Brentford’s first match at their new stadium ended all squad as Oxford United came from 2-0 down inside the final ten minutes to draw a pre-season friendly. Sergi Canós had scored twice for The Bees and seen a penalty saved as the hosts dominated. But they could not put the game to bed and Oxford made the most of some inexperienced defending to get themselves level.
There was much to be pleased with from a Brentford perspective and they had complete control of the game apart from the dying stages. Chances came and went in a first half The Bees dominated and Canós scored twice after the break. That seemed to settle the contest, but Derick Osei struck twice inside the final seven minutes to leave it all square.
Brentford took control of the game early on. While the teams set up nominally in the same 4-3-3 systems, Brentford seemed to have extra bodies in the midfield area. Mathias Jensen, playing as the deeper man in Brentford’s trio, had time to pick his passes, and The Bees dominated possession. They also had some really good chances in the first quarter of the contest.
The Bees could have scored within ten minutes when Ivan Toney met a Jensen corner, but he missed the target with a header from ten yards. Jensen removed everyone else from the equation soon after with a curling free kick that Simon Eastwood pushed away to his left. The Oxford goalkeeper then made an even better stop, pushing out a Toney header after good work on the left by Tariqe Fosu. The visitors could not clear their lines and in the third or fourth phase of the attack, Dominic Thompson curled a shot from 22 yards that hit the underneath of the crossbar and bounced away to safety.
Thompson was playing on the left side of Brentford’s defence with Rico Henry on the right due to the absence of both Henrik Dalsgaard and Mads Roerslev on international duty. Both were keen to get forward and join in the attack and offered options wide of Fosu and Canós. A Thompson cross just eluded Toney arriving in the box and a cross from the other side would have given Fosu the opening goal but for the intervention of Sam Long.
Shandon Baptiste, who got forward more and more as the half wore on, fired the loose ball wide as the corner was half cleared. And Baptiste went closer still soon after when he burst in to the penalty area and on to a Fosu pass but his shot was saved by Eastwood. Charlie Goode headed the resulting corner wide and Ethan Pinnock missed the target from another dead ball soon after as Brentford’s search for the opening goal went on.
Canós nearly picked out Toney to score it just before the interval but Oxford could have snatched the lead on the counterattack just before the break. Dan Agyei created space on the edge of the penalty area and let fly with a shot that rose over the top of the bar, but not by much. That ensured the game was level at the break with The Bees having the initiative but unable to break through.
Parity did not, however, last long in to the second half as the opening goal came ten minutes after the break. Baptiste was the architect with a run through the midfield. He burst in to a gap and got to the edge of the penalty area before finding Canós, he took a touch, advanced on Eastwood and then lifted the ball in. The honour of the first goal in Brentford’s new stadium went to the man who made his debut earliest in the squad, and he celebrated like it was a moment that mattered to him.
There was also a tinge of relief for Canós and he had a golden chance moments before. The Spanish attacker weaved his way in to the penalty area and was lining up a shot when he was felled by Long. The penalty was awarded and Canós took responsibility, but his shot was saved by Eastwood. The effort was firm but perhaps not far enough in the corner and was kept out by Eastwood.
The Bees also had the ball in the net between the penalty and the goal when Fosu beat Eastwood from close range, but the officials decided that Baptiste had handled. And after going ahead, The Bees pushed on. Fosu forced Eastwood in to a good save as they went looking for a second goal.
That second goal came with just over 15 minutes to go with Canós grabbing it again. He created space inside the penalty area and a snapshot flew low past Eastwood and in to the net. There was little back lift and the ball whizzed past the Oxford goalkeeper to double Brentford’s lead. It could have been three soon after when Jensen let fly but this time Eastwood was equal to it.
Brentford’s failure to kill the game off came back to haunt them as Oxford found a way back in to the game. The Bees made seven substitutes before 80 minutes had elapsed and the team that finished the match was a little short of professional experience. And that have been a reason for Oxford’s recovery.
Mark Sykes smashed a volley high and wide and Alex Rodriguez Gorrin had a shot blocked as Oxford pressed. They scored with seven minutes remaining when Brentford failed to clear a ball in the penalty area and Osei got on to the loose ball before firing low past Ellery Balcombe. The second goal came in similar circumstances. On again Brentford failed to clear, the ball bobbled around and Osei was able to smuggle it past Balcombe and in to the net.
A draw was not a fair reflection of the game and it could have got worse for The Bees. Goode made an important clearance when Matty Taylor met a Marcus McGuane free kick. And the resulting corner was headed powerfully by Rob Atkinson and clipped the crossbar on its way over. That would have been a sad way to end Brentford’s opening day and a very unjust result but in the first game in our home ended with four goals and all square.
Brentford: Daniels (sub Balcombe h/t); Henry (sub Hammar 77 mins), Goode, Pinnock (sub O’Connor 80 mins), Thompson; Žambůrek, Jensen (sub Maghoma 80 mins), Baptiste (sub Marcondes 65 mins); Canós, Toney (sub Forss h/t), Fosu (sub Valencia 77 mins)
Oxford United: Eastwood (sub Stevens 77 mins); Long, Mousinho (sub Lofthouse 77 mins), Atkinson, Ruffels (sub Taylor 56 mins); Henry (sub Brannagan h/t), Kelly (sub Gorrin 74 mins), Sykes (sub Napa 87 mins); Hall (sub Clare 56 mins), Agyei (sub Osei 74 mins), Forde (sub McGuane h/t)