BRENTFORD 1 ASTON VILLA 0

Bill Hagerty sees Bees score a last-gasp winner to ruin Dean Smith’s return to Griffin Park.

 

How to describe never-say-die Brentford’s performance as they dumped play-off contenders Aston Villa on their optimistic back-sides: sensational, astounding, thrilling, breathtaking, magnificent, incredible? No, it was better than that.

 

With the cohesion that this season has all too often been noticeably lacking over 90 minutes, the Bees were, as Thomas Frank said afterwards, ‘the best side by miles’. Villa’s manager Dean Smith, not long departed from West London to relocate in home territory, confirmed that view. Sort of. There was a touch of hubris about his rueful comment, ‘We wernever going to come here to outplay Brentford – I’ve not seen a team do that here for four years.’  

 He was of course in charge at Griffin Park for three of those years. Still, thanks for the compliment, Dean.

Following a minute’s applause to honour the recently departed Gordon Banks, goalkeeper supreme, the Bees made a firecracker of a start, with Sergi Canos seizing on a partially-cleared cross to unleash a 25-yard shot that keeper Lovre Kalinic only just managed to finger-tip over the bar.

No need to get excited yet must have been the thought flickering across the minds of the Brentford faithful. We’ve been here before. How often have firecrackers turned to damp squibs, the way they had the previous Saturday when losing to Nottingham Forest?

Not this evening. The frustration of under-performing at the City ground seemed to fuel the team’s confidence and, with Said Benrahma and Moses Odubajo creating havoc on the flanks, it was 22 minutes before Villa managed to earn a corner and another five before Daniel Bentley , enjoying a Gordon Banks moment, dived to palm away a fierce long-range shot from Anwar El Ghazi that on another occasion might have sneaked inside the post.

Not today. Villa’s sporadic attacks rarely caused concern and Brentford’s domination was such that a goal seemed inevitable. It was, but not yet, not yet.

Meanwhile, there was much to cheer. Romaine Sawyers’ captaincy continued to gain authority; the mini-conferences that preceded most dead-ball situations looked impressive from a distance, even if they failed to produce a killer blow; Canos’s socks, open at the back to expose his calves, provided an interesting diversion, with the smart money going on them being an antidote to cramp.

And then there was Sawyers’ new haircut. Gone were the familiar flying braids ; here was a neater and doubtless expensive trim. Give him a briefcase and a furled umbrella and he could walkinto a job in the City.

Villa still threatened occasionally, but the Brentford tide – with man of the match Benrahma and Canos forever testing the Villa defence – was not to be turned. Not in this match. Not even while Neal Maupay was missing a couple of chances he would normally dispatch with panache, or Canos twice collapsing with what appeared to be severe cramp – so much for those socks.

And the best was saved for last when in the first of four minutes of added time Benrahma found Maupay in the box for him to leave one of what had been a resolute Villa back four sprawling and then side-step another to score beautifully in the top corner.     

No wonder the majority of Bees’ fans privileged to have witnessed the dismantling of Villa stayed on after the final whistle to applaud the side and head coach as they enjoyed what was almost a victory parade. ‘It’s as if we’ve won the Cup, I said to mymate Charlie.

‘We might yet,’ said Charlie. 

 

Brentford: Bentley, Konsa, Jeanvier, Barbet, Canos (sub Field), Mokotjo,Sawyers, OdubajoWatkins, Maupay, Benrahma (Ogbene).

Aston Villa: Kalinik, Hutton, Elphick, Mings, Hause, Whelan, El Ghazi, (Green), Hourihane, Kodjia, McGinn, Adomah (El Mohamady), Abraham.