Brentford keep the pressure on the top two after a comfortable away win at Reading, with no doubt which side was better on the night. Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison reflects on the dominant 3-0 result.

THE MATCH

Coming off the back of impressive wins against Fulham and West Brom, a 35-mile journey down the M4 to Reading provided the Bees with a chance to flex their muscles. Brentford’s recent performances showed a team on the up – although far from mathematically guaranteed a play-off position, the Bees remain within touching distance of the top two. Particularly the aforementioned West Brom: win at Reading on Tuesday night and they close that gap to just two points ahead of Albion’s trip to Sheffield Wednesday on … Wednesday.

Prior to the match Reading sat in 15th place, 7 points clear of relegation and 11 points off the top six. Brentford teams in recent years have been known to slip up unexpectedly against lesser opposition who prove themselves to be tricky opponents. Under Mark Bowen, particularly before lockdown, Reading had shown their shrewdness. Was the Bees’ trip to the Madejski Stadium a potential banana skin?

In short: no. Brentford displayed promotion credentials, stifling Reading for 90 minutes. Quality and efficiency going forward combined with a sturdy defensive display. A 3-0 scoreline was a fair reflection on a comfortable Bees victory.

Becki White from the Tilehurst End thought the Royals had a chance of sneaking a 1-0 win on the pre-match podcast, but didn’t sound particularly convinced of her own prediction. And her lack of conviction wasn’t misplaced. Brentford oozed class. Reading were simply second best.

The match started steady, both sides trying to find their rhythm. Christian Norgaard, often sat just in front of the Bees back four, was playing slightly further forward in midfield as Brentford tried to control possession. It looked like Reading gaffer Mark Bowen had drilled his defence before kick-off as the Royals’ midfield and defence hustled Brentford’s attacking stars.

But the Bees quickly grew into the game. It was soon clear Brentford were going to have more control, more possession, and more chances. You could sense a goal was coming.

Just before the first-half water break the Bees won a corner. Emiliano Marcondes floated a ball toward the back post, Ethan Pinnock rose to nod across the goal, and there was Bryan Mbeumo just waiting to head it in. The French winger, on his first start since recovering from COVID-19, got his 15th league goal and the Bees were 1-0 up.

Brentford fans had seen this kind of corner all season long. So much so that some call it “The Pinnock Corner”. The fact that Pinnock was unchallenged in getting his assist indicated that Reading, tactically speaking, weren’t at the races.

The Bees had a couple of opportunities to extend the lead before half time – most notably when Josh Dasilva clipped a perfect lobbed pass through to Mbeumo, but his unlucky first touch allowed Reading keeper Rafael to smother. Reading also came close, teenager Michael Olise’s goalbound volley deflected over the bar by Pontus Jansson.

 

Brentford started the second half positively, a tidy passage culminating in Rafael denying Ollie Watkins from close range. Reading were searching for an equaliser – the Bees defence held firm and there were plenty of chances on the counter. The second goal, on 64 minutes, was a product of this.

Said Benrahma slipped a pass through to Marcondes, who was forced to turn back on himself. But he picked out the onrushing Josh Dasilva on the edge of the box, who fired a fierce first-time effort at Rafael. The Reading keeper could only parry, and Dasilva stormed past the static Reading defenders to poke home the rebound.

The goal was a shining example of the determination instilled into the Brentford players that was lacking in the home side. 2-0 up. And breathe.

From then on Brentford saw out the game in style. Norgaard lashed an effort from 25 yards that forced an acrobatic save from Rafael, and Watkins had another chance saved smartly.

Just as the clock ticked over into stoppage time, Norgaard played the ball through to substitute Joel Valencia. The Ecuadorian struck a swerving effort from outside the area that sent Rafael the wrong way, scoring his first goal since signing for Brentford in the summer.

A fine finish to cap off a fine display. Taking one game at a time seems to be doing the trick as the Bees continue to pile the pressure on the top two.

POST-MATCH

Brentford boss Thomas Frank said:

“It was a strong performance away from home. I think we continued that form we are in with another good performance. I said after the West Brom game that we couldn’t use that performance, and win, to anything if we didn’t win here at Reading.”

“The boys were bang on and the players who came on were bang on, and I think we gave one chance away the whole game which is impressive.”

“You can always talk about putting the pressure on West Brom, but the only thing that we can do is focus on our training and our games – and make sure that we win the next one.”

Reading manager Mark Bowen said:

“In every department I thought Brentford were much stronger than us. They looked brighter than us, they had more intelligence on the ball and made more right decisions than us.”

“That’s one point from three games – that’s the bottom line. Did we lack fight and character? We’ve just got to address that.”

Brentford’s goalscorer Joel Valencia said:

“I am so happy. All my teammates are so happy for me. They support me a lot. It’s been a long time since I scored. I feel really good, really happy for the goal.”

“[When I shot] the ball made some strange moves and it was lucky for me, but I’m so happy it went in.”

THE STATS

Match stats

Player ratings, provided by whoscored.com

The Bees superiority was reflected in the stats, with 56.4% possession and 19 shots to Reading’s 5. Christian Norgaard starred in defensive midfield with an 8.0 rating on whoscored.com. Swatting the opposition with crunching tackles all over the pitch like he normally does, but also venturing further forward and playing incisive passes.

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

Brentford once again dominated on the expected goals front, with an overall xG of 2.25 compared to Reading’s paltry 0.29. Joel Valencia’s goal was a rare gem – with an xG of 0.03 suggesting that only 3 in 100 similar chances end up in the back of the net.

THE FANS

Brentford

Reading

West Brom

Leeds