Bees left with it all to do after slipping to Bournemouth defeat in play-off first leg
AFC Bournemouth 1
Arnaut Danjouma scored as Bournemouth eased to a 1-0 win against Brentford in the first leg of the Championship play-off semi-final.
With the Championship’s top scorer Ivan Toney subdued and Bryan Mbeumo unable repeat last month’s feat and apply the final touch from Christian Norgaard’s square pass 12 minutes from time, Brentford now have a mountain to climb on Saturday to qualify for the final at Wembley.
Having failed to reach promotion in each of their nine previous attempts through the play-offs, history is against Brentford, who haven’t played top-flight football since 1947.
On the eve of the game Jonathan Woodgate labelled it a ‘monster game’ and, in fairness to him, it was a monster start from his side.
Bournemouth, who are desperate to bounce back to the promised land at the first time of asking, started with vigour while Brentford were simply not on the same page. The Cherries were quick, aggressive, incisive, expansive and fleet-footed. They ticked every box and were everything the visitors were not.
The return of the fans appeared to have a galvanising effect on the deflated Cherries who were on the back of three consecutive defeats without scoring, although there may have been a reason for that. With a place in the top-six already secured, they eased up.
By contrast, Thomas Frank’s 12-game unbeaten Bees were unable to raise their game in the first period and find a way through later in the game.
Brentford had to work very hard to get any kind of territory, and struggled to fashion any opportunities but at least they weathered the storm at the back as Bournemouth spurned chance after chance. First through Philip Billing, who scuffed a shot from 12 yards out from right-back Adam Smith’s cut-back. A minute earlier Jefferson Lerma had seen a thumping effort miss the target. Then Dominic Solanke of all people fired a header against the post from point-blank range following from Danjuma’s cross.
In the 23rd minute Billing was lurking in the six-yard box and ready to tuck away the Dutchman’s cross but Pontus Jansson, who had seen red when the two sides last met little over three weeks ago, sniffed the danger.
With four minutes to go before the break, skipper Steve Cook directed a free thumping header into the far corner but Brentford goalkeeper David Raya plunged to his left two thwart the effort before he got straight back up on his feet to repel Smith’s rebound.
In the first period, Bournemouth did everything but score while the Bees were way off the pace and struggled to gain any foothold in the game. The West Londoners only registered two half-chances through Spanish midfielder Sergi Canos, who enjoys nothing more than flaunting his potent left foot with attempts from distance. But his two attempts were deflected wide.
In any case with Bournemouth’s player of the year Asmir Begovic in the form of his life and alert, it’s highly unlikely that they would have found the back of the net.
Just before half-time captain Cook had to come off with an injury.
After 55 minutes, Brentford were eventually exposed when David Brooks cut inside to slip the ball through for Danjuma. With only Raya to beat, the two-time capped Dutch international made no mistake and clinically slotted a low shot into the far corner with his right foot.
Brentford began to pose a threat of their own. Either side of Arnaut’s exquisite opener, Norgaard flashed a spectacular overhead kick over the crossbar before Mathias Jensen hit the side-netting. But the Bees lacked their usual fluency and attacking impetus as Toney was kept quiet and failed to score in his third attempt against the Cherries.
In the 78th minute Mbeumo wasted Brentford’s best chance of an equaliser when he slid wide with the goal gaping after Norgaard had squared the ball across the six-yard box.
Brentford were indebted to Raya for the damage limitation with the Spaniard pushing away Danjouma’s powerful free-kick in the 84th minute.
But who saw that coming? The odds were stacked against Bournemouth as Brentford saw them off home and away during the regular season. But then, they also defeated Fulham twice last year.
An immediate reaction and upturn in performance are required if the Bees want to buck the trend and end the play-off hoodoo.
AFC BOURNEMOUTH 4-2-3-1
1 ASMIR BEGOVIC- 15 ADAM SMITH- 18 CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS- 3 STEVE COOK – 5 LLOYD KELLY-8 JEFFERSON LERMA- 22 BEN PEARSON-7 DAVID BROOKS- 29 PHILIP BILLING-10 ARNAUT DANJUMA- 9 DOMINIC SOLANKE
1 DAVID RAYA- 5 ETHAN PINNOCK- 6 CHRISTIAN NORGAARD-18 PONTUS JANSSON- 7 SERGI CANOS- 27 VITALY JANELT- 8 MATHIAS JANSEN-30 MADS ROERSLEV- 24 TARIQE FOSU-17 IVAN TONEY- 15 MARCUS FORSS