Report: Brentford 2-2 Bristol City
Tuesday, August 15th 2017
Bobby Reid struck in the last of eight added minutes to salvage a point for City in a dramatic finale at Griffin Park.
City looked set to endure a painful sense of déjà vu after seeing an early lead overturned on the road for the second time in four days.
Having scored in the opening minute at Birmingham on Saturday, City took only a handful of minutes to get off the mark in West London through Josh Brownhill’s low strike.
But, unlike at St Andrew’s where they bossed the opening period, Lee Johnson’s men were soon pinned back by their hosts and stood firm to reach half-time still in front.
The outstanding Frank Fielding was finally beaten by Ollie Watkins’ 56th-minute header before substitute Neal Maupay thought he had won the game with 13 minutes left.
CITY STRIKE EARLY AGAIN
Johnson shuffled his pack for the first time in this season’s Sky Bet Championship, handing a second league debut in a City shirt to Nathan Baker, who replaced Jens Hegeler in central defence in an otherwise unchanged squad.
Reid’s opener 16 minutes into the new campaign is still the longest it has taken for City to break down any of their three previous opponents in all competitions.
The trend continued at Griffin Park as Brownhill found the bottom corner with a crisp finish just five minutes in.
It owed much to the perseverance of Reid, who went the extra mile to close down defender Yoann Barbet before the ball fell kindly to Famara Diédhiou. When his attempted shot was blocked, the ball ran loose for Brownhill to score with a fizzing low shot from 18 yards.
Brentford responded through talented winger Jota, who typically cut inside on to his left foot and let fly only to be denied by the sprawling Fielding.
The home fans were being outsung by the sold-out away end but did find their voice when Watkins claimed a penalty after 28 minutes.
Admittedly Korey Smith took a risk in tackling from behind in the box, but the midfielder stayed on his feet and got a toe to the ball as Watkins fell theatrically to no avail.
CITY WITHSTAND HEAVY PRESSURE
The Bees were rediscovering their sting. Fielding was forced to make another low stop from Jota, before Romaine Sawyers teed himself up to hit a brilliant volley that had the City keeper at full stretch.
Suddenly City were hanging on; Maxime Colin’s pass took Eros Pisano out of the game in finding Watkins, whose square ball should have been finished by Lasse Vibe but his snapshot was too close to Fielding.
Watkins, making his first Championship start, was involved again when he combined with Sawyers before picking out Henrik Dalsgaard with a deep cross.
The onrushing Dane attacked the ball at pace with a downward header but again Fielding was equal to it, before Dalsgaard’s follow-up clipped the outside of the post – possibly via the keeper’s fingertips, but a goal kick was awarded.
WATKINS BREAKS CITY RESISTANCE
City did very well to weather the storm but ironically conceded after Brentford’s heavy pressure had subsided 11 minutes into the second half.
Again the tricky Jota vacated his right touchline, drifting infield to curl in a tempting cross gleefully headed home by Watkins at the far post as Fielding was finally beaten.
Having worked so hard for so long to get back on level terms, the Bees were nearly hit by a sucker punch soon after when Marlon Pack’s long diagonal pass was brilliantly collected by Brownhill, who ducked inside Colin but hit a rather tame shot on his left foot easily dealt with by Daniel Bentley.
Then City were almost undone by a carbon copy of the first goal when Jota again crossed from the right, but late arrival Vibe was too unselfish in heading back across goal from a scoring position.
City were living dangerously again when Watkins’ heavy touch on the edge of the box was pounced on by Jota, whose first-time shot produced arguably Fielding’s best save yet as he dived to his right and pushed it around his post.
Both bosses turned to the bench for the first time with 18 minutes left; Dean Smith threw on Frenchman Maupay in place of Vibe, while Johnson introduced Gary O’Neil and Callum O’Dowda for Brownhill and Diédhiou.
MAUPAY GOAL SPARKS LATE SIEGE
Perhaps it was a sign that City were content with their point, but parity was lost five minutes later when Maupay made an immediate impact, reacting quickest after a coming together on the edge of the penalty area to dispatch the loose ball with a precise shot into the top corner from 20 yards.
With time running out, Johnson’s final throw of the dice was to bring on 18-year-old Freddie Hinds, who latched on to O’Dowda’s through ball but found the angle too tight to add to his debut goal against Plymouth Argyle in the Carabao Cup a week ago.
That was in the first of eight added minutes due to an injury to Brentford’s Josh McEachran, who left the field on a stretcher, so there was still time for more late drama.
When Bentley rushed from his goal line and scuffed his clearance, O’Dowda must have thought he had snatched a point with a first-time lob from 40 yards that was sailing in until Barbet got just enough of a touch on his header to steer the ball off target.
But City kept coming. Baker’s vicious shot was turned away by Bentley, before Joe Bryan’s cross sparked pinball in the Brentford box and Reid pounced to find the bottom corner from six yards.