Brentford’s last ever cup tie at Griffin Park saw them slip to defeat against Leicester City. The Premier League side started with a bang and scored inside four minutes. They dominated the early exchanges and looked set to claim a comprehensive win, but Brentford fought back and gave the team that sit third in the country a real scare. They were, however, unable to find a leveller and with The Bees leaving Griffin Park this summer, they ended their cup adventures after 116-years.
The overall result was probably a fair one as Leicester had chances to go further clear early on, but Brentford fought back. They could have levelled in the second half as Halil Dervişoğlu hit a post and Bryan Mbeumo had a goal disallowed for offside. But a Leicester team with a fraction more experience and knowhow managed to get over the line.
While both teams made nine changes from their last league games, it was Leicester that looked the more fluent in the opening exchanges and showed the extra games – and, indeed, Premier League titles – they had under their belt as a collective. They flew out of the blocks and could have had the game won within the first 15 minutes. They moved the ball in and out of midfield at great pace and their attackers linked to devastating effect, showing the pace and power in their ranks that has taken them to the top of the English game.
The visitors could have been in front within 15 seconds when a Dominic Thompson clearance was blocked, and Kelechi Iheanacho fed Ayoze Pérez inside the penalty area. Pérez was able to round Luke Daniels and seemed set to score before Luka Racic stuck out a leg and made a goal saving tackle. That, however, only delayed what was coming as Leicester were ahead four minutes in.
Dennis Praet played a key role with a delightful pass from the centre of midfield that released James Justin on the right. The right back, racing forward, was able to take a touch and deliver for Iheanacho to convert at the far post. The visitors clinically cut Brentford open and even after just over 200 seconds, they deserved the lead. Indeed, it could have for worse for The Bees during a blistering opening from Leicester.
Hamza Choudhury saw a volley blocked by Jan Žambůrek as the ball dropped 25 yards out and Julian Jeanvier then put his body in the way of a Praet shot. Demarai Gray hit a defensive wall with a free kick before Iheanacho stung the palms of Daniels with a shot from the inside left channel after getting on to a ball over the top. Gray also fired in to the side netting as Leicester took control
But the game started to change after Leicester’s flying start. Brentford’s central midfield three – Dru Yearwood, Kamohelo Mokotjo and Žambůrek – started to get in to the game, picking up the right positions off the ball to prevent Leicester building attacks and linking well when they had it. They were making the most of having the extra man in that area and bringing Brentford’s attacking players – as well as Thompson and Mads Roerslev moving forward from full-back – in to the game.
Leicester still had chances – Pérez was unable to get up to head in a Gray cross and Marc Albrighton fired wide after picking up a loose pass – but the game was even and created chances. Emiliano Marcondes thought he had scored when a Joel Valencia cross was half cleared and Žambůrek found him inside the penalty area, but his shot bent away in to the side netting. Goalkeeper Danny Ward saved a Žambůrek shot but then stood and watched as Dervişoğlu found space in the penalty area after a nice turn. Fortunately for Ward, the curling effort was just wide.
Gray had a shot blocked for the Premier League side and Praet fired over from the inside left channel inside the penalty area but as half time approached, Brentford looked the most likely to score. Ward tipped a shot from Thompson around the post after a run from deep and the resulting corner from Marcondes found Jeanvier in space, but he was unable to direct his header on goal. Marcondes was then just unable to reach a chipped pass from Mokotjo and head home from 12 yards.
Brentford almost gave Leicester a second goal when, after Daniels had saved well from Pérez after he got away inside the penalty area, they failed to clear a loose ball and Albrighton was able to loop a header at goal from ten yards. Fortunately for The Bees, his header looped on to the roof of the net. Marcondes ended the half by exchanging passes with Yearwood and letting fly from 25 yards with a shot that fizzed just over as Brentford went in to the break with a spring in their step, albeit behind in the game.
They were forced in to a change at the interval as Mokotjo limped in at half time and could not return but Josh Dasilva added some forward drive to Brentford’s midfield, and they went on the attack early in the second period. There was a chance for Valencia when he got on to a Dervişoğlu pass but he dragged a shot wide from the inside left channel. Daniels held on to a low cross from Justin at the other end as Iheanacho waited to pounce but a competitive cup tie was panning out at Griffin Park as the last half hour loomed.
And Brentford could have been level as that half hour began. There was a chance for Racic when he appeared to be around the back and on to a Dasilva free kick, but he could not direct his header. And The Bees came within a whisker of equalising soon after. Marcondes delivered a ball from the left and Dervişoğlu flicked it past Ward only to see it bounce off the inside of the post. Christian Fuchs hacked the ball clear as Valencia darted in to try and poke home.
Leicester were so concerned about the momentum of the game that they changed their shape. They sacrificed goal scorer Iheanacho and brought on Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall to play in midfield. And that did seem to wrestle the initiative from Brentford. The Bees still had a lot of the ball, but the gaps had been plugged and the visitors looked set to see the game out.
Leicester could even have added to their lead when a Pérez shot deflected wide and Praet bounced a shot wide from the edge of the penalty area. But Brentford came again. They introduced Mbeumo in the later stages, along with Rico Henry after Thompson took a knock, and went looking for a leveller.
It took a fine save from Ward to divert a volley from Racic over the bar when he met a Marcondes corner. And from the second phase of the next corner, Henry crossed and Mbeumo volleyed in, only to see the flag up for offside. It took a few seconds for the home fans to realise the goal would not count but there were few appeals from the Brentford players.
Çaglar Söyüncü sliced a Henry cross over his own bar and the resulting corner reached Racic ten yards out but he could only fire wide. And that was Brentford’s last chance gone. The Bees left to a standing ovation while Leicester wiped a collective brow and move on to the last 16.
Brentford: Daniels; Roerslev, Jeanvier, Racic, Thompson (sub Henry 77 mins); Yearwood, Mokotjo (sub Dasilva h/t), Žambůrek; Valencia (sub Mbeumo 82 mins), Dervişoğlu, Marcondes
Subs (not used): Gunnarsson, Pinnock, Nørgaard, Hammar
Leicester City: Ward; Justin, Morgan, Söyüncü, Fuchs; Gray (sub Maddison 78 mins), Choudhury, Praet; Albrighton; Pérez, Iheanacho (sub Dewsbury-Hall 68 mins)
Subs (not used): Schmeichel, Evans, Tielemans, Barnes, Pereira
Attendance: 12,221 (1,620 away fans)