Two late goals from Marcus Forss was unable to prevent Brentford slipping to defeat against Stoke City on a wet and windy autumnal afternoon. The Bees fell behind early on and Stoke never let that lead slip. It was 2-0 before half time and 3-0 early in the second period as the home side showed their ruthlessness in the final third, making the most of their attacking possession to punish Brentford.
And there was no doubt that the better team won on the day. Brentford were unable to build any momentum and conceded goals, particularly the second and third, at times when they looked like they might be able to take the initiative. John Obi Mikel patrolled the midfield like a man who had won the UEFA Champions League and Brentford only had real control when his intensity dropped off in the final stages. Forss got his two goals to give hope of an unlikely point but Stoke had already done enough.
Stoke took the lead the first time they went on the attack. James McClean started it with a clever touch to move away from Henrik Dalsgaard and was able to attack a Brentford defence pulled out of shape. He was held up on the edge of the penalty area but fed the ball to his left where Tyrese Campbell delivered a cross for Steven Fletcher to head in. Brentford never recovered from that first burst from McClean and Stoke had the lead.
That goal came ten minutes in and was just about the only thing to happen in the first quarter of the contest. Brentford began the game with three central defenders and they had a lot of the ball, but whenever they played it forward, Stoke swarmed on them. It was hard for Josh Dasilva and Vitaly Janelt to progress up the pitch from the centre of the pitch and Brentford’s front three did not get many early touches.
Stoke were working incredibly hard off the ball. Mikel and Jordan Thompson in the centre of the field stopped Brentford building any momentum and with a lead to defend, the home side were often content to move in to a back five and invite The Bees to try and find a way through. As the half wore on, Brentford were able to put together some attacking possession, but they were 2-0 down by the break and almost out of the game.
The second goal came when The Bees lost the ball in their own half. Campbell picked up possession and fed it to McClean on the left, he let fly with a shot that flicked off Charlie Goode, wrong-footed David Raya and nestled in the back of the net. Stoke had not done a lot to get themselves 2-0 up but had control of the contest for most of the first period and had limited Brentford to few attacks.
The closest Brentford came to a first half goal was when Ivan Toney diverted a Dasilva pass in to the path of Sergi Canós but Adam Davies darted from his goal to gave at the feet of the Brentford attacker. There was a series of corners midway through the half that almost resulted in a goal. Ethan Pinnock had an effort deflected wide and there was pushing, shoving and pulling that saw bodies everywhere but referee Keith Stroud deem no offence had been committed.
Dalsgaard also had an effort blocked for The Bees but by the time the game reached the interval, Stoke were well worth a two-goal lead and it could have been worse. Jacob Brown headed a cross straight at Raya and Campbell had an effort blocked after the home side won the ball in Brentford territory. Brentford did end the half pushing Stoke back but the damage had been done and it was a long way back in the second period.
The Bees made substantial changes at the interval. Mathias Jensen and Bryan Mbeumo were introduced, and Brentford switched from a back three to a back four. Jensen was slotted in to the centre of midfield to reinforce that area and The Bees started the second period well. Dasilva lofted an effort narrowly over the bar and space was created for Canós to shoot from 20 yards but he failed to really trouble Davies.
But just when Brentford appeared to be building up a head of steam, Stoke struck again. The ball was played long and Campbell got on to it in the left-wing area. He created space, cut inside and bent a shot out of the reach of Raya and in to the far corner. It was a goal out of nothing and seemed to have completely killed off Brentford.
Ivan Toney had a header blocked from a Dasilva cross and Mbeumo then got in behind and appeared to be well placed to score, but he cut back and James Chester was able to make a tackle. Fletcher had a shot blocked for the home side before Brentford finally found a way through. A clever flick from Toney sent a pass from Dasilva in to the path of Forss, he raced clear and blasted a shot past Davies and in to the net.
That goal came with 20 minutes remaining and Brentford upped their tempo as they looked to salvage something from the contest. They pushed Stoke back for a concerted period for the first time and worried the home side. Mbeumo thought he was through on goal before the flag of an assistant pulled him back and Dasilva curled a shot just over the bar. A Canós effort flew just wide and Dalsgaard met a Mbeumo corner with a header that might have flown in if Harry Souttar had not made a block inside his six-yard box.
Brentford had moved to play two up front at this point and Dasilva and Jensen were controlling the game in deeper midfield roles. Mbeumo flicked a Canós cross wide of goal and away from supporting players while Sam Vokes headed over at the other end. Brentford were pushing but the second from Forss was one Stoke presented to them. Souttar played a back pass that lacked power and Forss nipped in, he rounded Davies and then scored from an increasingly tight angle. It was a superb finish and gave The Bees four minutes to earn a point, but that time quickly slipped away and Stoke had the win.
Stoke City: Davies: Souttar, Collins, Chester; Smith, Mikel, Thompson, McClean; Brown (sub Oakley-Boothe 87 mins), Fletcher (sub Vokes 81 mins), Campbell (sub Tymon 73 mins)
Subs (not used): Gunn, Batth, Gregory, Powell
Bookings: Fletcher (81 mins), Oakley-Boothe (88 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Goode, Pinnock, Sørensen (sub Jensen h/t); Dalsgaard, Dasilva, Janelt (sub Forss 64 mins), Henry; Canós, Toney, Ghoddos (sub Mbeumo h/t)
Subs (not used): Daniels, Hammar, Thompson, Fosu
Bookings: Toney (40 mins)