Brentford picked up their first win of the 2015/16 season with a victory against Bristol City in a rip-roaring six-goal thriller.
The Bees were up against it when they trailed twice in the first half, despite Alan Judge scoring inside the first ten minutes. But City’s Luke Freeman was sent off and Brentford took control. Judge set up an equaliser, put through his own net by Derrick Williams, and second half goals from Andre Gray and Philipp Hofmann gave Brentford the win.
Over the course of 90 minutes, the visitors deserved their 4-2 victory. But there was little doubt the dismissal of Freeman changed the course of the match and the last hour of the contest may have been different without it.
Brentford had the game’s first shot – within 20 seconds – from Konstantin Kerschbaumer, which was blocked but they were behind within two minutes. Luke Ayling was the architect, picking the ball up in midfield and driving forward, he picked out Jonathan Kodjia with a clever pass and the striker smashed it low past David Button from ten yards.
But Brentford roared back, Judge fired wide after a great run from deep by James Tarkowski and before eight minutes had elapsed, the game was level. Toumani Diagouraga burst through the middle of midfield and picked out the run of Gray, the shot was saved by Ben Hamer but Judge arrived to pick up the pieces, fire home and level it up.
Brentford probably had the better of the opening exchanges but the home side started to take control of the midfield as the pattern of the game was established. The teams matched up with three each in the central area and City’s men were able to get more of the ball and use their wide player, particularly left wing back Joe Bryan. The home side regularly attacked down the left, looking to get Bryan in behind the Brentford defence.
Harlee Dean made an important clearance from one low cross from that side and when another came in soon after, Button was challenged by Aden Flint and the Brentford goalkeeper, with the help of Tarkowski, was just able to get it away. Kodjia should have doubled his tally when he got on to a long ball but he poked wide under pressure from Tarkowski and Aaron Wilbraham fired wide soon after.
Brentford were under the cosh but almost edged ahead when Andy Gogia got away on the left, his low cross-cum-shot was palmed away from Gray by Hamer, Ayling cleared it off the line as it bounced towards goal and the home defence then regrouped to scramble it clear as Jake Bidwell arrived.
But City did get their lead their play deserved midway through the first half. They almost scored when Wilbraham met a Bryan cross but Button saved superbly and Freeman’s follow-up header deflected wide. But when the corner came in, Wilbraham rose highest to flick a header past Button and in to the net to restore his side’s lead.
Gray headed wide for Brentford but the visitors were hanging on a little at the other end. Bryan fired across the face of goal before Kodjia blasted an Ayling cut back over when he really should have scored. Bryan forced Button in to a save and then curled a shot over but the momentum of the game changed 33 minutes in.
After lengthy deliberation with his assistant, referee Keith Stroud sent City’s Freeman off for a dangerous high challenge on Dean. The home fans were incensed but there was little doubt Freeman’s foot was high, as it caught Dean in the head, and could therefore be deemed reckless, allowing the official to issue a red card for serious foul play.
Brentford immediately went on the front foot, Gray got closer to Hofmann and there was more space for Judge and Diagouraga. Bryan was also neutralised, forced in to a more defensive role as Gogia switched to Brentford’s right.
Gogia had a low shot blocked and nine minutes after the red card, Brentford were level. After interplay on the left, with Brentford patiently waiting for an opening, Judge delivered a cross and Williams, under pressure from Gray, diverted it past his own goalkeeper.
Gray almost got his name on the score sheet soon after when he turned well but Flint blocked his shot. However, the main focus in the later stages of the first half was Mr Stroud.
Stoppage time at the end of the first half ran to more than 12 minutes. This was partly due to lengthy treatment for Dean and partly for a facial injury to Tarkowski, seemingly caused by a Wilbraham elbow, which led to the defender being replaced by Jack O’Connell. Dean carried on but the half ended with both the defender and Mr Stroud being loudly jeered as they left the field.
The break allowed everyone to cool off a little on a warm afternoon and when the teams came back out the game had simmered down from boiling point. Brentford had the upper hand, moving the ball from side to side and looking to make use of their extra man.
City worked hard, offering a threat in attack with Kodjia, but they were visibly tiring by the time Gray put Brentford ahead for the first time. The goal came just past the hour mark, Gogia released Alan McCormack on the overlap and his cut back was smashed home by the striker from 12 yards.
The Bees could have been ahead earlier in the second period – Hamer went full stretch to save from Bidwell and Judge had a shot blocked before Gray shot well over from a tight angle and McCormack blasted high and wide after joining in with a breakaway.
Kodjia had been City’s main threat. He fired in to the side netting and then weakly shot wide after getting away from Dean and O’Connell. His best sight of goal before he was withdrawn was when Bryan got away on the left but he smashed the cut back over.
City rung the changes with 25 minutes remaining to try and get back in to the game but Brentford made it safe soon after. Gray played a ball in to Hofmann and the German striker spun and smashed a shot low past Hamer from 18 yards.
That just about sealed the game but City could have hit straight back, Kieran Agard failed to connect with a Bryan cross and Bidwell prevented Wilbraham finishing it off.
With a two-goal cushion Brentford had the game under control. They continued to push forward but did not create much to trouble Hamer. In fact most of the late chances came at the other end.
Callum Robinson fired in a shot that hit Agard after a nice run and turn and soon after O’Connell had to make a fine tackle to prevent Agard shooting, the ball was then set back to Marlon Pack but his powerful shot was palmed away by Button. Robinson then shot wide before Gray got on to a Judge pass at the other end but his shot was blocked by the home defence.
As the clock ticked past 5pm, Mr Stroud brought a crazy afternoon to a close and Brentford had done enough to start their away Sky Bet Championship season with a win.
Bristol City: Hamer; Ayling, Flint, Williams; Fredericks (sub Robinson 64 mins), Smith, Pack, Bryan; Freeman; Wilbraham (sub Burns 81 mins), Kodjia (sub Agard 64 mins)
Subs (not used): O'Leary, El-Abd, Wagstaff, Little
Bookings: Pack (6 mins)
Sent Off: Freeman (33 mins)
Brentford: Button; McCormack, Dean, Tarkowski (sub O’Connell 45 mins), Bidwell; Diagouraga, Judge, Kerschbaumer (sub Vibe 61 mins); Gray, Hofmann, Gogia
Subs (not used): Bonham, Barbet, Udumaga, Senior, Clarke
Bookings: Gogia (21 mins), Dean (24 mins)
Attendance: 14,291 (898 away fans)