For the second Saturday running Brentford encountered a superb goalkeeper at the top of his form. For the second Saturday running they failed to collect even one point. But are we worried? Well, as a matter of fact, yes we are.
Quite what head coach Thomas Frank can do about the team’s failure to score more goals than the opposition is a real head-scratcher. They are playing free-flowing, attractive football, yet have managed only 11 goals in nine Premier League fixtures, with the free-scoring Ivan Toney capturing just two. The fact that Toney has been judged man of every match, shows what a strength he is to the side, but with managers as astute at Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers deploying defensive tactics to keep him away from the goal, the Bees are slipping behind in the number of times getting the ball into the net is required when they come up against the League’s top quality sides.
Images above: Brentford Forwards Sergi Canós and Ivan Toney; Leicester City star Jamie Vardy was substituted
Sadly, there is no obvious goal-snatcher to take some of the burden from Toney’s shoulders. Well, there is – Bryan Mbeumo is a fine player, but at 22 is not yet the finished article as a striker. Marcus Fords, another 22-year-old, is capable of scoring in lesser competitions as proven by his five in the Carabao Cup so far this season but has not found it easy to move up a gear to be as great a threat in the League.
The answer, my mate Charlie suggests, lies in the feet of Ioane Wissa, who at 25 is a relative veteran and possesses with both a midfield brain and finishing skills to unnerve defences – witness the two goals he scored when brought on as a substitute in four games prior to being injured.
The Bees could certainly have used his talents on Saturday, when once again they dominated the second half, cancelling out Leicester’s first-half lead and creating a series of chances before being sucker-punched by a breakaway winner 17 minutes from the end of normal time.
The Leicester goal – from their only chance of the half – came from nowhere when midfielder Youri Tielemans unleashed a fizzer from outside the goal area that was in the net before David Raya couldn’t gather his thoughts, let alone the ball. Unstoppable and what seemed to be the cue for ludicrous time-wasting by Leicester – ‘That’s the Premier League for you,’ said Charlie.
In response, Matthias Jensen overhit several forward lofted passes, as is his wont, and Mbeumo shot wide after latching on to a wonderful feed from Toney, ditto.
Image above: Defender Ethan Pinnock takes the throw in
Jamie Vardy, back in the side after missing his club’s midweek 4-3 victory over Spartak Moscow, was shepherded so closely by the Brentford defence that it came as no surprise when he did not appear for the second period and Padson Maka – scorer of all four Leicester goals in that match – took his place. His arrival boosted Leicester’s attack, but the introduction of Forse in place of Mbeumo did not create the same kind of magic. So when the Bees deservedly equalised it was through a glancing header by M Jorgensen (aka Saka) that sped wide of the keeper.
As often happens to teams striving to get on terms, a speculative long ball found Daka in space and he made unimpeded progress until passing inside to the running-free James Maddison. Him stroking the ball home was no more than a formality.
Apart from that blatant time-wasting, Leicester was a well-drilled side that absorbed everything Brentford could send in their direction. Toney seized on the two chances that would enable the Bees to have the game done and dusted, but the goalkeeper mentioned earlier, Kasper Schmeichel, displayed the form that has made him the Denmark’s number one international choice to deny Toney. Foiled by a Dane is not something one expects to experience at Brentford, but Kasper’s brilliance at crucial moments was probably the defining difference between the two sides.
(Post-match Thomas Frank said that Brentford should have won – ‘We smashed them first half’. Frank then commented that he would give up football management to do something ‘really important’ if the offensive Twitter messaging and abusive trolling suffered by many coaches were to continue unabated. Whereupon he received hostile messages online. Go figure.)
So only four points were gained from the Bees’ last four games, but the quality of the opposition suggested they might have collected only two, I reasoned. And we were unlucky again, I said to Charlie, even if that Kaspar is something else between the posts.
‘There’s nothing like a Dane’ said Charlie, wisely.
Brentford: Raya; M. Jorgensen, Jansson, Pinnock; Canós, Onyeka, Nørgaard, Jensen, Henry; Mbeumo, Toney. Substitutes used: Ayer, Ghoddos. Forss.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Amartey, Evans, Söyüncü; Richardo Pereira, Tielemans, Soumaré, Castagne; Maddison; Iheadacho, Vardy. Subs used: Daka, Vestergaard, Peréz.
Bill Hagerty is a contributing editor of the Bees United supporters’ group. Photographs – Liz Vercoe.