Brentford 2 Aston Villa 1

Image above: Brentford v Aston Villa, 2 January 2022

It is a much-repeated maxim that Brentford always play much better against highly talented teams. Witness their bravura against Manchester City when edged out by the only goal of the match just four days prior to Aston Villa’s visit to the Community Stadium. Witness also their uncoordinated scramble in the early stages of this game, conceding a goal after a quarter of an hour and threatening capitulation to a side that played prettily but rarely dangerously.

For half-an-hour the defence struggled to contain a lively Villa attack, in which Danny Ings and Emiliano Buendía linked up to negate the mysterious absence of ex-Bee Ollie Watson. Indeed, it was this pairing that put the visitors in front, with Buendía turning on a sixpence, whatever that may be, to feed Ings with a superb ball through the middle. Ings placed his shot perfectly beyond the reach of Alvaro Fernández.

Image above: Under pressure: 0-1 down, Bees defend a corner

As for the Brentford attack, Ivan Toney and Yoane Wissa foraged willingly but fruitlessly in front of a midfield in which only Mathias Jensen made much impression, hampered as he was by having to help out at the back and a tendency to overhit some of his airborne creative passes.

With only three minutes of the forty-five first-half time remaining, Mads Roerslev produced the pass that enabled Wissa to break free of the defence and score a goal as excellently executed as Ings.’ The shot curved away from Martinez whose dive at full strength could not prevent it whistling inside a post.

Image above: Brentford v Aston Villa, 2 January 2022

Scoring just before the break is believed to pep up a side and it certainly seemed to do so for Brentford. The pattern of play looked much the same after the interval, but there was a greater urgency and precision from the Bees even if Villa continued to have the beating of them in retaining possession.

The home side struggled to get into the Villa half, but then they did and the introduction of Vitaly Janelt brought discipline and grit to the midfield.

With the referee, Craig Pawson, displaying eccentric decisions that hindered both sides, the sort of cohesive rhythm we have come to love from Brentford began slowly to re-establish itself.

Frank Onyeka, despite being clattered several times by the opposition, drew a fine save from Martinez and Toney, while not offering his trademark dominance of the opposition back four, was always a danger. And so it was left to Roerslev to snatch the winner, finding himself in space and producing a fierce shot that the goalkeeper could only parry into the wing-back’s path. The follow-up shot was too much for Martinez and Roerslev became the hero of the day, even if his overall contribution had been patchy at best and worrying at worse.

Villa, whose goal-scoring opportunities had been rare, almost snatched a draw, but Fernández saved at full stretch from Ings. And then, as devotees of social media were soon to know, inside the final minute Villa substitute Trézéguet, shepherded by sub Saman Ghoddos, progressed into the Bees’ penalty area before throwing himself to the ground in the worst piece of acting since Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in the first Mary Poppins film.

Ghoddos departed with the ball and the Villa supporters headed for the exits, although it wasn’t clear whether it was the result that dismayed them or sheer embarrassment at Trézéguet’s ludicrous dive.

Image above: Play on: McGinn hits the turf between Onyeka and Canós 

At the final whistle the home crowd exploded as if their team had won the League and the music blasting from the PA system saw spontaneous dancing break out, including some funky arm-waving from Player Welfare Manager Peter Gilham near the technical area. Once again Brentford had snatched victory from the jaws of disappointment and the crowd loved them for it.

‘We should have taken at least a draw out of the game,’ Villa superstar coach Steven Gerrard told Sky TV. ‘That’s what stings more than anything.’ And Thomas Frank told the BBC, ‘We’ve played half our games in the Premier League; with the injuries we’ve had I think it’s incredible what we’ve done.’

The dancing fans would have agreed with every word.

It’s all very catchy, I observed to my mate Charlie.

‘Okay, but only if I lead,’ said Charlie.

Brentford: Fernández; Pinnock, Jansson, Bech Sørensen; Roerslev, Onyeka (substitute Janelt), Nørgaard, Jensen (sub Baptiste), Canós (sub Ghoddos); Wissa, Toney.

Aston Villa: Martinez; Cash, Konsa, Hause, Targett; McGinn, Douglas Luiz, J Ramsey (sub Sanson); Traoré (sub Trézéguet), Ings, Buendía.

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

Photographs Liz Vercoe.