Late Mbeumo strike sinks Cherries as Bees secure play-off place
By Alessandro Schiavone at The Vitality Stadium
Brentford needed a win to be mathematically assured of a place in the play-off semi-final and they did just that after seeing off high-flying Bournemouth 1-0 at the Vitality Stadium for the first time since April 2009 thanks to a 78th -minute goal from substitute Bryan Mbeumo.
The Frenchman, who was a surprise exclusion from the starting line-up, hit the ground running four minutes after coming on when he converted Ivan Toney’s rebound after the outstanding Asmir Begovic had thwarted the effort into his path.
The win lifts the Bees up to third in the table as they bounced back from consecutive draws to remain unbeaten in their last nine league outings although they have won only three of those.
Thomas Frank’s enterprising men were made to work very hard for their three points as they squandered a string of clear-cut chances in the opening stages, mainly through the Championship’s leader scorer Toney who got himself into great positions but couldn’t finish on three occasions.
Toney, who is reportedly on Arsenal and West Ham’s radar, made amends for his first-half errors and was at the heart of Mbeumo’s opener as Jonathan Woodgate and his Cherries’ seven-game victorious run came to a halt.
Brentford’s 1-1 home draw with Cardiff coupled with Watford’s unlikely win at promoted Norwich all but put paid to their hopes of automatic promotion but the Bees showed attacking intent and a willingness to take momentum and belief into the play-offs from the outset.
Centre-back Ethan Pinnock, who spoke out against racism this week, rose unmarked to meet Mathias Jensen’s cross but flicked his towering header wide before Spaniard Sergi Canos sent a right-footed effort over the crossbar from distance.
Brentford’s early dominance nearly prompted a riposte from the home side when former Arsenal star Jack Wilshere won the ball back in midfield and cut the hosts’ three-man defence open with a through ball to Dominic Solanke on the left. The former Liverpool striker perfectly teed up the unmarked Junior Stanislav, but with only goalkeeper David Raya to get the better of, he lost lost his footing and slipped.
On 13 minutes stalwart and skipper Steve Cook cleared Sergi Canos’ effort off the line as Brentford laid siege to the hosts’ goal with Mathias Jensen drawing a low one-handed save from Begovic minutes later.
Toney then had the chance to score his 30th league goal of the campaign when through on goal but fluffed his lines as former Chelsea deputy goalkeeper Asmir Begovic managed to keep the tame effort, which squeezed through his legs, out.
Wilshere looked unplayable in the first half as he pulled the strings for Bournemouth, dictating tempo with his vision and guile while breaking up Brentford’s play at the same time with his intelligent tackles and tactical cleverness.
After the hour-mark, Spanish midfielder Canos saw a curling effort from distance deflected before he came to his side’s rescue at the other end two minutes later with a last-gasp sliding interception to deny Solanke a free shot and potentially the opener.
Wilshere nearly undid all of his excellent work when he was dispossessed by Marcus Forss with the Finn setting up Toney who dragged a low effort wide from a tight angle after spinning away from Steve Cook.
Brentford pushed Bournemouth onto the backfoot but their lack of quality in the penalty area meant the scoreline was still goalless at the interval. Skipper Cook, who turned 30 two weeks ago, marshalled the Cherries’ backline with his experience, positional sense and tenacity as Woodgate’s tired players' best route to goal was to expose Brentford’s high three-man defensive unit on the break.
In the early stages of the second-half, Canos picked up where he left off as he got his shot away from around 20 yards out. The right idea but wrong execution as the shot went wide. Minutes later, the Spaniard's woes were compouned when he had to make way for defender Charlie Goode who came on to replace Pontus Jansson who was sent off after picking up a second yellow card following a foul on Arnaut Danjuma.
Despite being a man down, momentum did not swing Bournemouth’s way as the upbeat Bees still fancied their chances and pushed hard for a winner.
Ten-man Bournemouth started to move the ball better but their uninspired midfielders could not provide the service Solanke and Danjuma required as Brentford looked watertight at the back in the second-half while still carrying a threating going forward.
After the 60 minutes, Cook made a hash of clearing his lines as Marcus Forss intercepted a poor headed back-pass towards Begovic but with the Bosnian stopper running off his line and narrowing the angle, the Finland international failed to hold his nerve and pounce on the mix-up, blazing over.
The way Frank’s men switched defence into attack was remarkable and their ability to play through the lines paid off when Mbeumo’s tap-in gave them a much-deserved lead with 12 minutes left on the clock, just four minutes after Emiliano Marcondes saw his long-range bouncing effort repelled by Begovic.
1 Asmir Begovic- 15 Adam Smith, 18 Cameron Carter-Vickers- 3 Steve Cook- 21 Diego Rico-11 Jack Wilshere- 8 Jefferon Lerma-19 Junior Stanislas-29 Philip Billing-10 Arnaut Danjuma, 9 Dominik Solanke
1 David Raya- 5 Ethan Pinnock- 6 Christian Noergaard-18 Pontus Jansson- 24 Tarique Fosu-8 Mathias Jensen- 27 Vitay Janelt- 30 Mads Roerslev- 7 Sergi Canos- 17 Ivan Toney- 15 Marcus Forss