Match Report: Brentford 0-2 Barnsley (14/02/21)
Goals from Conor Chaplin and Carlton Morris either side of half time earned Barnsley a shock win at promotion-chasing Brentford.
It was a result that was as brilliant as it was unexpected from the Reds, as not only was it their first league victory of 2021, but it also ended the home side’s 21-match unbeaten Championship run in the process.
The Bees, top after a victory in midweek, could have returned to the summit with a win here, but were unable to find a way through a well-organised Barnsley, and were guilty of some poor defending themselves.
Chaplin put Valérien Ismaël’s side in front after just 13 minutes, slotting home Callum Brittain’s cross, before Morris sealed the points by converting Daryl Dike’s cutback just two minutes after the break.
The Reds flew out of the starting blocks and dominated the opening exchanges, before taking a deserved early lead when the unmarked Chaplin ghosted through to finish from point-blank range.
Thomas Frank’s hosts are far and away the Championship’s top scorers this campaign, but they failed to offer any serious threat for much of the game.
One rare occasion on which they did almost equalise came in first-half injury time, as Saman Ghoddos unleashed a drive from the edge of the box, but Reds goalkeeper Brad Collins made an excellent diving stop.
Former Norwich forward Morris gave the visitors a dream start to the second half with his first goal for Barnsley, firing in Dike’s low ball across the box after Ethan Pinnock had failed to clear.
The ball first struck the post before eventually squirming over the line, and Victor Adeboyejo almost put the game to bed with a startling volley from outside the box that flew inches wide shortly after.
The Bees, fighting hard to gain a foothold, failed to capitalise after Collins spilled Sergi Canós’s effort, and found themselves running out of ideas as centre-back Michał Helik turned in a commanding performance.
Henrik Dalsgaard did almost pull one back when he flicked Canós’s delivery over the bar with 20 minutes remaining, but that would prove to be the Bees’ last real chance.
The encounter became increasingly scrappy as the clock ticked down, with six bookings in the final ten minutes, three of which were for various staff of both sides, including the Reds’ Ismaël.
However, a resolute Barnsley refused to be drawn, as they kept their concentration to see the game out and rise to 12th, finally kick-starting their 2021.
Helik takes the sting out of the Bees
Although Brentford’s defence has been more than adequate, with their 28 goals conceded before today representing the joint-fifth most miserly back line in the league, it is in attack where they have truly excelled.
There may have been doubts over whether the Bees could maintain last season’s 80 goals following the departures of two of their main forward men over the summer.
Ollie Watkins went north to Aston Villa, and Saïd Benrahma made the short hop to West Ham, but the acquisition of Ivan Toney in the same window has proved Brentford had little to fear.
Former Peterborough striker Toney has led the way as the Bees have hit the target 55 times this season, with Toney netting 23 of those in 29 appearances.
However, Toney and his teammates were completely nullified, with Helik’s brilliance at the heart of the Reds’ defence being a huge factor in that.
Today’s score will have been a source of much relief for Ismaël, as it proved that his side can turn out the results that match their performances.
That has not often been the case this season, and it has proved Barnsley’s biggest weakness, as a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal has meant that quality performances have often gone unrewarded.
This result truly did match the performance, and Ismaël will take much comfort from that, with his challenge now to ensure that this becomes the norm.
Brentford’s unbeaten run ends
Barnsley clung on to their Championship status with a victory over Brentford at their old home of Griffin Park last July thanks to an injury-time winner.
Right from the first whistle, this victory was far more comfortable, and it underlined the progress made at Oakwell under Ismaël.
Despite that obvious improvement, the victory was still surprising to see, as Brentford have been in imperious form in their new surroundings.
Since moving to the Brentford Community Stadium at the start of this season, the Bees have continued their push for the top flight, losing just twice in 19 games at their new home before today.
That home form has been backed up with the same results on the road, and a 3-2 defeat at Stoke in late October was their last defeat in the league as they embarked on a 21-match unbeaten run.
However, today, all of those admirable records were brought crashing back down to earth by a brilliant performance from Ismaël’s men, who were excellent value for their stunning win.
Brittain’s got talent
Since arriving from MK Dons this summer, 22-year-old right-back Callum Brittain has been one of Barnsley’s most consistent performers.
A hamstring injury kept him out of a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff City in November, but since then, he has played the full 90 minutes of every league game since.
Today marked the 18th match of that run, but he showed no signs of fatigue, and capped an excellent performance by crossing for Chaplin to net the opener.
He was afforded a slice of luck, as his initial pass rebounded to him off his opposite number Rico Henry, enabling him to then put the ball in towards Chaplin, but it was the least he deserved.
His attacking influence faded a little after the break, but his defensive work to keep Henry quiet down Brentford’s left was much-needed, as it restricted what the Bees could offer Toney from the wide areas.
That in turn made Helik’s job easier, and it was a microcosm of the way the visitors worked hard for one another, outfighting their high-flying hosts across all areas of the pitch.
Brentford: Raya (GK) 6, Dalsgaard (c) 6 (Roerslev 74’ 6), Pinnock 4, Sørensen 5, Henry 5, Dasilva 6 (Jensen 74’ 6), Janelt 6, Ghoddos 6 (Forss 74’ 6), Mbeumo 6 (Fosu-Henry 64’ 6), Toney 6, Canós 6.
Unused: Daniels (GK), Goode, Reid, Zamburek.
Barnsley: Collins (GK) 7, Sollbauer 7 (Sibbick 67’ 6), Helik 9, Andersen 7, Brittain 9, Palmer 7 (J Williams 77’ 6), Mowatt (c) 7, Styles 6, Dike 7 (Woodrow 56’ 6), Morris 8 (Adeboyejo 56’ 7), Chaplin 8 (Frieser 56’ 6).
Unused: Walton (GK), Kane, Oduor, Moon.