Brentford 1, Aston Villa 1

Image above: Frank Onyeka and Rico Henry driving forward

Second Season – It’s Football!

It was a heart in the mouth moment, especially for 21-year-old winger Kevin Schade. Stand-in goalkeeper Robin Olsen having spilled the ball as Schade bore down on him, the Brentford winger ran clear and – horrors! – clipped the ball wide of a gaping net.

Poor Schade. Until then he had been contributing his height, speed and ever-improving technique to a three-man attack that saw both Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo benefit enormously as the winger caused havoc from the right flank.

Lucky Olsen. Having replaced Emiliano Martinez when the first-choice keeper and World Cup-winner was taken ill at the interval, he survived the incident that might have been enough for the Bees to collect all three points. As it was, although Brentford dominated play, with Toney putting them ahead after 65 minutes, a barnstorming finale saw Villa snatch the equaliser and help the visitors cement their position in the top six.

There ain’t no justice: after a dismal run of three consecutive defeats, the Bees found the form that served them so well earlier in the season and here deserved victory over a Villa side that displayed much of the quality that had seen them leapfrog up the Premier League table when nobody was looking.

Image above: Rough and…., Tumble

Fortunately, Ollie Watkins, previously of this parish, was shackled by a determined defence that rationed him to one solitary golden chance that wickedly swerved wide. At the other end, Toney and Schade both looked sharp and Mbeumo was giving the visitors no end of trouble – what a pity that he finds finishing the one element of his game that still needs work.

Martinez dealt competently with everything that came his way in a first half where honours were equally shared, but the old firm of Toney and Mbeumo combined once more in the second to put the Bees in front, Bryan flighting a perfect cross for Ivan, lurking at the far post, to score his nineteenth PL game neatly with his left foot.

It was as if the Bees had taken some nourishing magic tonic during the break, enabling them to move up a gear and launch a succession of raids on Martinez’s goal that caused panicky responses from the defence. Villa coach Unai Emery had already responded by making a triple substitution following the goal but it took a little time for the new legs to find their feet, so to speak, before the visitors joined their revitalised teammates.

Yoane Wissa – one of Thomas Frank’s own four subs – raced clear to rifle a shot past the advancing Olsen that was judged, sadly but correctly, offside. And Brentford remained on the offensive, and Toney dangerous until the end, but  the final ten minutes saw Villa subjecting the Bees to relentless pressure that resulted in one defensive error: failing to clear the ball before a ping-pong exchange saw the ball visit every inch of the penalty area without it being given the clout upfield it deserved. Then Douglas Luiz, possibly tired of the inaction, ended it with a fierce shot past the helpless Raya.

Images above: Brentford V Aston Villa, Meee….

Thomas Frank, positively glum post-match, although loyally expressing his pride in the side, pondered what might have been when declaring to the BBC, ‘It’s football!’. Loanee Kevin Schade, doubtless anticipating a disturbed night following his miss, is expected to sign from Bundesliga club SC Freiburg before the end of the season. His rapid improvement has suggested he will be an exciting addition to the squad.

With hopes fading of a top-seven finish in order to achieve European competition, Brentford will be looking to finish their remarkable season with a flourish. Nottingham Forest, battling with half-a-dozen other clubs to escape relegation, should provide determined opposition at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday.

‘Chelsea before after that,’ said my mate Charlie. ‘Bring them on!’

Brentford: Raya; Hickey, Pinnock, Mee, Henry; Jensen (sub Dasilva 90+2), Nørgaard (Onyeka 45), Janelt (Damsgaard 76); Mbeumo, Toney, Schade (Wissa 77).

Aston Villa: E Martinez (Olsen 45); Young (Chambers 66), Konsa, Mings, Moreno Lopera (Digne 66); Dendoncker (Traoré 66). Douglas Luiz; McGinn, Buendía, J Ramsey; Watkins.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of Bees United supporters’ group.

Pictures by Liz Verscoe

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