Brentford lost an early 2-0 lead as they drew 2-2 with Cardiff City in South Wales. A first professional goal for Luka Racic was followed by a Bryan Mbeumo free kick as The Bees went two up inside the first quarter of the contest and they seemed in complete control. But the game changed around the half hour, Cardiff struck twice before the interval to get it back level and that was how it stayed.
Brentford will feel they created enough chances to have won the game but Cardiff, particularly after the half hour mark, were very dangerous when they played balls in to the penalty area. Will Vaulks became a central figure as he avoided being sent off when appearing to knee Christian Nørgaard in the head and then propelled a series of long throws in to the penalty area, one of which became Cardiff’s second goal. Referee Simon Hooper also waved away penalty shouts at both ends as a winner was sought without success in the later stages.
The game started at a rather sedate pace and the only thing of note to happen in the first 15 minutes was Brentford taking the lead. The goal came five minutes in from a corner on the right delivered by Emiliano Marcondes. Henrik Dalsgaard met it at the near post, but his effort was blocked by Dion Sanderson. The ball dropped perfectly for Racic to place a shot first time past Alex Smithies and the Cardiff defenders on the line and put The Bees in front.
Racic took his first goal in professional football with remarkably calmness and gave The Bees the perfect start. The visitors had started the game in a positive fashion, without creating to much. They dominated possession and played on the front foot but were not able to create openings. The ball was largely in the centre of the field as Cardiff sat relatively deep in the early minutes and invited Brentford to play in front of them.
Having taken an early lead, Brentford were content to slow the game down. Cardiff refused to change their game plan, they invited Brentford to play with the ball in their own half and looked to go long when they had it. The home side tried to find centre forward Callum Paterson and battled for second balls and by the time they changed their method, Brentford were two up.
The second goal also came from a set piece. Mr Hooper gave Brentford a free kick when Junior Hoilett, chasing back, cut across Marcondes halted a run. Mbeumo measured the free kick from 22 yards, lifted it over the wall and in to the net. Smithies was over to the right of his goal and could not get back across as the ball sailed well inside the left-hand post.
The game was 21 minutes old and Cardiff had barely been in it. A long-range shot from Paterson had been touched over the crossbar by David Raya but the home side had offered nothing else. The second goal, however, changed their outlook and they began to take the game to Brentford. They were higher out of possession and pushed more players forward when they had the ball.
The hosts also began to win more set pieces and used them to good effect. A Vaulks long throw was flicked on by Sean Morrison and, after Dalsgaard had challenged Hoilett, the ball bounced up for Paterson to head against the outside of the post. Ethan Pinnock blocked a long-range shot from Vaulks before a flashpoint around the half hour mark helped change the game.
Nørgaard made a firm tackle on Vaulks in front of the dug outs on the Brentford left to concede a throw. Vaulks then moved in towards Nørgaard, appearing to knee him in the head and hold him down. The Brentford coaching staff and substitutes reacted furiously but, after consultation with Fourth Official Matthew Donohue, Mr Hooper decided nothing more than a talking to was necessary for Vaulks. Brentford were further angered as a longer admonishment was handed out to Head Coach Thomas Frank for his reaction.
With the temperature rising, on the pitch at least, Cardiff were further roused and the home side were a different proposition with a more determined outlook. The game was played more in Brentford territory as the half wore on and The Bees were having to deal with more balls in to their penalty area. That many of them came from Vaulks, via a long throw, added to Brentford’s annoyance at the earlier leniency from the officials.
Cardiff pulled one back just after that decision when they worked the ball down the right. The Brentford defence was pulled out of position and space was created for Albert Adomah to deliver a cross. Hoilett arrived late at the far post and beat Mbeumo to the cross to head home. The Cardiff man pulled off at the far post and placed a header back across Raya to reduce the deficit.
And 2-1 became 2-2 just before half time. Vaulks delivered a long throw, Morrison flicked on and Joe Ralls headed home at the far post. The flick from Morrison took most of the Brentford defence out of the game and Ralls got in front of Josh Dasilva to again beat Raya and level the game.
Even though they conceded two goals late in the half, Brentford were still creating more in open play. It was a wet and wild day in South Wales and The Bees appeared to be, mostly, playing in to a strong wind in the first half. But they still had the chances to have gone in at half time ahead.
It took a fine save from Smithies to keep out a dipping, swerving, shot from Saïd Benrahma after he had played one-twos with Dasilva and then Ollie Watkins. And in the dying seconds of the half, Nørgaard burst from midfield and fed Marcondes on the right, his drilled ball beat Watkins in the middle and flew out of play. Cardiff would have been the happier team at the interval, but Brentford had created by far the better chances over the course of the opening 45 minutes.
The second period started in the same way the later stages of the first had been played. Cardiff got the ball from back to front quickly, now playing in to the wind, and looked to win set pieces. Brentford were the better team on the ball, moving it well through midfield, but often forced to be patient as Cardiff were high up the pitch out of possession.
The better openings of the early stages of the second period went the way of The Bees. When Rico Henry got away on the left, he delivered a cross that deceived Curtis Nelson but Watkins was on his heels and could not react to finish from close range. Nelson did, however, then make a fine block to deflect a Benrahma shot over when a free kick dropped on the edge of the penalty area.
Raya saved a looping Paterson header before Smithies went away to his right to keep out a powerful Benrahma effort at the other end. And when Cardiff broke, they really should have taken the lead. Paterson got away on the right and delivered a cross that was miss-kicked by Adomah in to the path of Joe Bennett arriving at the back post. He had the goal at his mercy, but Raya flung himself across the line and Bennett fired in to the side netting.
Vaulks fired a free kick in to a defensive wall and Raya saved from Adomah after the wide man had cut in off the right. The Brentford goalkeeper also saved a header from Paterson, who was putting his height to good use but spent more of the game complaining to Mr Hooper. Both teams had cause to moan in the later stages as appeals for penalties were waved away. Morrison appeared to use his hand to stop a ball from Nørgaard reaching Benrahma, but nothing was given. And at the other end when a long throw dropped loose, Pinnock looked as if he may have fouled Hoilett but, again, Mr Hooper shook his head as non-decisions became a theme of the afternoon.
In the dying seconds, it looked like Brentford were the more likely team to grab the winner. Dasilva played a one-two with Benrahma and lashed a shot wide from the edge of the penalty area. He then created a shooting opportunity for Dalsgaard that deflected wide off Benrahma. The Bees even went close five minutes in to added time when Dasilva created space for Mbeumo, but the low shot was saved and the spoils were shared.
Cardiff City: Smithies; Sanderson, Nelson, Morrison, Bennett; Bacuna, Vaulks; Adomah, Ralls (sub Ward 80 mins), Hoilett; Paterson
Subs (not used): Etheridge, Flint, Glatzel Murphy, Pack, Smith
Bookings: Adomah (23 mins), Bacuna (52 mins), Hoilett (75 mins), Vaulks (81 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Racic, Pinnock, Henry; Marcondes (sub Baptiste 84 mins (sub Žambůrek 90 mins)), Nørgaard, Dasilva; Mbeumo, Watkins, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Roerslev, Valencia, Dervişoğlu, Fosu
Bookings: Baptiste (85 mins) (fifth of season)