Ollie Watkins scored the only goal as Brentford climbed in to the top three in the Sky Bet Championship, by beating league leaders West Bromwich Albion. The Bees had command of the first half and took a lead in to the break after Watkins converted from close range. They had to withstand some difficult moments after the interval but did enough to get over the line.
The Bees came in to the game on the back of a win over third-placed Fulham last week, three points that closed the gap at the top of the table. The win over West Brom moved them in to third and they now trail the top two in the Championship by five points with seven games to go, albeit Leeds United have a game in hand. The Bees had plenty of defending to do after the break but did it well and earned their three points.
It was a very even start to the game. Both teams looked to get on the front foot and play the ball through the midfield. With a pair of well drilled defences as well, the game was largely taking place in the centre of the pitch in the first ten minutes. West Brom maybe slightly shaded it but by the time The Bees went ahead 16 minutes in with the first effort of note, they had the initiative.
The goal, when it came, was brilliant worked. Tariqe Fosu played his part with a run on the right and then spread the play. Saïd Benrahma took the pass on and fed back from where it had come, to the marauding Josh Dasilva, breaking in to the penalty area. The first touch took away the option of a shot and he instead pulled the ball across to the arriving Watkins, who poked in on the stretch.
The striker’s 23rd goal of the season was one of few efforts on goal in the first half. David Raya only had one save to make, when he held on to a long-range free kick from Grady Diangana and West Brom largely played in front of The Bees. But the visitors spent more time defending than attacking in the first period. Brentford had a solid defensive base and held their own in an even midfield battle.
The Bees were also slightly more incisive in attacking areas, without really coming close to doubling their lead before the interval. It may have been different had a combination between Benrahma and Dasilva, with Watkins again waiting for a tap in, not gone awry in the dying seconds of the half. Ethan Pinnock also saw a header deflect wide from a vicious Emiliano Marcondes free kick.
It took a great tackle from Semi Ajayi to stop Benrahma scoring when the Brentford man looked to be free in to box and on to a Fosu cross. Sam Johnstone had to dash out to beat Watkins to a long ball from the back and then recovered when Marcondes tried to loft a loose ball back past him. And in the dying seconds of the half Dasilva pulled a shot weakly when he was on the break.
West Brom made changes at the interval, switching out two of their front four, and would have known they needed to go up a gear in the second half. And the changes certainly made a difference. West Brom controlled the start of the second period. They had more pace in the attack, were first to loose balls and forced Brentford in to errors.
Pereira fired over early in the second half and Kenneth Zohore, one of the substitutes, made the most of a slip from Pontus Jansson to fire in a shot from 22 yards that smashed against the crossbar. Diangana fired wide from a tight angle after more good play from the increasingly influential Pereira before Zohore failed to make good enough contact with a header and Filip Krovinović had a shot blocked. Pereira then tested Raya with a low shot after a run from deep as West Brom pressed.
The Bees had come close to a goal early in the second half when Watkins looked to be ahead of Ajayi and on to a Christian Nørgaard cross, but the defender somehow made a tackle and Fosu could not finish off the loose ball. But the home side did not offer much in an attacking sense in the first part of the second half. They defended solidly but were very deep, forced back by the intensity of West Brom.
It took a fine block from Pinnock when Diangana appeared to be well placed to fire in and Romaine Sawyers lashed over, but the second half drinks break gave The Bees a chance to regroup. They introduced Shandon Baptiste and Bryan Mbeumo and had extra energy. Dasilva started to move forward with the ball, until he was withdrawn inside the final ten minutes, and Baptiste gave Brentford a presence higher up the pitch.
Nørgaard saw a shot blocked and Dasilva steered a volley from a Rico Henry cross inches wide from ten yards, sinking to his knees as he saw the ball roll wide. Benrahma also saw a shot blocked as Brentford gave West Brom something to think about in their defensive area. When Watkins picked up a loose pass, he set Mbeumo away, but the low shot was well held by Johnstone as time ticked down.
Benrahma lashed a free kick well over in stoppage time and Pereira missed the target at the other end. That proved to be West Brom’s last change. They had six minutes of stoppage time to try and find a point but could not do so and Brentford got the win.
Brentford: Raya; Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry; Marcondes (sub Baptiste 70 mins), Nørgaard, Dasilva (sub Mokotjo 83 mins); Fosu (sub Mbeumo 70 mins), Watkins, Benrahma
Subs (not used): Daniels, Roerslev, Jeanvier, Dervişoğlu, Valencia
Bookings: Nørgaard (45 mins) (eighth of season)
West Bromwich Albion: Johnstone; Furlong, Hegazi, Ajayi, Gibbs; Sawyers, Livermore (sub Harper 66 mins); Phillips (sub Krovinović h/t), Pereira (sub Edwards 90 mins), Diangana (sub Robinson 79 mins); Robson-Kanu (sub Zohore h/t)
Subs (not used): Bond, Bartley, Austin, O’Shea
Bookings: Sawyers (55 mins)