A year from now, Griffin Park will be no more. It has seen some remarkable days and nights since Brentford took up residence in 1904. But, perhaps none like this. With six minutes remaining, Brentford trailed 2-0 to Millwall, having missed a penalty and seen their centre forward removed on a stretched. That they won 3-2 will live long in the memory of everyone who saw it. Even years after Brentford have moved to their new home next summer.
The broad facts are that Ollie Watkins, who had earlier seen a penalty saved, scored four minutes in to stoppage time to win the game after Josh Dasilva and Bryan Mbeumo had come off the substitute’s bench to reduce Millwall’s lead to rubble. That lead had looked rock solid after they had scored just before the interval, after Watkins had seen a spot kick saved, and then converted their own penalty early in the second half. But Dasilva’s goal restored belief, Mbeumo levelled it up and Watkins, somehow, won it for The Bees.
The late drama may not have been needed as Brentford started brightly and could have been a couple up inside the first 15 minutes. They took control of the midfield early on with Christian Nørgaard seeing a lot of the ball and using Watkins and Saïd Benrahma in the wide attacking areas to good effect. Brentford dominated in terms of possession and territory and should have made one of their early chances count.
Mathias Jensen went close inside the first four minutes when he got on to a chipped Benrahma pass and met it with a toe-poke. He could only, however, divert it straight at Bartosz Bialkowski and the Millwall goalkeeper made a fine reaction save, albeit one he should not have been given a chance to make. Bialkowski saved from Benrahma soon after and when he was beaten moments later, the post came to his rescue. Nørgaard won the ball in midfield to set up a three-on-three break that looked to have come to nothing when Benrahma ran in to traffic, but Jensen found Karelis, who should probably have got the ball earlier, and his shot beat Bialkowski but hit the inside of the far post and bounced back to the goalkeeper.
Jed Wallace had a shot blocked for the visitors after picking up a loose ball in midfield and set up a better chance just before. Millwall got away on the left and Jed Wallace burst down the left before cutting the ball back for Ben Thompson, but he could not finish and Julian Jeanvier was there to block and scramble the ball away. But the visitors were on the back foot and should have been behind 24 minutes in.
Brentford were awarded a penalty when Henrik Dalsgaard was pulled down by Shaun Hutchinson as Jensen delivered a corner. After a conversation between a group of players including Benrahma and Watkins, the latter took the responsibility. His penalty was fiercely struck but Bialkowski dived to his right, guessing correctly and pushing the shot away.
Bialkowski was in the action again soon after when Dalsgaard burst in to the penalty area on to a Jensen pass and let fly with a shot that was uncomfortably pushed away. There was a more comfortable stop soon after when Bialkowski dived on a bouncing Benrahma effort after a one-two with Kamohelo Mokotjo. But the chances kept coming for The Bees. Benrahma set Rico Henry away on the left and Jensen looked set to convert the cross but was crowded out by the hard-working Millwall defence. Dalsgaard found Benrahma with the loose ball, but he shot over.
Another Jed Wallace shot was blocked by Pontus Jansson at the other end but the attacks from Millwall were few and far between as Brentford started to press on with half time approaching. Watkins battled away from a couple of defenders, making the most of an advantage played by referee Stuart Attwell, and saw a shot blocked before Benrahma wriggled free in the penalty area but his weak shot was easily saved. And Brentford then suffered two blows before the break.
Firstly, Karelis crumpled in a heap on half way after winning a free kick. The foul by Jayson Molumby looked innocuous at first glance but Karelis immediately hopped on one leg before going down and Brentford players rushed to him. After a short period of treatment, he was removed on a stretcher and Mbeumo was introduced.
With Brentford still regrouping and reshuffling, with Watkins moved to a central attacking role, Millwall sensed their chance. They played a free kick long where Jed Wallace and Jake Cooper had an aerial two-on-one against Henry. The former drilled in a cross that Jeanvier half cleared as far as Molumby, the initial shot deflected and David Raya made a fine stop, but Tom Bradshaw was there to tap the loose ball in and give Millwall a half time lead.
Brentford tried to respond after the break but, instead, found themselves two down ten minutes in to the second half. The time it was Millwall with the penalty as Hutchinson went over under pressure from Watkins and Mr Attwell again pointed to the spot. Jed Wallace lashed it low to Raya’s right and sent the Brentford goalkeeper the wrong way to double the lead.
Brentford had tried to press forward at the start of the second half with Jensen curling a shot over just after the interval. They also thought they had levelled when Watkins bundled in. Jensen, playing a far more attacking role after the break, had a shot blocked and it bounced loose, Watkins got on to it and headed in after seeing his first shot saved. The flag initially stayed down but Mr Attwell consulted with his assistant and ruled the goal out for offside. Millwall scored their second five minutes later and Brentford had a mountain to climb.
The Bees did try to climb it quickly and created a series of openings. Watkins pulled a shot across the face of goal before a Jensen shot deflected wide. The resulting corner was then worked short and Jensen found Watkins at the far post, but he couldn’t convert from eight yards. Benrahma curled an effort wide and a shot from Mbeumo was deflected away before he lashed one wide.
Millwall offered nothing as an attacking threat after scoring their second and for most of the second half it didn’t look like they would need to. They were compact in defence and while Brentford often found space on the flanks, the visitors dealt with the crosses that came in and blocked shots from distance. Bialkowski was largely untroubled as the minutes ticked down and when Benrahma found space 25 yards out with ten minutes remaining, his shot flew high and wide.
Brentford’s last throw of the dice was the introduction of Joel Valencia and that almost had an immediate impact. Benrahma and Watkins combined to create a shooting chance for the new man but Bialkowski beat away the effort and with six minutes remaining, that appeared to be that. Especially with Millwall looking for a third as Jed Wallace shot over and Raya saved from Thompson.
But Brentford suddenly found a breakthrough and the game was alive. A throw caught Millwall out, Benrahma set up Dasilva and he fired low in to the net from 18 yards. Bialkowski seemed to be beaten by the pace and placement of the short and Brentford had hope. And four minutes later, they were level. Brentford played out from the left side of their defence and Benrahma fed the ball down the line for Mbeumo to run on to. With Dalsgaard haring up in support and players in the middle, Mbeumo cut back and his deflected shot flew past Bialkowski and in to the net.
With Brentford playing in a blue kit to commemorate their first ever win at Griffin Park – over Millwall in 1904 – a point would have seemed like a victory but that was not the end by any means. Jed Wallace was, perhaps, fortunate to escape with just a booking after putting his studs in to the chest of Raya and Jeanvier was also booked for his part instigating the melee that followed. Thompson was also booked while Cooper and Hutchinson – who had already been cautioned, joined players from both teams in getting involved.
When Mr Attwell calmed everything down and handed out his punishments that still left time for a winner. And Brentford went looking for it. Dasilva swung a pass out to the left to give Henry a chance to attack the box, the low cross reached Mbeumo at the far post and when he knocked it back in, Watkins lashed home. Griffin Park erupted. If EcoWorld London need any help in demolishing the stadium in 2020, get the fans in and have Brentford score a last-minute winner, the foundations rocked.
There was still time for Millwall to throw bodies forward and Brentford could have scored a fourth. Valencia got away on the left and unselfishly squared the ball, Benrahma’s touch set up Dasilva but he shot wide. A fourth would have been the icing on the cake but the day was still sweet enough for The Bees in almost all regards.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Jeanvier, Henry; Mokotjo, Nørgaard (sub Dasilva 72 mins), Jensen (sub Valencia 81 mins); Watkins, Karelis (sub Mbeumo 45 mins), Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Pinnock, Clarke, Žumbůrek
Bookings: Watkins (54 mins), Mbeumo (63 mins), Jeanvier (90 mins) (second of season)
Millwall: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutchinson, Cooper, M. Wallace; Molumby (sub Böðvarsson 74 mins), Williams; J. Wallace, Thompson, Ferguson; Bradshaw
Subs (not used): Steele, McCarthy, Smith, Pearce, Mahoney, O’Brien
Bookings: Hutchinson (23 mins), M. Wallace (33 mins), Molumby (64 mins), J. Wallace (90 mins), Thompson (90 mins), Romeo (90 mins)
Attendance: 10,886 (1,642 away fans)