David Anderson breaks down the Rotherham match looking at the coaches, key players and game changers
The Big Match
In a clash of styles at the New York Stadium, The Bees came out deserved 2-4 winners in an entertaining match up to finally register their first away win of the season.
With temperatures close to freezing, the football on display from the away side was anything but.
Picking up exactly where Brentford left off in the home match v Stoke, Mokotjo ruthlessly side footed The Bees ahead in only the 2nd minute of the game. Assisted by the wizard Benrahma, it was more wing trickery to beat his man. And with a calculated cutback to the edge of the box, he teed up The General to cooly finish.
It was a sign of things to come. But beforehand, it was Rotherham that equalized with a well-taken goal. An unstoppable strike from the edge of the box into the top corner from Taylor drew Rotherham back into the game. The chance developed from a corner that was never really dealt with, and with Mokotjo not quite doing enough to win his duel on the edge of the box, it was 1-1 in a flash.
Brentford’s dominance in possession was clear and the difference in styles and how the two teams looked to use the ball were polar opposites. Going into halftime level felt just about fair with with both sides missing good chances. The feeling at the interval was that is was Frank’s side that had the extra gears needed to convert this into a win.
And so it proved after the break as more classic Bees passing ripped open the home side with 58 gone on the clock. It was the same batch of players that combined so well for Benrahma’s strike a week earlier that provided this next high.
Watkins picked up the ball centrally after a cushioned flick knockdown from Said and played a perfectly weighted ball into the path of Sawyers in the inside right hand channel. It was the recurring theme of the day with another perfect cut back, this time to Benrahma, who just like Mokotjo before him, finished so well into the bottom right hand corner to make it 2 goals in 2 games for the Frenchman and 1-2 to The Bees.
Rotherham were far more comfortable in their own skin than Stoke were the previous week. For them it’s all about the percentages and getting them to pay off. If you keep firing balls into the box, eventually you’ll out jump a defender or a ball will skim off a head and you’ll get your chance. The odds say so. And this was Rotherham’s default tactic, which they were comfortable with and it duly went on to earn them their rewards.
Another ball from the wide right position was this time flicked on at the near post onto the unsuspecting Konsa, before painfully rolling into the net for Rotherham to equalize for the second time on the day on 73 mins. 2-2
In November or early December, Brentford may have lost this one. But not in January as Thomas Frank has been given the time rebuild the confidence levels, get messages across and put his own stamp on what is now his talented group. And it was straight from the kick off, 14 passes later and without Rotherham getting near the ball, that Brentford went on to prove that confidence is riding high. Eventually finding the brilliantly advanced Rico Henry, owning the left wing back role since his return from injury, Watkins freed him as he played the ball first time into Mokotjo who rifled a low side footed shot into the net for his 2nd of the day on 75mins and Brentford’s 3rd. The General, majorly impressive once again and Brentford immediately stunning Rotherham to retake the lead.
Rotherham play to their strengths trying to maximise aerial supremacy with balls into the box as soon as they get wide, trying to exploit height advantage. It has to be acknowledged that The Millers got the most change out of Brentford’s backline since the switch to 3-4-3, but the final say was had by one of the shortest and strongest players on the pitch.
Missing 3 good chances up to this point, on 85 mins Maupay finally put this game to bed.
Canos, a sub for Benrahma, played a cross in from the left through the legs of the right back and towards a waiting Maupay. In two touches around the penalty spot, Maupay controlled and then took the ball beyond the defender and onto his own left foot to then fire home and beyond his goalkeeping nemesis, Rodak, making it 4-2.
Game, set and match as they’d say over at the Australian Open.
It was another dominant display from Brentford who ruthlessly dispatched a Rotherham side with a strong Championship record at the New York Stadium.
It’s effective football for The Millers but by no means glamorous and it was the silky Hollywood Brentford play that went about warming up this tie.
Frank’s Red army, led by The General Mokotjo continue to march on.
Head Coach Watch – Warne v Frank
Paul Warne gets Rotherham FC. Managing the club through relegation to League One and immediate promotion back into The Championship over the last couple of seasons, you see a leader that understands where his club fits in on the pecking order. Rotherham have tried to make The New York Stadium their fortress and they’re doing a good job. Not many teams will arrive in Rotherham and take 3 points, let alone score 4, (West Brom the only other side to manage that this year). So this anomaly shows they’re usually more than competitive for opposition, having already beaten Swansea and Derby on their own patch.
Paul Warne Post Match
“It was frustrating,” said Warne. “We work hard all week to get the lads to be the best they can be. We warned the lads about the first goal they got and how they play. As the first half wore on I thought we were more comfortable.
“In fairness, we should have been 3-1 up at half-time. We had unbelievable chances to score which we didn’t take.
When a team of Brentford’s confidence and ability come to town, you do begin to notice the limitations of The Millers. But Warne knows how to make his side create chances and because of their extensive work rate and ability to get the ball in the box. You feel they have just enough about them to take it to the wire and finish in that golden spot of 21st, securing Championship survival.
Prediction – 21st
Thomas Frank in winning Brentford’s first away match of the 18/19 season, has managed to achieve something Dean Smith failed to do.
Getting the first 3 points on the road is a hugely significant milestone. And with the manner of this win, after being pegged back twice, he must have now gone a long way to convince the remaining doubters that he has the ability and necessary skill set to lead this group.
It’s only an away win against a side certain to be locked in a relegation battle. But the confidence beaming throughout the side and the standard of football on show, coached by him, has led to the first back to back wins since the beginning of September 2018.
Some of the Brentford play in the final 3rd was breathtaking and Frank has clearly worked hard in training to coach the runs and get the triangles and one touch passing back into the attack.
Thomas Frank Post Match
“I don’t think we handled it (the Rotherham Pressure) as good as we have done in the last six games, where we’ve been really bang on with the defensive mindset. Is it a disaster? definitely not, but we need to do better going forward, but the offensive part of it, wow. Three of the goals were more or less like art, that was a joy to watch”
Frank was clearly happy in his post match interview and his level-headedness was really interesting. The away win was a long time coming, but you sensed he was a little disappointed in the way the Rotherham breached the defensive rearguard. He has high standards and seems to not just want this team to be exceptional going forwards but to place the same level of importance in protecting their goals against column, as well as goals for.
He deserves all the praise because we’re now seeing a spread of goals and a team frustrated to conceded, but when they do, have the confidence to go straight back and create big chances at will.
Prediction – 10th
Maupay vs The World
In this section we’ll take a look at how Maupay has performed, pitting him up against his opposite CFs and asking the question, would we swap him for any of the other strikers in this brilliant league?
Maupay had another one of his energetic matches. With two agonizingly wide efforts towards goal, his next two efforts would force a solid save from Rodak and with the next, finally find the net. His goal was arguably the most difficult to take but it’s always nice to be rewarded with your name on the score sheet even though Maupay’s game has so much more to it than just goalscoring.
It’s can’t get highlighted enough, Maupay’s hold up play is another key factor to what makes him so effective. His first touch is protective or an attempt at a first time pass and then with a low centre of gravity he’ll turn and look to get more advanced or involved in play again.
As we’ve now seen many of the forwards in The Championship this year, there can only be one or two to truly rival him as the best Centre Forward in the division.
Michael Smith managed just the one shot through an off target header and alongside that created a chance, laying the ball off for a shot on the edge of the box.
He’s used as a focal point to help Rotherham get the up the pitch and does also try to drop deep, getting involved in build up and looks to shuffle the ball out wide.
It’s tiresome work and at 6ft 4 with lots of high balls into the box, you can see why The Millers, against less possession heavy sides can cause problems.
Unfortunately again, there is no way that Brentford would look to swap what they have in Maupay for a player in the mold of Smith.
As has been the story in recent weeks, Brentford’s key man accolade could have been given to a number of players. When Mokotjo scores two, he appears to be the obvious standout choice. But Saïd Benrahma, with an assist and his second goal in as many games, has turned into a talismanic figure for The Bees and shades this one.
His dribbling, his passing, his creative play, his pressing and all in his first season has been at a consistently high level through some tough times for this side. He quickly shifted away from the tag of a player who may not get the disciplinary side of the game in England, after a sending off against Reading and a petulant, unnecessary late foul against Leeds, which lead to the equalizer at Elland Road.
Those moments seen a lifetime ago and all Benrahma now symbolizes is work rate, devastating wide play and clever linkups with Watkins and Maupay. It’s a joy to watch him in full flow and in only the 2nd minute of this match, to pick out the late arriving Mokotjo on the edge of the box for the opener, he shows he starts games with one thing on his mind.
His goal was sweetly taken and the way he joins in attacks centrally when the ball is on the opposite wing shows we have a technically gifted player on our hands.
He’s raised the bar and is now adding goals to his game. But whatever happens this year, SaId has been fantastic and has to be a real candidate for player of the season.
Canos ON – 76th Min
Now that Alan Judge has moved on this, Canos has become the primary and a much more effective substitution for Frank. Canos is miles behind Benrahma in the pecking order but far more useful out wide in his natural position than Judge – offering more balance and more ability to keep the sides attacking shape.
Canos played a lovely ball in to Maupay for his goal and Brentford’s 4th, so as sub appearances go, this is as good as it gets without scoring.
-Really good cameo
Watkins & Mokotjo OFF
Ogbene & Dasilva ON (double sub) 88th Min
A late sub, topping up the engine room and legs to see out the final minutes with Mokotjo receiving a standing ovation after another bossing performance topped off with two goals. Watkins is looking much livelier and is nearing the fitness levels we’ve taken for granted since his time at Griffin Park.
-Both subs did what they had to, saw out the game
It’s been over 280 days since the last Brentford away win so this was a welcome, sweet victory. It was well earned as Rotherham at home are a dangerous proposition. Brentford managed to grind them down in the end proving too mobile and creative for The Millers, who will pick up many more points than they’ll lose at The New York Stadium.
A fair result that sees the aggregate score over the two fixtures finish 9-3 in Brentford’s favour.
It’s another trip North, this time North London next for Brentford, as they travel to Barnet in the 4th round of the FA Cup.
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