Vital Vitaly and Toney see Bees overcome spirited Stoke
Brentford 2 Stoke City 1
Below-par Brentford managed to see off the robust attention of Stoke City, thanks to Ivan Toney’s 25th goal of the season.
The striker netted in 79 minutes to complete a comeback for Thomas Frank’s men, who were far from their best for long spells, especially in what could only be described as a dire first half from their perspective.
It was an unfortunate outcome for the Potters, who had been meticulously organised for so long, after shocking the hosts with a goal from Jacob Brown inside the first minute. However the Bees built up a sufficient head of steam once Vitaly Janelt levelled with a textbook drive in the second half.
Considering the slipshod fare, this will be a particularly welcome win for Frank, which keeps Brentford second in the Championship. Stoke boss Michael O’Neill, meanwhile, could only rue the fact that he was departing west London empty handed, despite his team’s overall efforts.
With a stronger line-up including talisman Toney, making his first start in three games, the portents were good for the Bees under blue skies of west London.
The mood might have been positive from the hosts going into a game with maximum points expected against a team tenth in the table - but it didn’t stop the Potters plundering the opening goal in just 26 seconds, thanks to home keeper David Raya’s error.
Raya had time to make a simple clearance inside his six yard area, only to somehow have his attempt intercepted by Tommy Smith who instinctively squared for Brown to roll home.
After such a poor goal to concede, Stoke were emboldened, playing a high line and pressing Brentford; the hosts not being allowed time in the engine room to dictate matters. In fact, the first half from Brentford’s point of view was as poor as in their recent defeat at Coventry City.
Clearly recovered from their last outing, a 2-0 defeat at Barnsley, Stoke were committed and organised, keeping Toney and playmaker Josh Dasilva quiet and Brentford were beset with a strange nervousness. A mere header a yard over the bar from Winston Reid, from a Saman Ghoddos’ cross was as much as the Londoners could offer in the opening 45 minutes.
Bees’ chief Frank opted not to make any changes at half time which may have freshened things up for his labouring side – a frustrated Toney was getting a bit too involved in minor off the ball spats with Stoke stopper Harry Souttar.
It was going to take something extraordinary to lift Brentford from their self-imposed sloth. Fortunately Janelt was on hand just when required with a perfect intervention in 56 miinutes.
The German midfielder was only too happy to pick up loose ball around 25 yards out – and, taking a touch to size up the opportunity, he proceeded to rifle the ball past Stoke keeper Angus Gunn into the top corner of the net. It was a rare shoot of recovery on such a hitherto anxious afternoon for the Bees.
Frank sent on Sergi Canos and Mathias Jensen for Tarique Fosu and Josh Dasilva respectively in an attempt to capitalise against their predictably ultra-physical opponents. Gunn did well to turn over a terrific shot from distance by Ghoddos in 66 minutes as Brentford discovered a little more spirit and drive. Yet much of their increased percentage play lacked conviction, with Stoke content to soak up most threats.
At the other end, Reid kept his cool to head a smart clip by Stoke substitute Jordan Cousins off the line in one of the visitors’ rare forays. In the latter stages it was, for the most part, all hands to the Potters’ pump. And they held out until eleven minutes from the end when Toney pounced.
In what was a well-worked move, Henrik Dalsgaard floated in a cross which was helped on by Bryan Mbuemo - and the towering hit man slid the ball past Gunn in predatory fashion. It proved to be enough on a day when Brentford will feel a significant sense of relief.
Bees: Raya, Pinnock, Toney, Mbuemo, Ghoddos (Marcondes 84), Dalsgaard, Reid, Fosu (Canos 58), Janelt (Norgaard 76), Sorensen, Dasilva (Jensen 58)