An own goal from David Button was enough to ensure that Brentford were beaten by Sky Bet Championship leaders Middlesbrough despite dominating for long periods. The Bees started quickly against the promotion favourites and should have been ahead inside the first quarter. But they were unable to get the goal during that period or the other spells when they had control of the game. And when Button failed to make proper connection with a punch just before the hour, it bounced in to his own net to give the visitors the win.
It was a fortunate three points for the league leaders. Their goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos made a series of saves when Brentford breached a well-organised back four and for long periods they were forced back. Full backs George Friend and Emilio Nsue spent much of the game defending and the midfield pair of Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton were on the back foot more than the front. But Brentford could not break through and Middlesbrough got the break they needed to take the win.
Brentford started the game brightly. The Bees went on the front foot from the first whistle with attacking midfield trio Alan Judge, John Swift and Sam Saunders linking with striker Lasse Vibe. Middlesbrough struggled with the movement and incisive passing of those four in the opening stages and with the visitors also committing bodies forward, Brentford had space to play.
The hosts were also working hard without the ball, not giving Middlesbrough a chance to settle and two good early chances came from that pressing. First Ryan Woods won he ball in midfield and Vibe got away, he set up Judge but the shot faded wide of the far post from 18 yards. There was a better chance moments later when Vibe robbed Daniel Ayala and got away and clear on goal but he could not beat Konstantopoulos, who made himself very big and produced a fine save.
Swift also headed a Maxime Colin ball across the face of goal as Brentford took control of the opening stages but Middlesbrough came close to taking the lead when a Leadbitter chip from 25 yards clipped the top of the crossbar. Button saved a deflected shot from Adam Clayton soon after before being well positioned to hold a curling shot from David Nugent after the visitors had broken quickly.
Brentford had another great chance soon after as Harlee Dean met a Judge cross ten yards out but, under pressure from Leadbitter, he could only nod wide. It was a moment that summed up the opening exchanges, Brentford had created chances but Middlesbrough had enough defensively to prevent The Bees getting the goal their play deserved. And the visitors were starting to counter attack with menace too as Brentford made the odd mistake in possession. Clayton shot well over when Brentford scrambled away an Ayala header from a corner before a poor pass from Toumani Diagouraga set Nugent in with only Button to beat but the Brentford goalkeeper won his one-on-one battle.
Fernando Amorebieta blocked a Vibe shot when the striker got away and Konstantopoulos then pushed a Judge shot against the post and clear when a Saunders corner was half cleared. At the other end Button saved well from Cristhian Stuani after Middlesbrough had worked the ball in to the penalty area before Nugent blasted the loose ball high and wide but Brentford ended the half with the initiative. Konstantopoulos saved a curling Judge shot and then tipped a Saunders free kick over the bar at the end of the first period.
And Brentford continued to hold the upper hand after the break. Saunders had a shot blocked inside the first 30 seconds and Konstantopoulos denied Colin soon after as The Bees went in to attacking mode from the restart. Judge then had a shot saved after exchanging passes with Swift, Jake Bidwell saw a shot blocked and Konstantopoulos denied Swift soon after.
But, having been on the back foot for most of the half, Middlesbrough took the lead just before the hour mark. And it was a goal Button will want to forget. Leadbitter delivered a corner from the left, the Brentford goalkeeper went to punch but didn’t get a firm enough connection, only succeeding in knocking the ball back towards his own goal and over the line. Ayala tried to claim he had knocked it in but it was officially recorded as a Button own goal.
That left Brentford with 30 minutes to try and chase a game they had held the upper hand in. Sergi Canós was introduced, with Marco Djuricin and Philipp Hofmann following later, as The Bees put more attacking players in to the fray. Middlesbrough were happy to retreat and protect what they had, building on a defensive record that had seen them go eight matches without conceding a goal before they arrive at Griffin Park.
There were chances for The Bees. Diagouraga smashed over after Dean had headed a Judge cross down and Swift then saw a header blocked. Button saved from Albert Adomah but most of the action was at the other end. A Judge effort was saved and a Dean header deflected wide but Middlesbrough were largely repelling what Brentford had to offer. And when The Bees did get an opening they were always stopped, sometimes with foul means rather than fair. But Middlesbrough always found a way, and that gave them the points.
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Tarkowski, Bidwell; Diagouraga, Woods; Saunders (sub Canós 62 mins), Judge, Swift (sub Djuricin 73 mins); Vibe (sub Hofmann 81 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Barbet, Yennaris, McEachran
Bookings: Bidwell (76 mins) (fifth of season)
Middlesbrough: Konstantopoulos; Nsue, Ayala, Amorebieta, Friend; Leadbitter, Clayton; Stuani, Downing, Adomah (sub Forshaw 86 mins); Nugent
Subs (not used): Mejias, Kike, de Pena, Fry, Kalas, Fabbrini
Bookings: Ayala (64 mins), Stuani (82 mins), Clayton (90 mins)
Attendance: 10,312 (1,612 away fans)