed to pick out a man with the ball back and a cross-cum-shot from Christian Nørgaard drifted past the far post with Walton scrambling.
Brentford went in at half time behind but with the initiative and showing they could break Rovers down after the break. And they nearly levelled within five minutes of the restart. After referee Matthew Donohue inexplicably failed to caution Ryan Nyambe for a deliberate handball when Benrahma would have created a shooting position from 20 yards, the Algerian attacker lined up a free kick and smashed it against the post with Walton beaten. After the double escape for the home side, Jensen delivered a corner and Pontus Jansson headed it wide.
And Mr Donohue compounded his leniency for an increasingly aggressive Rovers by failing to caution Corry Evans when he hacked down Jensen who was leading a break. The fact that the tackling foot was raised off the floor – and Evans was booked later on – added to Brentford’s annoyance. But The Bees had the upper hand and were creating openings. A Jensen corner was met by Jansson and beat Walton, but Travis cleared off the line. When the ball came back in, Pinnock headed wide when Jansson was better placed behind him to meet Watkins’ cross.
There was another chance when Watkins found space in the penalty area and a Henry cut back dropped to Benrahma, but he lifted a shot over. Brentford had the upper hand but the game was very open as they chased a leveller, introducing Bryan Mbeumo and Josh Dasilva on the hour mark. Dack failed to trouble Raya with a header when he found space and met a Downing cross and the Brentford goalkeeper went full stretch to save an Armstrong shot, recovering quickly to gather the dropping ball. There was then a brave block from Pinnock from Joe Rothwell after a good run from deep by the midfield man.
Jensen had a shot blocked and, after the ball was recycled, Benrahma then set up Nørgaard for a shooting chance that bent inches past the far post. Mbeumo cut inside and curled a shot just past the far post before Watkins headed over. But Raya was busy at the other end. He made a low save from Rothwell when the midfield player got on to a low cross and only had the Brentford goalkeeper to beat. Armstrong then got free on the right and saw a shot blocked by Henry, the second effort was whistling in to the net before Raya diverted it away.
Brentford worked a great chance for Mbeumo seconds after a substitution and formation change that saw a Brentford debut for Mads Roerslev. Watkins and Jensen set up Mbeumo, now employed as a left wing back, but his fierce shot from ten yards on the angle was well held by Walton. Walton saved from Benrahma and the Brentford man then hit a defensive wall with a free kick as time started to run out.
Pinnock almost created something with a surging run from deep but when the ball fell to Benrahma, he had a shot blocked. There was still time for Dasilva to see a shot blocked, albeit one he miss-hit, and The Bees continued to probe deep in to stoppage time. But Blackburn held firm and got the win.
Blackburn Rovers: Walton; Nyambe (sub Bennett 78 mins), Lenihan, Adarabioyo, Downing; Evans, Rothwell; Armstrong (sub Holtby 83 mins), Dack, Travis; Graham (sub Brereton 87 mins)
Subs (not used): Leutwiler, Johnson, Bell, Buckley
Bookings: Dack (44 mins), Evans (79 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry (sub Roerslev 79 mins); Jensen, Nørgaard, Mokotjo (sub Dasilva 60 mins); Žambůrek (sub Mbeumo 60 mins), Watkins, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Thompson, Sørensen, Oksanen
Bookings: Roerslev (90 mins)
Attendance: 11,401 (270 Bees fans)