Brentford 1 West Brom 0
Brentford kept alive their hopes of automatic promotion with a battling win over table-topping West Brom in their first behind-closed-doors home match of the season’s restart.
Ollie Watkins’ 23rd goal of the season was just about enough to earn the win, although some stout defending and a bit of good fortune was needed to hold on to the victory as the Baggies revived after the interval.
The win lifts the Bees into third place, five points behind Leeds and Albion in the race for a top-two finish.
And empty ground it may have been, but the enthusiasm of club officials in the directors’ box and stadium announcer Peter Gilham made it still feel special as well as potentially highly significant.
Their win will act as an added incentive to neighbours Fulham, who can make the standings even more interesting if they can return from Leeds tomorrow with a win that would boost both west London clubs.
What turned out to be the winner was a goal of perfect simplicity on 16 minutes.
Said Benrahma was the chief architect, as is so often the case. His probing pass released Josh Dasilva into space on the left edge of the penalty area and the left-sided midfielder’s low cross-shot was poked in by Ollie Watkins from close range.
The first-half lead was well merited. The Bees looked sharper and hungrier and their pressing knocked the league leaders out of their stride.
But it was a different tale after the break, as Slaven Bilic made two subs and called for greater urgency from the visitors.
One of those new arrivals, Kenneth Zohore, rattled the cross bar with a shot from the edge of the area and the lift in tempo saw Albion’s chief playmaker, Matheus Pereira, start to make a nuisance of himself. One darting run from Peirera ended with a low shot, which David Raya was well positioned to get down to and hold.
Dasilva almost doubled the lead after the second half drinks break, with a volley he sent inches wide after a fast break down the left flank involving Rico Henry and Shandon Baptiste. Not long after, Bryan Mbeumo, on after recovering from a bout of coronavirus, also fired low at keeper Sam Johnstone.
But this was a match destined to remain tense and in the balance until the very end.
It’s very much game on for the Bees, who visit Reading on Tuesday night before returning to Griffin Park to play Wigan next Saturday.
Brentford: David Raya – Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry – Marcondes (Baptiste 70), Norsgaard, Dasilva (Mokotjo 83) – Fosu-Henry (Mbeumo 70), Watkins, Benrahma. Subs not used: Valencia, Dervisoglu, Jeanvier, Daniels, Roerslev.