Brentford and Stoke City played out a 0-0 draw on a warm afternoon in West London. The game was as even as the final score suggests and while both teams will feel they could have scored, neither really did enough to win the game. Brentford probably had slightly the better overall while Stoke had the best chance to win it at the death and both sides had to settle for a point.
A 0-0 draw looked like a possibility from quite early on. There was a rather cagey opening to the game. Both teams were comfortable in possession but largely played in their own halves as good defensive shapes without the ball limited attacking opening. Stoke had a slightly higher starting position and were more stretched out of possession than The Bees and that prevented the hosts playing the ball through a congested midfield area in the opening exchanges.
There was only one save in the first quarter of the contest and that was a comfortable one by David Raya from a long-range Sam Clucas free kick. Peter Etebo and Badou Ndiaye also lashed well off target from distance during a period where neither team was able to get any momentum. The stop-start nature of the game was also not helping the flow with countless free kicks in the early stages and the home fans and players angered by a perception of an inconsistent application of the laws by referee Andy Woolmer.
Brentford’s best openings in a fairly forgettable first half hour came when Sergi Canós was involved. He was stifled by Clucas and James McClean on the Stoke left but when The Bees could get him in to the game, they looked like creating. When he found space in the box in the inside right channel, he pulled a shot across the face of goal and Rico Henry was unable to get there and turn it in to a cross.
And the closest either team came to a goal in the first third of the match was when Canós darted through. He had been involved on three or four occasion as Brentford broke quickly up the pitch and he then glided in to the penalty area on the left and tried to find Ollie Watkins with a cut back but the Brentford striker was crowded out and could not force the ball home. The Bees should have taken the lead just before half time when Bryan Mbeumo delivered a free kick from the left and Christian Nørgaard arrived to meet it at the far post, but he got slightly underneath it and failed to hit the target from eight yards.
With Stoke trying to slow the game down as half time approached, Brentford began to take control. They had more possession in attacking areas and started to build the pressure. Jack Butland saved at the feet of Watkins as he tried to get on to a Mbeumo flick. The Bees would still have been looking for an increase in tempo, and more attacking impetus on their left, but they held the upper hand at the end of a goalless first half. And they almost turned it in to an interval lead when Canós weaved in to the box and let fly but his shot was blocked.
And Brentford continued to press forward after the break. They were on the front foot and forcing Stoke back and looked like they could create the opening goal. When Canós challenged Etebo in midfield, the ball broke for Henrik Dalsgaard inside the penalty area, but his shot was blocked. Canós then cross for Mbeumo to head over as chances began to be fashioned.
When Mbeumo put Canós away on the right, the ball was cut back perfectly for Saïd Benrahma but his shot was well blocked by Danny Batth, the same man that had denied Dalsgaard earlier. Another shot from Benrahma, after he had wriggled in to the penalty area, was met by another block by Batth as Brentford pressed. Butland then tipped a curling shot from Benrahma over the bar and the resulting corner was met low by Dalsgaard, but he flicked it off target.
As the game wore on, the effects of the strong late-summer sun began to take their toll and it was a more open contest. Stoke looked to get forward more and both sides sensed they could win the game in the final quarter. Lee Gregory saw a shot blocked and then had an aerial effort diverted away bravely by Pontus Jansson when he met a Clucas cross. Bruno Martins Indi could have opened the scoring when he met a deep corner with a looping header, but Raya clawed it away and pulled it in to his chest as Stoke players lurked.
Benrahma lashed over for The Bees and delivered a corner than Jansson headed off target while Gregory had a shot blocked at the other end. And as the game entered the final ten minutes it looked increasingly likely that one goal would be the most the crowd would be treated to. And it should have come with eight minutes to go. Henry and Jansson played themselves in to trouble and Etebo won the ball with only Raya to beat. He tried to round the Brentford goalkeeper, but Raya stuck out a big hand to stop the progress of Etebo and keep the game all square.
Sam Vokes then lashed over for Stoke as the visitors started to look like the team most likely to get the goal, if one was to come. Tyrese Campbell then pulled a shot wide after a run from deep. But Brentford almost won it at the death. Benrahma lashed an effort over the bar but the best chance came when Watkins released the over-lapping Canós and his ball flew across the six-yard box, just eluding the arriving Nikos Karelis, who could have marked his debut with a goal, and the back-peddling defenders. It ensured the game finished 0-0.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Jeanvier; Canós (sub Clarke 90 mins), Jensen (sub Mokotjo 64 mins), Nørgaard, Henry; Mbeumo, Watkins (sub Karelis 63 mins), Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Pinnock, Dasilva, Žambůrek
Bookings: Benrahma (79 mins)
Stoke City: Butland; Edwards, Lindsay (sub Batth 35 mins), Carter-Vickers, Martins Indi, McClean; Badou; Ince (sub Campbell 73 mins), Etebo, Clucas; Gregory (sub Vokes 78 mins)
Subs (not used): Federici, Hogan, Cousins, Duffy
Bookings: Gregory (22 mins), McClean (82 mins)
Attendance: 11,870 (1,399 away fans)