A second half goal from Lasse Vibe was not enough to prevent Brentford from slipping to defeat against Middlesbrough. The Bees had chances to get something from their trip to the Riverside Stadium and were level at 1-1 early in the second half. But the home side struck twice in the final quarter to take the points.
The hosts probably deserved the win due to the quality of their finishing but there was lots to like about Brentford’s performance. They had a solid midfield base, provided by Toumani Diagouraga and Alan McCormack, and the attacking triumvirate of Vibe, Alan Judge and Marco Djuricin linked well. But Middlesbrough were able to introduce Albert Adomah on the hour and the Ghana international scored one and made one to ensure his team got the win.
Brentford’s injury problems deepened in the build-up to the match with James Tarkowski and Philipp Hofmann picking up knocks in the draw at Leeds United on Saturday. That meant The Bees could only name six substitutes, two of which were goalkeepers, but with Yoann Barbet coming in to the defence and performing admirably, the visitors still had a strong base.
Middlesbrough had much of the ball in the early stages, using full backs Emilio Nsue and George Friend to supplement their attack. Nsue set up an early chance that David Nugent spurned and the right back then recovered a Stuart Downing cross that Cristhian Stuani then curled across the face of goal.
David Button saved from Nugent soon after but Brentford had a firm base and were starting to build attacks from it. Djuricin got on to a Jake Bidwell pass and fired in to the near post and a looping Harlee Dean header was saved by Dimitrios Konstantopoulos. The Bees were having a good spell and Judge and Vibe combined to set up Konstantin Kerschbaumer for a shooting opportunity that Daniel Ayala snuffed out.
Barbet fired over from a cleverly worked corner as Brentford pressed and there was nearly a chance for McCormack after good work involving Kerschbaumer and Judge but the ball would not fall right. Vibe shot over the bar and a Judge shot was saved as The Bees continued to hold the upper hand but a slight tactical change from Middlesbrough, dropping Diego Fabbrini slightly deeper, saw them take control.
The home side began to build momentum, playing in Brentford territory and winning set pieces. Downing curled a free kick wide and ten minutes before half time they took the lead. Nsue recycled a deep cross from the left and found Fabbrini in space, he was able to deliver a low ball and Stuani diverted it in off the far post. Brentford tried to respond and McCormack fired over but the home side had control and pressed as half time approached. Nsue saw a shot blocked and Nugent had a goal ruled out for offside before Downing fired over.
Despite the pressure, Brentford could have been level before the break. Maxime Colin was the architect with a fine run from deep, he picked up a ricochet and fed Djuricin but the Austrian striker fired wide on the turn from eight yards when he would have expected to score. At the other end Dean made a fine block to prevent Fabbrini scoring and Ayala headed over in the dying seconds of the first half.
Dean headed narrowly over at the other end in the opening moments of the second period and four minutes after the break Brentford were level. It came in scarcely credible circumstances as, following an attack breaking down, the ball cannoned towards Konstantopoulos off a Middlesbrough defender, inexplicably the goalkeeper controlled it rather than picking it up, failed to get it under his spell and allowed it to roll far enough away for Vibe to nip in and poke home. Konstantopoulos may have felt it was a back pass but would surely have been allowed to pick it up by referee Graham Salisbury. Brentford were not complaining and had something to build on.
It could have got even better for The Bees moments later when Kerschbaumer picked out the run of Judge, the Irishman went for the lob as Konstantopoulos dithered but lifted his effort on to the roof of the net with the goalkeeper stranded. Middlesbrough, however, responded well to Brentford’s goal and Stuani should have scored when he turned a Friend free kick over from close range. And with the introduction of Adomah on the hour, they had an extra burst of pace on the right. The hosts constantly doubled up on that side with Nsue pushing forward and chances started to come.
Nugent fired over the bar and then saw a header blocked before Downing curled an effort over when well-placed. A Judge shot was saved but Middlesbrough were building momentum. And with 20 minutes remaining, they grabbed the lead again. After creating an overload on the right, Adomah delivered a cross that Stuani turned home from close range. Button was left stranded and the home striker couldn’t miss, lashing in from inside the six-yard box.
That lead should, however, have only lasted seconds. Vibe found space on the left and delivered a cross that Djuricin met on the volley five yards out but he lashed it high and wide rather than levelling again. Kerschbaumer should have scored moments later when he had only Konstantopoulos to beat after latching on to a Judge pass but the big goalkeeper redeemed himself with a fine save and Vibe’s follow-up hit Djuricin.
Konstantopoulos saved from Djuricin soon after as Brentford fought for an equaliser but their task became almost impossible with 13 minutes left. Nugent was the creator this time, he ran from deep and waited until the last second before slipping Adomah in to lash a shot high past Button and in to the net.
The Bees refused to lie down and continued to push forward but Middlesbrough were now able to sit and counter attack. Adam Clayton almost scored when he burst forward and in to the box but Dean threw his body at the ball and made a vital block. Friend headed wide before a Clayton shot was blocked and Nugent fired high and wide.
Brentford could have pulled a goal back late on when Kerschbaumer saw a shot blocked and Judge lashed over but there was no way through. When Mr Salisbury brought proceedings to a close Middlesbrough had the points but Brentford had plenty of positives to take with three home games to come before the end of the month.
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Ayala, Amorebieta, Friend; Stuani (sub Forshaw 79 mins), Clayton, Leadbitter, Downing; Fabbrini (sub Adomah 60 mins), Nugent (sub Kike 88 mins)
Subs (not used): Mejias, De Pena, Stephens, Kalas
Bookings: Stuani (31 mins), Nugent (38 mins), Amorebieta (47 mins)
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Bidwell; McCormack (sub Woods 90 mins), Diagouraga; Vibe, Kerschbaumer, Judge; Djuricin (sub Udumaga 78 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Smith, O’Connell, Canós
Bookings: Judge (57 mins) (second of season), Colin (80 mins) (second of season), Barbet (87 mins)
Attendance: 20,138 (149 Bees fans)