Two second half goals condemned Brentford to defeat against Arsenal at The Emirates Stadium. Brentford defended superbly for long periods and went in at half time all square despite spells of sustained pressure from the home side. But the hosts struck early in the second half and a second goal inside the final 15 minutes proved to be the winner. Christian Nørgaard scored in the dying seconds for The Bees, but Arsenal got the win.
There was little doubt the better team won the game. Brentford had to fight hard to stay in the match in the first period and the visiting defence protected goalkeeper David Raya admirably. But Arsenal managed to find a way through and got themselves the win.
It was an all-action helter-skelter opening to the contest. Arsenal started on the front foot and had a lot of the ball, but Brentford were also committed to an attacking mindset. The first 15 minutes of the match were an end-to-end spectacle. Arsenal had the better chances, but Brentford also pushed forward, and Referee Jon Moss was in the centre of the action, along with the other officials.
Sergi Canós had to make an early block with his head after Ben White met an inswinging corner from the effervescent Bukayo Saka with a near post header. Arsenal recycled and the next header from Alexandre Lacazette was comfortably saved by Raya. Bryan Mbeumo set up a shooting chance for Yoane Wissa at the other end when Arsenal failed to fully clear a long throw. The shot was blocked, and Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale was able to gather.
A tackle by Nørgaard set up Brentford for another opportunity, all inside the first six minutes. Wissa set up Canós to lift a cross-cum-shot over Ramsdale and just past the far post. Saka was released by Martin Ødegaard inside the penalty area soon after. He tried to cross for Lacazette, but Kristoffer Ajer made a last-ditch tackle. There were bodies strewn all over the penalty area as Saka got on to the loose ball and weaved back in to the penalty area before pulling a shot wide at the near post.
Barely ten minutes had elapsed when Arsenal went on the attack again. A corner was half cleared, and the ball was played back deep to Saka. He tried to find White, but Josh Dasilva made a tackle. Saka got on to the loose ball and his shot deflected off Dasilva, hitting Raya in the face. The ball was still not dead as Dasilva released Mbeumo at the other end. He cut inside and saw a shot blocked, enabling Arsenal to counter-attack. The ball was worked forward and then to Kieran Tierney on the left. He crossed for Lacazette to tap in, but the offside flag was raised.
The break enabled Video Assistant Referee Lee Mason to check the previous three or four minutes of action. He agreed with Mr Moss that Dasilva’s challenge on White was a fair one, deciding there was no penalty to award. He also confirmed the offside decision, disallowing the goal and leaving the game all square.
It would have been impossible for the game to continue at the pace it started, but the tempo only dropped a fraction as the half wore on. Arsenal maintained the upper hand with Brentford forced a little deeper as the half wore on. The Bees did have a sight of goal when Dasilva fed the ball to Ajer inside the area, but he was unable to pick out Wissa.
Arsenal had more of the chances as they looked for a breakthrough. Lacazette headed off target before Saka saw a shot blocked. Thomas Partey faded an effort wide from distance and Lacazette also missed the target after an attempt from Mathias Jensen to release Mbeumo was intercepted. Ødegaard and Lacazette had efforts blocked by Brentford’s hard working defence and Raya then had to save from White after Ethan Pinnock had made a vital headed clearance from a Tierney cross.
When a cross came in from the left soon after, it reached Cedric Soares unmarked at the far post. He hammered in a shot that Wissa threw himself in front of. Arsenal appealed that Wissa had blocked it with his arms and Mr Mason checked, before deciding only the home side should only get a corner. That dead ball dropped to Emile Smith Rowe, but he failed to get enough of a contact to worry Raya.
Saka and Partey both had efforts blocked late in a half that Arsenal dominated, without being able to find a way through. The Bees were also forced in to a change when Jensen limped off. He was replaced by Vitaly Janelt late in a first period that ended 0-0.
It did not, however, take long for Arsenal to break the deadlock after the restart. The goal was a little too easy from a Brentford perspective. Lacazette was able to find space in midfield and released Smith Rowe on the left, again with lots of room. He worked his way in to the penalty area and placed a shot across Raya and in to the far corner. The Brentford goalkeeper got finger tips to it at full stretch but was unable to keep it out.
The goal came three minutes in to the second half and after Brentford had been on the attack. A pass from Dasilva released Wissa and his cross deflected in to the arms of Ramsdale with Mbeumo waiting. Arsenal then went on the attack and got their goal.
Ramsdale saved from Wissa soon after as Brentford looked for an immediate response while Partey lashed over at the other end. Perhaps because of the goal, the pace of the game was slower in the second half than the first. Raya saved a Saka effort and a Tierney shot deflected wide as Arsenal continued to hold the upper hand, without putting together the sustained spells of pressure they did in the first half.
Brentford looked like they might have found a way through when a pass from Janelt released Mbeumo on a bent run behind the home defence. But the ball was just a touch firm and Mbeumo was unable to bring it under control. If he had, he would have been one-on-one with Ramsdale. Mbeumo had a shot blocked soon after.
Arsenal looked set for a second when Lacazette won a battle in midfield and released Ødegaard on the right. He was faced with only Raya to beat but the Brentford goalkeeper made a save and Nørgaard was there to prevent substitute Pépé putting in the loose ball. Unfortunately for Brentford, that only delayed the hosts.
The goal came when it looked like Brentford might be in, but a pass from Wissa that would have put Ajer free was intercepted. Arsenal turned the ball over and broke away. Lacazette prevented Jansson clearing and Partey got to the loose ball. He fed Saka on the left and the Arsenal man fired across Raya and in to the net off the far post.
The seemed to seal the game and Raya saved from Partey as Arsenal looked for a third, but Brentford had the last word. A free kick from the right was half cleared and Janelt created room for the shot. The ball bounced around, cannoned off a few bodies, including Soares and Ajer and dropped to Nørgaard. He took a touch, stepped away from Ramsdale and placed a shot in.
The goal was initially ruled out for offside, but Mr Mason checked and decided no offence had been committed. Brentford had one back but only seconds to find another. They did get the ball but could not find the right pass. Arsenal cleared and secured the win.
Arsenal: Ramsdale; Soares, White, Gabriel, Tierney; Ødegaard, Xhaka, Partey; Saka, Lacazette (sub Nketiah 83 mins), Smith Rowe (sub Pépé 75 mins)
Subs (not used): Leno, Holding, Tomiyasu, Tavares, Sambi, Elneny, Hutchinson
Bookings: Gabriel (86 mins)
Brentford: Raya; Ajer, Jansson, Pinnock; Canós (sub Ghoddos 84 mins), Dasilva (sub Baptiste 68 mins), Nørgaard, Jensen (sub Janelt 44 mins), Henry; Mbeumo, Wissa
Subs (not used): Fernández, Stevens, Roerslev, Bech, Onyeka, Young-Coombes
Bookings: Jansson (80 mins)