Brentford 1, Aston Villa 2

Charades: Janelt and Ghoddos act out “force field”

Last home game before Christmas, Sunday 17 December

So much for Christmas cheer. Those supporters, home and away, who ventured to the Gtech Stadium to watch some classy football from the Bees and their high-flying Midlands visitors must have wondered whether tin hats were required when the game exploded into a bad-tempered display of petulance and scuffling.

What triggered the troubles? Could it have been a foolhardy flying tackle by Ben Mee, which resulted in a yellow – no, hang on a minute – a red card, reducing the Bees to ten men after 71 minutes? Never a red card, was Thomas Frank’s view.

Or perhaps the simmering became an open fire when referee David Coote failed to award a penalty as Neal Maupay rushed into the Villa penalty area and was up-ended. A defining moment in the game and one not helped by VAR, said Frank when he came down from the stratosphere following the final whistle.

Nooo! you could almost hear the mass sigh 

But there was more: Ollie Watkins, an ex-Bee previously made welcome by the Brentford crowd on his visits, lost goodwill when pointing a figure from the back of the net to single out an oaf who he believed had abused him. And then came the carnival of errors, started when keeper Emiliano Martínez chased a ludicrous back-pass drifting just past a post to the considerable mirth of Maupay (and several thousand others, I imagine).

Maupay’s brush as he ran past Martínez – light as a feather compared to the real thing, although the keeper went down as if machine-gunned, the cissy – seemed to get his mad up, enough to try to remove the Bee’s shirt as he sat on the turf. All around, practically every player became involved in some kind of brawl. Several were issued with yellow cards, plus a red one for bad luck to Boubacar Kamara.

Referee Coote was probably too busy dispensing cards – Frank and Villa’s manager, Unai Emery, each received one – to pay attention to the carnage around him. Certainly, recording names in his notebook looked bizarre as chaos reigned.

Earlier there had been a football game, and a rather good one at that. Mikkel Dasmsgaard missed a chance that would have seen Brentford leap into the ascendancy over a Villa side not yet wholly cohesive and Joane Wissa skidded when well placed before the offside flag stopped play. This wasn’t the way one would have forecast the performance of a Bees side so stretched through wholesale injuries that it seemed unlikely they could actually field eleven players all at the same time.

And worse was to come for the visitors when they fell behind in the dying seconds of the first half, Keane Lewis-Potter seizing upon a wayward corner to shoot through a forest of legs to score his first goal for the club.

The first half’s pace was fast, but the second furious

Villa came more into the game after the break, drawing excellent defensive discipline from the Bees until Mee’s rash clattering of substitute Leon Bailey. Mr Coote initially dispensed a yellow card but changed his mind after prompting from video referee Craig Pawson. A game-changer if ever there was one, which an unmarked Alex Moreno proved six minutes later by heading home a meticulous cross from Bailey.

Watkins, having been largely subdued by the attentions of the defence until then, firmly headed Villa in front five minutes from the end of normal time after Kamara’s flick of a kick had found him lurking purposely in the goalmouth. While understandable, the striker’s finger-pointing celebration appeared to be incendiary. Pandemonium swiftly followed.

At the end of the day, Villa were nestling below only Arsenal in the Premier League table, level on points with Liverpool. Brentford are twelfth, which looks reasonable until one sees the cluster of sides gathering below them, equal on points or only just behind.

I reflected later to my mate Charlie that a difficult period is probably ahead. ‘Happy Christmas,’ said Charlie.

Not over yet: the ten minutes of extra time were about to get very messy

Brentford: Flekken; Zanka, Pinnock, Mee; Roerslev (substitute Olakigbe 89’), Damsgaard (sub Onyeka 68’) Nørgaard, Janelt (sub Yarmoliuk 88’), Ghoddos; Lewis-Potter (sub Maupay 68’), Wissa (sub CollIns 76’).

Aston Villa: Martínez; Konsa, Diego Carlos, Torres (sub Zaniolo 81’); Cash (sub Bailey 65’), McGinn, Kamara, J Ramsey (sub Dendoncker 90’), Moreno; Diaby (sub Durán 65’), Watkins.

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Bees United website. Photographs by Liz Vercoe.

Bill, who lives in Chiswick and is a former Fleet Street editor, has been named Journalist Laureate 2023 the London Press Club awards:

READ ALSO: Former Fleet Street editor, Chiswick resident Bill Hagerty, is named Journalist Laureate 2023

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