Brentford retained the West London bragging rights with a comprehensive win over local rivals Fulham. The Bees made it three wins from four against The Cottagers in the past two Sky Bet Championship seasons as they beat their neighbours 3-0. Sam Saunders opened the scoring early on and Scott Hogan marked his first start for the Club, and first anywhere for almost two years, with two more. The Bees were 3-0 up at half time and although Fulham were better after the break, the game was won and Brentford had the points.
And there was no doubt the hosts deserved the win. Brentford simply seemed to want it more. Their first goal came from harassing the visitors in possession and once The Bees got ahead they grew in confidence. Hogan scored two more goals and even when Brentford were forced in to changes as an already injury-hit squad was further depleted, they held firm. With captain Harlee Dean masterful alongside Yoann Barbet, Fulham found few opportunities and never really looked like coming back in to the match.
The game could not have started better for The Bees. They scored with their first shot on goal and were two up within seven minutes as they ruthlessly exposed Fulham’s defensive frailties. Sergi Canós had already shown signs that the visitors’ back line could be got at with a nice turn and run and when Brentford won the ball back just inside the Fulham half with four minutes on the clock, they turned in to a goal as quick as a flash. The Brentford goal actually came from a Fulham attack. Nico Yennaris had misplaced a pass and a Lasse Vigen Christensen cross was cut out and as they tried to recycle it Tom Field forced them back, Hogan then snapped at the heels of Ashley Richards to win the ball and feed Canós, he spotted Saunders in space and picked out a perfect pass to enable a first time finish that was lifted over Marcus Bettinelli and in to the net.
Brentford may have been a little fortunate with the goal as Hogan appeared to catch Richards but referee Mark Hayward allowed the game to go and Brentford took advantage. The goal owed much to debutante Field. The 19-year-old was playing his first game of football at a non-age group level, having never been out on loan, and he enabled Hogan to win the ball back and set-up the goal. Fulham looked to attack on their right side a lot in the early stages, looking to frighten Field and take advantage of a Brentford team without the injured Jake Bidwell. But the teenager did not looked overawed and warmed to his task.
Brentford also warmed to their task and had a second goal within 120 seconds of their first. They won the ball in midfield and Konstantin Kerschbaumer found a pocket of space to thread a ball through a static Fulham back line, Hogan raced on to it, had the pace to stay away from Fernando Amorebieta and then fired low past Bettinelli. It was an expert finish from the Brentford striker, who marked his first start for The Bees with his fourth goal since his return from injury. He did not have to wait too long for his fifth.
That goal, Brentford’s third, came at the end of the half. Canós won a corner with a run down the right that saw him beat four men with a mixture of pace and trickery and it took a desperate clearance from Richard Stearman to prevent him setting up Hogan. That only proved to be a short reprieve for the visitors. Field delivered a corner from the right and swung it in to the six-yard box, while the Fulham defence worried about Dean and Barbet, Hogan nonchalantly volleyed it home from seven yards. That made it 3-0 for The Bees at the break and was Hogan’s last involvement, he was withdrawn at half time, still working his way back to full fitness after more than 18 months out with serious knee injuries.
Between Hogan’s goals, Fulham arguably had the upper hand. Brentford were content to let the visitors have the ball, largely sitting in and ensuring they did not make defensive mistakes. Fulham started with Ross McCormack as their lone striker and with five men in midfield. It did nothing to help their defensive play and probably weakened them as an attacking force. McCormack seemed happier dropping off the play and a chipped pass found Richards but Barbet cleared as Tom Cairney tried to get on to the header. When Field did make an error, allowing himself to be robbed by Christensen, the visitors did not make the most of it, the Dane opting to try and set up a team mate rather than shooting with David Button out of his goal.
Barbet made a fine clearance as Christensen was unable to reach a cross from McCormack, who then saw a free kick deflect wide. Canós had a shot saved before playing his part in the third goal, which gave Brentford breathing space. And they needed it as Fulham almost hit straight back. They broke Brentford’s offside trap as Cairney found McCormack, the striker only had Button to beat from the inside left channel but curled his shot against the far post and Brentford cleared as it bounced around the penalty area. The Bees could have had a fourth before the break when Kerschbaumer got in behind but his ambitious shot from a tight angle flew over.
Fulham rung the changes at the break, introducing a second striker – Moussa Dembélé – and bringing Ryan Fredericks on to play at right back. With Hogan going off, Andy Gogia came on and Canós moved in to the central attacking role. And soon after they had to withdraw Field and bring on Jack O’Connell after the debutante appeared to pick up a knock. Brentford’s half time change almost had an immediate impact as Gogia and Maxime Colin combined to put Kerschbaumer through but his low show was well saved by Bettinelli.
The second half was always likely to be more open. Fulham had to try and salvage something from the game and had a more attacking outlook. Brentford had to do without a recognised striker but had pace in their team and the confidence of a three-goal lead. Bettinelli saved a Woods shot after good work from Saunders and Kerschbaumer while Cairney saw an effort blocked at the other end. Kerschbaumer had a shot saved and Dembélé header over before McCormack wasted a great chance to reduce the arrears. The Scottish striker got in to the box on to a Cairney pass but his lifted shot clipped the crossbar and went over.
Dembélé went close soon after when he broke the offside trap but he waited too long to shoot and Barbet made a recovery tackle, when the Fulham striker then went down Mr Hayward waved away his appeals. The referee did the same later in the half as Dembélé once again tried to earn his side a spot kick from little if any contact. Bettinelli saved from Canós before Emerson Hyndman blasted well wide as the game started to open up.
With Fulham still chasing the match and Brentford counter-attacking with pace, it was an entertaining end to the contest. Bettinelli saved from Canós and the Spaniard then saw a shot blocked by Stearman after fine work on the right by substitute Josh Clarke. More fine work by Clarke saw Yennaris miss his kick 18 yards out but the ball fell to O’Connell and Bettinelli made a superb save to keep the shot out. Clarke then had a shot blocked when the corner was half cleared.
Canós came close to the goal he deserved late on when he got away from Stearman and on to a long ball, he got a toe-end of a shot away but Bettinelli got enough of a touch on the ball to keep it out. Canós had a shot blocked soon after and then another one in stoppage time before Gogia curled an effort narrowly over the bar. McCormack almost gave the away fans – numbering 1,657 at a sell-out Griffin Park – something to cheer at the death, shooting over at the near post and then forcing Button in to a low save. But that would have been scant consolation for the visitors. Instead, Button had his clean sheet, Brentford had the win and Bees fans got home victories over both West London rivals as a memento from the 2015/16 season.
Brentford: Button; Colin, Dean, Barbet, Field (sub O’Connell 53 mins); Woods, Yennaris; Canós, Kerschbaumer, Saunders (sub Clarke 77 mins); Hogan (sub Gogia h/t)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Swift, Cole, Hofmann
Bookings: Canós (51 mins) (fifth of season)
Fulham: Bettinelli; Richards (sub Frederick h/t), Stearman, Amorebieta, Ream; Parker, Ince (sub Dembélé h/t); Cairney, Christensen (sub Hyndman 65 mins), Tunnicliffe; McCormack
Subs (not used): Lonergan, Smith, O’Hara, Burn
Attendance: 12,301 (1,657 away fans)