In what was billed as their toughest test remaining, Brentford picked up ANOTHER win and brushed off Derby County without breaking sweat. Derby cancelled out Ollie Watkins’ opener with an equaliser before half-time. But two strikes from Said Benrahma and a bit of good fortune secured the points. Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison reflects on a Saturday afternoon where things went right for the Bees.

THE MATCH

No matter how well Brentford were playing post-lockdown, automatic promotion was beginning to look less likely as the days rolled on. The two teams in their sights – Leeds and West Brom – had also started to win every game they played. Was there anything the Bees could do about the five point gap with just four games left?

In the minds of the players and staff there was no pressure. Just keep winning every game – if it’s still not enough for automatic promotion at least Brentford will be primed for the play-offs.

A trip to Pride Park to take on top six hopefuls Derby County looked like the perfect test. Following Wayne Rooney’s arrival in January the Rams had soared up the table and now harboured dreams of a Premier League return following twelve years in the second tier.

But having won their previous five, Derby could only snatch a late draw against Nottingham Forest last weekend. West Brom then struck a further blow to their aspirations with a 2-0 win over the Rams in midweek – this in turn hurt Brentford’s top two chase.

So with play-off prospects seemingly slipping away perhaps Derby would be desperate for the three points here. Similarly Brentford, as mentioned earlier, needed to keep winning.

This had the makings of a thrilling 90 minutes of end-to-end football.

Ollie Watkins of Brentford and Wayne Rooney. Derby County v Brentford, Pride Park Stadium. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd. 11/07/2020

Derby started with intensity straight from the whistle, winning a corner inside 15 seconds. It looked like manager Phillip Cocu wanted his players driving at the Brentford defence. Would the Bees again find themselves on the receiving end of an early goal?

No. In fact, the opposite happened. Less than 3 minutes on the clock and Brentford scored with their first chance.

Josh Dasilva and Said Benrahma linked up fantastically on the left, before Dasilva slipped an inch-perfect through ball beyond the Derby backline into Bryan Mbeumo. The Frenchman could only hit the post with his effort, but Ollie Watkins anticipated the chance and was on hand to poke home the rebound. Derby 0-1 Brentford. Clearly the Bees had nothing to be worried about.

The early goal rattled Derby and they were on the back foot right up until the hydration break on 22 minutes. In that time Brentford had another golden opportunity.

Rico Henry’s cross evaded everyone in the box and fell to Mbeumo at the back post. He took a touch before looping an effort towards the top corner, but Derby defender Matt Clarke’s head rescued his team’s blushes with a goal-line block.

Derby started to grow into the half. Right-back Jayden Bogle kept finding himself unmarked in advanced positions out wide – although this left the Rams vulnerable on the counter, it created attacking opportunities too.

And it led to the equaliser.

Max Bird played the ball out to Bogle, who was unmarked on the right. He drilled in a first-time cross to Rooney, who thought about shooting but instead opted to slide in teenager Jason Knight. One-on-one with David Raya – Brentford’s keeper couldn’t handle the ferocious shot, and it was 1-1.

It felt harsh on Brentford, who had been the stronger side, to go into the break level-pegging.

Saïd Benrahma scores. Derby County v Brentford, Pride Park Stadium. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd. 11/07/2020

But fortune favours the brave. And just minutes after the break, Brentford were gifted a huge slice of it.

Emiliano Marcondes shifted the ball to Said Benrahma who was in space about 15 yards away from goal. The Algerian hammered a first-time shot straight at Derby keeper Ben Hamer. But somehow, somehow, Hamer didn’t quite get hold of the ball. He lost his grip and could only grimace as the ball slithered under his body and sneaked over the line.

Brentford didn’t care. They were 2-1 up. Hamer was distraught. As was Cocu in the Derby dugout.

Had Hamer’s three previous loan spells with the Bees left such an impression on him that he felt compelled to help Brentford’s promotion push? Either way, the Bees certainly didn’t need Hamer’s help to extend the lead.

Said Benrahma received the ball out on the left wing, before darting inside past two Derby defenders onto his right foot. It didn’t look like there was much on. But Benrahma doesn’t need much. From the corner of the penalty box, he struck gold with a wicked right-footed effort that flew across Hamer into the far side of the net.

His first goal may have been lucky, but his second was sheer brilliance. Another moment of magic from the Algerian had secured another vital three points. Brentford closed out the game in magisterial style, stifling Derby’s attacking forays exactly how they have stifled every team post-lockdown.

Another three points secured, and Brentford had their seventh league win in a row. Derby were supposed to to pose a serious challenge, but the Bees yet again silenced the doubters and exercised their superiority.

Emiliano Marcondes of Brentford celebrates. Derby County v Brentford, Pride Park Stadium. Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd. 11/07/2020

It was another (relatively) comfortable victory. But once again it would mean nothing if other results didn’t go Brentford’s way …

So when it transpired later on Saturday afternoon that Blackburn had held West Brom to a draw (nearly scoring a winner on a couple of occasions), a certain corner of West London was celebrating for the second time in the same afternoon.


The gap to West Brom is now just three points. With three games to go the Baggies will undoubtedly be feeling the heat.

As for Brentford – just keep winning.

POST-MATCH

Brentford head coach Thomas Frank said:

“I’m impressed with the work-ethic. We put in a good performance again.”

“We knew it was going to be a hard game so we needed to work hard and that togetherness. We were a little bit out of rhythm in the first half – we went 1-0 up but then we lacked the quality on the ball.”

“The second half started much better. After the second goal we were on top, and then another fantastic goal from Said. From then on I think we controlled the game.”

Derby manager Phillip Cocu said:

“It’s frustrating, events occur during the game but I think we played a decent game against a very strong team.”

“Ben took full responsibility for his mistake but I also think it’s too easy to only blame the goalkeeper because if a striker, Benrahma, is able to take a shot in the 18-yard box just two-and-a-half minutes after the break it is just poor defending by the whole team.”

THE STATS

Match stats (Derby on the left, Brentford on the right). Provided by whoscored.com

Player ratings, provided by whoscored.com

Said Benrahma is proving himself to be a talisman, leading Brentford’s promotion charge with his dazzling attacking displays. Unsurprisingly his two goals were rewarded on whoscored.com with the highest match rating. At times in the first half his defensive positioning left Rico Henry exposed out wide, with Bogle pouring forward for Derby. But Benrahma’s influence going forward was crucial to Brentford’s attacking success. Staying out wide, drifting in field, or even running through the middle – he does it all with class.

On a day where ex Premier League legend Wayne Rooney was on the pitch, Benrahma bore the closest resemblance to a top-flight player.

xG Map, provided by infogol. Bigger bubbles represent better chances

In terms of xG the scoreline looks unfair on Derby. They had one big chance which resulted in their goal. But Brentford arguably only had one big chance too – Watkins’ opener.

A costly mistake from Ben Hamer and Benrahma’s wonderstrike near the beginning of the second half settled this match in Brentford’s favour. Although the xG map above might suggest otherwise, the Bees fully deserved their win.

THE FANS

Brentford

Derby

Leeds

West Brom

Fulham