Brentford notched their fifth straight win post-lockdown. But they had to come from behind to squeeze past Charlton for the three points. Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison looks back on a thrilling Tuesday evening at Griffin Park.
A five point gap to 2nd placed West Brom, with just five games to go. The feeling around Griffin Park before this game was that Brentford needed to win all five to stand a chance of automatic promotion.
Brentford’s four matches since lockdown had all ended in victory, with the Bees on top of proceedings each time. On paper the visit of Charlton Athletic would be an easier fixture than those four previous. But as the old saying goes, football’s not played on paper.
Charlton have a track record this season for securing unlikely 1-0 wins characterised by dogged defensive displays. They had done it five times already since August; three of those against promotion-chasers Brentford, Leeds, and Nottingham Forest.
With Lee Bowyer in the dugout – an ex-Leeds player for good measure – there were whispers flying around West Yorkshire that perhaps a shock was on the cards. That against the odds Charlton could pull off a surprise win over Brentford. Even if Ollie from the SE7 podcast predicted his Charlton to lose 2-0 on the Beesotted pre-match podcast (below).
Not long after kick-off it looked like that shock might be realised.
Bowyer had set Charlton up in a 3-5-1-1 formation – the ball was mopped up by their back three and a quick counter-attack down the line ensued. Their left wing-back Alfie Doughty whipped the ball into the box. Jake Forster-Caskey headed it back across the face of goal, and there was Charlton striker Macauley Bonne to leap above Ethan Pinnock and nod past David Raya from little more than three yards out.
8 minutes gone and 1-0 to the visitors. And the first goal Brentford had conceded since February 29th. Would Charlton be able to grind out another backs-to-the-wall 1-0 win?
Brentford started to assume control and came close on a couple of occasions. An unlikely Mathias Jensen header was tipped over the bar by visiting keeper Dillon Phillips, before Christian Norgaard’s 25-yard drive flew just wide of the post.
But it was Charlton who came closest to scoring again – captain Jason Pearce’s fierce volley grazing the top of the bar following a corner.
Charlton did well to limit the Bees to half-chances for the remainder of the first half, frequently packing their own penalty box out with at least seven men. They had unsettled Brentford’s rhythm and arguably deserved to be in front at the break.
Thomas Frank needed the Bees to dig deep in the second half – anything but a win here would derail Brentford’s hunt for automatic promotion.
Brentford started the second half with fire in their bellies. Josh Dasilva curled a trademark left-footed edge-of-the-box shot just wide. Moments later Said Benrahma shimmied Charlton defenders in the box but could only shoot straight at Phillips. Benrahma went close with another effort, but it looked like Brentford were starting to feel the pressure. Finishing was not as clinical, and the Bees were limited to snapshots and half-chances. Charlton were playing Brentford at their own game.
There was little joy down the right flank in the first half for Brentford. So Thomas Frank decided to switch things up. Young right back Mads Roerslev was hauled off for the experienced Henrik Dalsgaard, and Emiliano Marcondes came on for Jensen.
From then on the Bees looked more balanced. Chances were coming thick and fast. Frank made the most of the hydration break on 70 minutes, digging out a tactical whiteboard to drill the players ahead of the final 20 minutes. Was there enough time to score twice?
Well the equaliser was just around the corner.
Dalsgaard pulled a low cross back towards Benrahma, who knocked the ball past Charlton’s Josh Cullen inside the box. As he did, he was caught by Cullen’s outstretched foot and duly went down. The referee took a moment to assess the situation … before pointing to the spot. A penalty for the Bees. A lifeline.
Benrahma stepped up and rolled the ball into the bottom left corner, sending Phillips the wrong way. 1-1, and the Bees were right back in it. Charlton had 15 minutes to weather the storm and hold on. Could they do it?
Benrahma hit a fierce effort from outside the box that Phillips could only spill. Minutes later Dasilva hit the post with another curling strike from the edge of the box. But it just wasn’t going in. Were the Bees about to run out of time?
Benrahma went close again, his deflected shot forcing a lightning-fast reaction save from Phillips. The ball went out for a corner. Was this the moment?
Marcondes played it short to Dasilva, who crossed it right into the danger zone. And there was Ethan Pinnock, six yards out directly in front of goal. He rose to meet Dasilva’s cross and headed past Phillips into the Charlton goal. 2-1. That was it. That was the winner. Surely there was no coming back.
Brentford had turned it around. Charlton were deflated. When the final whistle blew it was clear that the Bees had put everything into clawing the three points back. You could see how much it meant to the players.
These kind of wins are character building. These kind of wins strengthen the players’ mentality. These kind of wins prove that the Bees have a promotion-ready mindset.
On a day where not everything fell Brentford’s way, it was this kind of win that has kept a shot at automatic promotion alive.
To West Brom and Leeds: the pressure is back on you.
Brentford head coach Thomas Frank said:
“This is a massive win. I’ll not stand here and say this didn’t mean anything, this is a big win.”
“We know every game is a big win, but I just had a feeling because of all the circumstances that this game would be very, very difficult.”
“They have a very good ability to compete against the best sides because they defend and they have a good structure.”
Charlton manager Lee Bowyer said:
“I’m proud of the players tonight. There’s not many times you’ll hear me say that when we lose a game.”
“But tonight you’re playing against a top, top Brentford side who have been hammering teams left, right and centre. They’re the in-form team in our division and we’ve just given them a right scare.”
With Charlton scoring early and then (attempting to) lock down their penalty box, it was always likely that Brentford would dominate possession – and the stats show it, with the Bees having 70% of the ball. An interesting stat is Brentford’s 84% pass success – despite the pressure the Bees continued to pass the ball accurately, trying to pick their moments rather than hurrying and lumping the ball forwards.
Ethan Pinnock collected the highest rating on whoscored.com courtesy of scoring the winner. There were a few contenders for Man of the Match, including Said Benrahma who appeared to carry the weight of scoring the equaliser on his shoulders. But Josh Dasilva was arguably the most impressive – carrying the ball from back to front and peppering the Charlton goal with testing efforts.
Star Man ✨: Josh Dasilva
Assists: 1 (1st)
Key passes: 7 (1st)
Passing Accuracy%: 92.2%
Shots (On): 5 (1)
Ground Duels: 4/5
Great performance, ran the game in the second half and provided the creative spark to get the winner. pic.twitter.com/Ne80XM3I7H
— Bees Analytica (@BeesAnalytica) July 7, 2020
When looking at the xG map (below), the scoreline was certainly a fair reflection of the chances for both teams. Whilst Brentford had plenty of shots many of these were from the edge of the box – Charlton did well to mostly keep the Bees away from the penalty area. The two clear-cut centre-of-the-box chances for Brentford both resulted in goals.
Jim Davidson, Gary Bushell, Bjorn Borg, Bradley Branning, Sue Perkins, Steve Davis, Kelly Holmes, Lee Ryan, the Cutty Sark, Cheryl Baker, Gemma Arteton, Boy George, King Henry VIII, the meridian line…your boys took one hell of a beating! @LordLouCan #brentfordfc #BRECHA
— Beesotted Brentford (@Beesotted) July 7, 2020
: We got a lip-reader to watch the “DRINKS BREAK”. Here’s what Thomas Frank said to the boys.
— Griffin Park Grapevine (@bfcgpg) July 7, 2020
I cannot believe we paid nothing (£0. Like absolutely fuck all) for Josh Dasilva. Geezers absolute mustard
— ᴡɪʟʟ ᴍᴄᴄʟᴀᴛᴄʜɪᴇ (@WillMcclatchie) July 7, 2020
— Mr Bullen (@The1TrueBullen) July 7, 2020
— Hoppy (@Kelly_Hopkins) July 7, 2020
— soverncomfort (@soverncomfort) July 7, 2020
I wonder how much the financial implications of Brentford beating @CAFC this evening had for @EFL and their involvement in the final scoreline. There is no way that @EFL wants to see @LUFC promoted. I wonder what was the size of the backhander that the ref got!! #lufc
— TIMOTHY P (@percybiz) July 7, 2020
Imagine the outrage if this was Bielsa? Sky would be all over it, every club would be moaning. These water breaks need sacked off. Totally ruining the flow of the game and being exploited.
Where is that sporting integrity everyone keeps moaning about?? pic.twitter.com/5PAVMzPXUq
— Daniel (@HopperLUFC_) July 7, 2020
— matthew (@mjmlufc) July 7, 2020
CANT BREAK A TEAM DOWN? DIVE FOR THE PENALTY ♂️ pic.twitter.com/Oc8UbU9KYV
— LJM (@passittopablo) July 7, 2020
Even QPR wishing Brentford well
Would love to see Brentford win the league! Can you imagine the Leeds fans meltdown got some favourable games to finish the season with, and weve got the baggies last game of the season
— Mark Stokes (@Mas1882) July 7, 2020