Classic encounter: Aston Villa vs Brentford
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Aston Villa play host to manager Dean Smith’s former club Brentford at Villa Park on Saturday.

The Bees have made an impressive start to their maiden Premier League campaign, with one win and one draw in their first two matches.

Villa got off to a slow start with an opening day defeat but are coming off a fine win against Newcastle United in their last match.

Brentford have a great record against Villa. They went unbeaten against Villa during their six encounters whilst the two clubs were in the Championship together.

However, their last visit to Villa Park threw up late drama and controversy that neutrals will be hoping to see again.

Aston Villa 2-2 Brentford (August 2018)

The two teams entered this match in wildly different circumstances.

Villa were coming off the back of a hectic summer. Following a Play-Off final defeat to Fulham in May, the club was on the brink of administration. Club owner Dr. Tony Xia was forced to put the club up for sale and the club waited anxiously for a buyer. It finally arrived two weeks before the start of the season, with Steve Bruce making a trolley dash for signings.

Exciting midfielder John McGinn had made his Villa debut ten days earlier alongside goalkeeper Ørjan Nyland, while defender Axel Tuanzebe had returned for a second loan spell. On the pitch, Villa had beaten their off-field issues, being unbeaten in their first four games. However, there was still a great sense of unease surrounding unpopular manager Steve Bruce.

Brentford on the other hand had narrowly missed out on making the Play-Offs in the 2017/18 season. Manager Dean Smith was building a reputation for playing attractive football, partnered with a smart recruitment policy. There was a great sense of optimism surrounding the club as they began to push towards promotion to the top flight.

The Bees made no less than 13 signings so far, with many impressing in red and white. They included current Villa star Ezri Konsa, flying winger Said Benrahma, and Josh Dasilva, who is still at the club. Like Villa, they were unbeaten in four leading up to their clash at Villa Park.

A quick start

Brentford were able to strike the first blow at Villa Park, with current Brighton striker Neal Maupay firing home. After a neat headed pass across goal from Ollie Watkins, the French striker volleyed home a thunderous shot into the roof of the net from close range. It was Maupay’s fourth goal of the season after just five games.

Embed from Getty Images

Villa struck back just before halftime. John McGinn continued his impressive start to his Villa career by winning the ball high up the pitch to set up Jonathan Kodjia. The popular striker spun Konsa and fired a venomous shot past a despairing Brentford ‘keeper.

The controversy came just three minutes after Villa’s equaliser, however. As McGinn attempted a tackle on Maupay, the French striker kept the ball but visibly stamped on the Scotsman. As McGinn writhed on the floor in pain, Villa were left furious, but the referee insisted he missed the incident and Maupay went unpunished.

The Late Late show

From there, the game devolved into a midfield slog with neither team getting many chances. Tackles continued to fly in as the atmosphere grew ever fiercer, but still, no winning goal was in sight.

However, that changed seven minutes from time. Ollie Watkins floated a lobbed cross into the box, which seemed easy enough for Nyland to claim. However, he could only parry it into the path of Alan Hutton. Instead of the makeshift left-back clearing the ball, he was beaten to it by Maupay who fired home to sink Villa hearts.

This put Brentford in the ascendancy, with Nyland having to be on top form to stop Benrahma from making it 1-3. However, the game had one final twist left and it came courtesy of Jonathan Kodjia.

Embed from Getty Images

Villa won a free-kick deep into injury time. A cross was arrowed into the box which Brentford failed to deal with. Kodjia rose to meet it and headed home to punish Brentford’s mistake. It was the second consecutive home game where Villa salvaged a result in injury time. In their 3-2 win over Wigan Athletic a week prior, Birkir Bjarnason scored from a 94th minute diving header to secure the three points.

This result put both clubs in the top five, with Villa the lower of the two. Soon after this game, Dean Smith left Brentford to join Villa and he took both Konsa and Watkins with him.