Brentford (2), Aston Villa (1) – Villa Dominate but Brentford Steal a Win

Our Villans started brightly at Brentford’s Community Stadium last Sunday and deservedly took the lead and dominated almost the entirety of the first half before losing their focus in the 43rd minute.  For a few seconds before the halftime break, Steven Gerrard’s boys allowed Brentford the time to create a half-chance and the home team took full advantage.   The Bees equalized and we immediately lost our grip on the game.  Sure enough, we still had more of the play in the second half, but our forwards looked increasingly less dangerous and our defense, less secure.  Just as it seemed as if we were going to accept a point, the home team found a spark and two late chances yielded two great saves by Emi Martinez.  The second save resulted in the shooter having a second bite of the cherry and he made no mistake dispatching the rebound.

What a surprise considering the opening.  From the kickoff, it looked like Villa were prepared to dominate the game, even without Watkins and Mings.  Our backline had little to do as our midfielders and our fullbacks were faster and more robust than their opponents.  Cash’s speed won him a freekick in the 4th minute and he appeared ready to penetrate down the right wing at any moment there was an opportunity.

Buendia was alert when the Bees’ goalie passed into an area where two of his defenders were not particularly alert and the Argentinian, astutely, was on it.  The Bees defense responded before Buendia could find a teammate to pass to and the opportunity passed.  Then McGinn, who had won back possession a couple of times, showed his eye for goal, volleying a bouncing ball from just outside the penalty area that was not too far of the mark.  That was on in the 10th minute.

Two minutes later, Buendia, again gained possession in a dangerous area, and slid a pass to Ings as he was running at the center back, Jansson.  Ings, cushioned the ball on his left foot and cut across the Swede.  The move gave Ings a yard to line up a shot to the goalie’s left corner, only for the left back, Bech, to  anticipate well and slide behind his teammate to block at the expense of a corner.

A few minutes later the Villa threatened again and this time they made it pay.  A move that started at the back, from Cash to Konsa was forwarded to Ramsey, on the left.  He quickly fed the ball to Buendia on the edge of the Brentford penalty area, as he was moving away from the Bees’ goal.  No problem, he executed a give and go with Douglas Luiz.  Nørgaard saw a chance to nick the ball off Buendia using his superior size.  When Villa’s other Emi saw this tall Dane approaching, he dragged the ball back and pirouetted in the opposite direction.

In one classy move, Buendia lost his marker and was heading towards the area.  Ings immediately raced into the box in the inside left channel and Buendia slid the perfect pass to Jansson’s right.  It was firm enough the center back could not intercept, and accurate enough that it arrived at Ings’s left foot, in stride.  All the years of experience as a top-class striker made for a flawless finish: a left-footed first-touch shot, directed across the keeper and into the far corner, barely 6” inside the post.  It was not that hard a shot, but it did not have to be.

Fernández dove, but could not get down fast enough, or close enough, to have a chance.  Villa were on the board, and fully deserved.  Brentford 0, Aston Villa 1 in the 16th minute.

A couple of minutes later, Konsa met a Luiz corner at the far post and smashed a header into Pinnock’s face.  Then Ramsey showed his grit out-fighting Nørgaard for the ball in midfield and forcing the Dane to foul him lest he break up-field.  A sloppy pass by Hause back to his goalie that went out for a corner was the only blemish on Villa’s part.

An excellent series of passes, Cash to Traore, down the right wing to Ings running into the space, then pulled back for McGinn gave the Scot plenty of time to set himself for a left-footed blast that he rushed a little, putting the shot over the bar.

As the first half progressed our Villa seemed to run out of ideas as Brentford maintained their composure.  Still, the home side’s first goal seemed a surprise to everyone, with the possible exception of goal-scorer Yoane Wissa.

The move started at the back and followed a familiar pattern: out to the wing back, Roerslev, on the right just inside Villa’s half.  When Ramsey moved in, the young Copenhagen passed inside to Jensen, well-covered by Targett.  Still, he had enough room to turn with the ball and slide a pass down the wing.  Ramsey was caught a step behind Roerslev who immediately slipped the ball inside to Wissa who had made himself available at the edge of the penalty area.  The Congolese/French player’s first touch appeared to let the ball get away from the player, but it worked out well because it gave him an extra yard inside of his marker, Hause, who was caught flat-footed.

Konsa came over from Hause’s right and, seeing Wissa shape to shoot, set himself to block access to Martinez’s righthand post.  Wissa took advantage to use Konsa as his screen to curve a powerful shot, with the inside of his left foot, around and into the far corner of the net.  Even if he was not unsighted by his defender, the shot would have been difficult for Martinez to reach.  As it was, Emi did not get close to saving it.  An excellent effort for the home side by Wissa. Brentford 1, Aston Villa 1 in the 43rd minute.

Both sides seemed distracted by the goal and the play heading into the break was disjointed. Undoubtedly, Gerrard was going to have the more difficult time motivating his team.  They had outplayed their opponents, had more possession, and more opportunities while the home team had one chance, yet the game was tied.

When the Bees eventually came out to start the second half, our Villans had their composure back.  They were controlling the game and, when Buendia coasted inside from the leftwing with the ball on his right foot they let him look up a couple of time before shooting.  The effort was inches wide of Fernández far post and a couple of feet off the turf.  The goalie scurried in that direction but would never have reached the ball if it had curved more.

Then, between Brentford losing a couple of players to injury (Canós and Jensen), Villa had their best opportunity to seal the win in the game. 

Traoré did his best to penetrate down the right wing, but was well defended, and, instead, found Luiz, in support, in the inside-right channel.  As the defense moved out to set an offside trap, Targett, and Ramsey were ready.  Both started level with at the 18-yard line for the Brazilian’s perfectly executed left-footed cross that arrived on Targett’s foot open on the left.  The fullback could see Ramsey cutting through the Bees’ defense arriving level with him at the 6-yard box and clear of defenders.

Matt’s body shape was good, and he set himself for the redirect with the inside of his left foot.  For Ramsey, this should have been a tap-in.  This was a play that Targett must have done a thousand times in training and games and nailed over 90% of the time.  This time, he didn’t.  His pass went straight into the welcoming arms of Fernández, and Ramsey found himself in the back of the net and not the ball.  Gerrard’s body-language was telling.  He spun away and doubled over with disbelief.  “How could he?” emanated from the gaffer and every Villa fan.  It was no surprise that days later, the club’s interest in buying Lucas Digne turned into a reality. 

That chance was in the 62nd minute and it should have been the goal that decided the game with the Bees still having not registered their second shot on Martinez.  Gerrard would have had more to rue ten minutes later.  First, Traore received a pass from John McGinn who had intercepted a poorly placed Brentford freekick only for the Burkinabé to attempt to dribble through three red and white shirts.  He lost the ball and, seconds later, the home side had manufactured a half-chance that, fortunately for us, they turned into a cross that Martinez plucked out of the air. 

The goalie then rolled the ball to Morgan Sanson, who had come on for Ramsey. Sanson passed to Buendia who had come back to receive a pass. For once, the other Emi showed too much of the ball to Pinnock who was able to poke it forward to an alert Toney who, in turn, found Onyeka with a slick backheel.  The Nigerian international had been a spectator for most of the game but showed why he commanded an $11 million price-tag by sidestepping a tackle and side-footing an excellent strike that skimmed across the wet turf.  Martinez was ready and flew his considerable frame to his left and got fingertips to the ball, enough to deflect it onto the post and out for a corner.  That was in 76th minute.

Our Villans appeared to have woken up a couple of minutes later.  First, Buendia came back to compete with a much taller opponent (Nørgaard) and got their first to head on to Sanson who was immediately away to the races.  Toney, sensing danger, took Morgan’s legs from under him at the expense of a yellow card.  Buendia, meanwhile, needed treatment for an injury caused by Nørgaard hanging onto Emi’s arm as they came down.

Gerrard took advantage of the break to substitute Trézéguet for Traoré who had been as effective as one might expect given his long injury absence and lack of game-time.  Trézéguet, of course, came with the same circumstances. That was in the 80th minute. 

Still looking for the winner, another excellent pass from Luiz, fully 50 yards picked out Cash racing down the right wing.  Our Polish international trapped the pass perfectly and he easily avoided a clumsy tackle by Ghoddos that resulted in a freekick for our Villans in a good location.  McGinn’s curving cross was met by Ings at the near post, but his header lacked pace and direction and it went straight to the goalie.

With Villa still looking like the more likely to score, the Bees managed to gain possession down their left wing and passed inside to Baptiste on the edge of the area.  The substitute’s first-time half-hearted shot rebounded off Hause right back to him.  This time the Grenadian showed composure noticing Roerslev had joined the fray and had made himself available on the right.  The Dane ran onto the pass and laced it with his right foot, but Martinez was able to get in front and block the shot.

With Targett and Hause both having slid to block the first shot, Roerslev was the only one standing and able to reach the rebound which he did with some venom, blasting the ball into the far corner of the net with his left foot.  Emi had no chance. Brentford 2, Aston Villa 1 in the 83rd minute.

Our Villans to their credit showed resilience and patience as they attempted to salvage a point, and it almost paid off.  With Luiz playing as the pivot, they worked the ball across the field in front of Brentford’s packed defense.  Eventually, McGinn saw the opportunity and he one-touched a scooped-pass into the penalty between two defenders and onto the feet of Ings as he went one-on-one with Fernández.  The tight space, Jansson leaning against him, and a spinning ball limited his control, and his shot was too close to the goalie.  An instinctive foot deflected the ball wide of the post.

Villa were not done, with an excellent Buendia bouncing header towards Fernández’s left post requiring a diving push around the post.  Then, to add insult to the injury of the loss, McGinn was given a harsh yellow card for pushing Toney off the ball as John rushed to take a freekick, having the effect of banishing our most energetic player from the Manchester United Premier League game.

This was not what Gerrard, or anyone, was looking for on his comeback from a bout with COVID.  The good news is that the team has the resilience and resources to put this behind game behind them and to reach their goals.

Brentford: Fernández; Pinnock, Jansson, Bech; Roerslev, Onyeka (sub Janelt 80 mins), Nørgaard, Jensen (sub Baptiste 61 mins), Canós (sub Ghoddos 54 mins); Toney, Wissa

Subs (not used): Cox, Stevens, Thompson, Bidstrup, Ajer, Forss

Bookings: Nørgaard (31 mins), Toney (77 mins)

Aston Villa: Martínez; Cash, Konsa, Hause, Targett; Douglas Luiz, McGinn; Traoré (sub Trézéguet 79 mins), Buendía, Ramsey (sub Sanson 69 mins); Ings

Subs (not used): Steer, El Ghazi, Philogene-Bidace, Chukwuemeka, Archer, Iroegbunam, Feeney

Bookings: Ramsey (30 mins), McGinn (89 mins)

Attendance: 16,876 (1,672 away fans)

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