Brentford 2-1 Watford: Hornets stung at the death by late penalty
Mbeumo scored the winner for Brentford from the penalty spot

A last minute penalty by Bryan Mbeumo won it for Brentford as the Bees came from behind to defeat a desperate looking Watford.

Story of the match

With Brentford heading backwards in the Premier league after just one won in eight, the Bees welcomed 17th placed Watford to West London in what looked like an early relegation six-pointer.

After conceding in the final minute away to Leeds United five days ago, Brentford manager, Thomas Frank was cursing his luck once more ahead of kick-off as top scorer Ivan Toney missed out along with ever-present Ethan Pinnock and Sergi Canós, as Yoane Wissa and Mathias Jensen came into the starting line-up.

Watford travelled south just three points above the relegation places after a torrid run of fixtures against those in and around the Champions League places and a growing injury list.

Already without Ismaila Sarr, Adam Masina, Francisco Sierralta and Nicolas Nkoulou, Claudio Ranieri made three changes to the starting eleven from last week’s defeat to Manchester City. Out came Imran Louza, João Pedro and Danny Rose as Jeremy Ngakia, Cucho Hernandez and Juraj Kucka came into the familiar 4-2-3-1 formation.

Buoyed by a spectacular light display ahead of kick-off and a boisterous sell-out crowd, Brentford started the fastest.

In the third minute, Shandon Baptiste struck a fierce volley from the edge of the box that forced Daniel Bachmann into a finger-tip diving save to tip it over for a corner.

The Bees continued to test the Watford defence in the early stages as they moved the ball quickly and dominated possession but Watford’s organised defence was holding strong.

Just as Watford were starting to enjoy some respite in the opposition’s half, however, Brentford countered and thought they had finally pierced the Watford defence in the 21st minute.

Bryan Mbeumo ran onto a long through ball and cut inside on to his left foot before unleashing a wonderfully curling effort destined for Bachmann’s top right corner but the Watford goalkeeper was equal to it once more to tip it over for a corner.

Watford finally created their first chance two minutes later as Joshua King tried his luck from the edge of the box. King was calmness personified as he tried to pass the ball into the bottom corner but saw his effort rebound off the post and cleared for a corner.

Less than a minute later the visitors took the lead from the resultant set-piece.

Tom Cleverley’s corner was pin-point as an unmarked Emmanuel Dennis attacked the six yard box and got above Jensen to head past Alvaro Fernández for his fourth goal in five games and seventh for the Premier League campaign.

Brentford were not to be deterred and continued to enjoy the lion’s share of the ball and create chances.

In the 41st minute, an impressive drilled long-ball from Christian Nørgaard found its target, Mbeumo who set through Yoane Wissa but Kiko Femenia was alert to the danger and made a last minute interception.

A minute later and Brentford again went close as Charlie Goode headed over a corner from five yard out as the Bees continued to push for an equaliser but Watford held on another couple of minutes to lead at the half-time break.

The second half failed to live up to the fast start of the first and it wasn’t until the hour mark that the first opening was created.

A tantalising cross into the Watford box looked destined to be headed in by Mbeumo but Troost-Ekong prevented a certain goal with a glancing header under pressure.

Watford were aggrieved ten minutes later as they thought they were through on goal through Moussa Sissoko.

Substitute Pedro played a well-weighted through-ball to Sissoko but the Watford midfielder was cynically brought down by Pontus Jansson who duly received a yellow card for his efforts.

As the game ticked over into the final 15 minutes, Brentford threw caution to the wind as the game opened up.

First, Vitaly Janelt drew a point-blank save from Bachmann and then Watford went close on the counter-attack.

Dennis played King through on goal one-on-one with Fernández but the Watford striker placed his effort straight into the arms of the Brentford goalkeeper as a golden opportunity went begging for the Hornets.

With Watford continuing to threaten to extend their lead, Brentford finally broke Watford’s resolve with just five minutes left on the clock.

Watford failed to clear a Brentford corner which allowed Janelt a second attempt to cross the ball in. This time it was met by substitute, Marcus Forss who flicked the ball into the path of Jansson at the back post, played on by Femenia.

The Brentford captain made no mistake from two yards out and even a prolonged VAR review was not ruling the equaliser out.

Brentford, however, were not done yet and sensed victory was within their grasp.

The Bees had to wait until the last minute for their chance as Troost-Ekong, so disciplined all game, had a momentary lapse and brought down substitute Saman Ghoddos with a lazy tackle.

Michael Oliver had the easiest decision to make all night as he pointed to the spot and Mbeumo made no mistake from the penalty spot, leaving Watford pointless and staring the relegation zone in the face.

 

Takeaways from the match

Strength in depth

For the majority of the 90 minutes, Craig Cathcart and William Troost-Ekong were up against it.

With speed and age on the side of their attacking opposition, the Watford centre-backs gave themselves a couple of extra yards and it paid dividends.

Ranieri catered to his players and asked his defence to sit deeper, with more support from midfield.

The move invited Brentford onto Watford, thereby giving up territory but the move proved astute as it opened up more counter-attacking opportunities for the Hornets whilst increasing their resilience in defence.

Sissoko, Kucka and Tom Cleverley formed a resolute trio in midfield and ably supported the Watford rearguard but it was the Watford centre-backs that stole the show with a rare disciplined display in front of Bachmann who also made a couple of spectacular saves.

Troost-Ekong’s aerial intervention in the 60th minute was a particular highlight as he showed his strength and technical ability to get ahead of Mbeumo and keep the Hornets ahead. Unfortunately it wasn't to be enough as Watford let their clean sheet and lead slip to a determined Brentford side.

 

Battling away

After recent battling defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City in recent weeks, Claudio Ranieri’s side were looking to turn good performances into points ahead of a difficult festive period.

This was not necessarily the performance Ranieri would have wanted but it was another battling display by the Hornets in a difficult environment.

Brentford enjoyed 64% possession over the 90 minutes, manufacturing 13 efforts on goal to Watford’s six.

The Hornets were second best for much of the night but looked to be holding out for a much-needed clean sheet and three points. However, Watford’s defensive frailties shone through once more as they succumbed to their 11th defeat of the season.

 

Stand-out player

William Troost-Ekong

For moments in this game, it looked like Watford might, might just beg, borrow and steal their first clean sheet of the season, it wasn’t to be but it wasn’t through lack of trying.

Troost-Ekong, so often the thorn in Watford’s defensive side this season, was heroic in defence with numerous last ditch interventions.

Unfortunately for Troost-Ekong, it wasn’t to be the happy result he would have been hoping for, however, as he went from hero to zero in a matter of moments with a lazy challenge that proved the difference as Brentford took all three points.

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