Brentford kept hopes of a late dash for automatic promotion from the Championship alive with a narrow 1-0 victory over leaders West Brom on Friday night.
The Bees took the lead after an open start at Griffin Park when Ollie Watkins finished off a slick move with a close-range finish after Josh Dasilva’s pull-back. The goal moved him level with Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic at the top of the scoring charts.
Slaven Bilic breathed new life into his side after the break, with Kenneth Zohore striking a venomous effort off the crossbar, but their drought in front of goal continued as Matheus Pereira’s creativity bore no fruit.
The second victory in as many games moves Thomas Frank’s men above west London rivals Fulham into third, five points behind the Baggies and second-placed Leeds, who face the Cottagers live on Sky Sports Football on Saturday.
How Brentford kept the Baggies at bay
West Brom’s attack lacked panache when they got back underway with a drab stalemate in the Midlands derby with Birmingham last Saturday, so when the returning Grady Diangana nutmegged Henrik Dalsgaard and scooped a shot onto the roof of the net inside two minutes, it looked to be a sign of things to come.
Yet they struggled to settle into a rhythm in west London and soon found themselves behind. In-demand Said Benrahma rolled the ball into the path of Dasilva and his square ball wormed its way through a crowd to the outstretched leg of Watkins, and over the line.
A drinks break slowed Brentford’s increasing confidence, but the hosts were happy to soak up pressure and could even afford a slightly robust approach in nullifying the increasing threat of Pereira.
A double substitution at half-time, which saw Zohore and Filip Krovinovic enter the fray, made the visitors look a completely different side and the former almost restored parity when he was afforded the space to swivel and fire a thunderous shot off the crossbar.
The Bees managed to wrestle control back and with 17 minutes to play, left-back Rico Henry sprinted to the byline and managed to pick out Dasilva, but the former Arsenal midfielder failed to connect properly and watched on as his shot agonisingly trickled inches wide of the right-hand post.
Man of the match – Ethan Pinnock
Brentford fans were delighted to know the Championship restart would coincide with the return of Pontus Jansson from injury, but while he’s been crucial in helping the Bees keep two consecutive clean sheets, the man alongside him has been superb.
Facing one of the top-scoring sides in the division with some of the most creative attacking players is no doubt a daunting prospect, but Pinnock was a rock at Griffin Park and is likely to have some minor war wounds after his brave performance in the heart of defence.
What the managers said…
Brentford’s Thomas Frank: “I still think West Brom are in a much better position than us and if I could be in that position, of course, I would prefer that, but we are very pleased with the performance tonight in many, many ways. Defensively that was a top, top performance – we gave nothing away.
“We were very dangerous on the counter and scored a beautiful goal. I’d have liked us to be sharper on the counter just to kill the game off and there were spells where I’d have liked us to be even better on the ball but we were playing against No 1 and they are an unbelievably good side.”
West Brom’s Slaven Bilic: “We played below par in the first half definitely. It was a nervous game, a game of few chances. Especially in the first half, we weren’t good on the ball or aggressive enough without the ball. Second half, we improved a lot and had a few good situations, though no clear-cut chances.
“It wasn’t us. We played against a good team; they are good at pressing, they are very sharp, very aggressive. But we weren’t on the level that we were for most of the season and if you consider that we played against a good team then the defeat is not a surprise.”
Brentford travel to the Madejski Stadium to face Reading at 6pm on Tuesday June 30, while West Brom are in action the following night with a trip to Hillsborough to face Garry Monk’s Sheffield Wednesday.