Brentford 1, Crystal Palace 1

Image above: Celebrating Kevin Schade’s goal; picture Brentford FC

Third Season: Honours even

There were two outstanding incidents in a match that rarely excited – one of those encounters that linger in the memory for no more than a few minutes. The first surprise was a ferocious cloudburst that sent many supporters of both camps scurrying to the back of the stands. The second was a Brentford goal that may well figure highly next May in TV viewers’ polls to decide the best of the season.

First, the rain, which drenched thousands without any of them realising the irony following the delay in starting the first game if the new season – no water was to be had anywhere in the stadium or the sky. Fortunately, Kevin Schade’s goal was so grand that all memory of the rain, and the thunderclaps that preceded it, will probably have vanished after the 18 minutes before the Bees took the lead.

Christian Nørgaard, deep in his own half, supplied the long cross-field pass that deserved to be polished like a diamond before arriving at Schade’s feet. Whereupon Kevin set off on a dazzling run that took him into the penalty area before leaving the defence floundering and unleashing a shot so unstoppable that it was a wonder keeper Sam Johnstone didn’t applaud.

It was Schade’s first goal for the club and his speed and prowess in the air so unnerved the opposition that one wondered why coach Thomas Frank substituted him ten minutes from time. It was, said my mate Charlie, a performance by the 21-year-old winger that doubled the player’s transfer value in the time it took to score that goal ‘and his new shorter haircut won’t hurt, either.’

Brentford had the best of the first half, which doubtless worried Palace manager Roy Hodgson even more than did the inclement weather. Mind you, he certainly looked immaculate in suit and tie until the rains came, when he swiftly donned a duffle jacket to protect them.

It patently was not his kit that occupied Hodgson during the interval, even if the suit remerged as revitalised as the players when the game continued. Now Mbeumo and Wissa found it hard to penetrate a newly resolute defence and only Mark Flekken prevented Eberrechi Eze and Odsonne Edouard from plundering an equaliser.

Lack of opportunities up front for the Bees was not necessarily due to the continuing absence of Ivan Toney, although rumours persist of the striker’s potential departure when his suspension ends, as do Brentford’s interest in every available front-runner, from Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson to Donald Duck.

Chances were rare at both ends, but the longer the game continued Palace had the edge. One goal-bound effort was finger-tipped over the bar by Flekken; another blocked and then gathered at the goalkeeper’s second effort. It couldn’t last, could it? No, it couldn’t, with an unseemly scrabble in the goalmouth ending with centre-back Joachim Andersen bursting into the fray to score through Flekken’s legs.

A shame was that; but for the error Flekken would have qualified as man of the match, what with the superb quality of his distribution of the ball as well as acrobatics when required.  His demeanour is largely admirable, too, displaying a calmness that may well earn him the nickname of Mr Cool.

Frank’s disappointment at dropping two points was palpable – ‘I can’t figure it out why these games end in draws,’ he told Sky Sports, ‘In the five games [between us], the number of chances they and us created were limited.’

His players looked crestfallen, the crowd too, but – whisper who dares! – a draw was a fair result, just as similar scorelines had been in the past when these two sides met. As for the jovial Roy Hodgson – every fan’s second- favourite coach – he accepted Palace’s inspired second-half revival performance with a smile.

‘Suits him,’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Flekken; Hickey, Collins, Pinnock, Henry; Jensen (Onyeka 71), Nørgaard, Janelt; Mbeumo, Wissa, Schade (Lewis-Potter 80).

Crystal Palace: Johnstone; Ward, Andersen, Guéhi, Mitchell; Doucouré, Schlupp (Ahamadaat 71), Lerma; J Ayew, Eze, Édouard (Matetaat 71).

Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor to the Bees United supporters’ website.

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