Bournemouth 1-0 Brentford: Bryan Mbuemo misses a sitter as Bees lose playoff first leg

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Were a sense of deja vu any more deeply embedded into Brentford’s current predicament it might be playing in central midfield.

In a tenth playoff campaign, less than a year after their last, the Bees, off the back of a second successive third-placed finish in the Championship, must once again do things the hard way and overturn a semi-final first-leg deficit if they are to reach Wembley and keep alive their Premier League dream.

Last season, it was a 1-0 defeat at Swansea that was eventually overcome - this time it is Arnaut Danjuma’s second-half strike that has given Bournemouth the edge at the midway point of the tie.

Both Jonathan Woodgate and Thomas Frank named unchanged sides from the final day of the Championship season, having had the rare luxury of more than a week’s break ahead of this meeting, but Brentford did have Rico Henry back in a matchday squad for the first time since February after injury.

Brentford began their tenth playoff campaign - the previous nine yet to harbour a promotion - on the back foot, as a lively returning home crowd and pouring rain colluded to ensure this was no early-summer seaside jolly.

Action Images via Reuters
Action Images via Reuters

Jefferson Lerma fired just over on the volley before Philip Billing wasted a much easier chance to open the scoring against a side sprinkled with his Danish countrymen as he skewed well wide from Adam Smith’s pull-back.

Brentford’s best moments came when Christian Norgaard strode into midfield from his place at the centre of a back-three, but wide of it the Bees looked vulnerable, with Danjuma and David Brooks both lively on the wings. How Frank will hope to have Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard - also back among the substitutes - fit enough to start the home leg.

Danjuma’s delivery saw Dominic Solanke head against the outside of the post from a difficult angle before the forward blew a glorious opening on the counter-attack, choosing the wrong option as the Cherries broke with men over, allowing the excellent Vitaly Janelt to get back and intercept.

At the other end, Steve Cook had done a fair job of marshalling 31-goal Ivan Toney and even had time to force David Raya into a smart save with a set-piece header. That, however, would prove the Bournemouth skipper’s last meaningful action as he was forced off on the stroke of half-time, replaced by former Brentford man Chris Mepham.

Yet ten minutes into the second half, little had changed, with Brentford still yet to test Asmir Begovic in the home goal. Frank was readying the cavalry, with Henry, Bryan Mbuemo and Emiliano Marcondes all stripped when the hosts finally made their dominance pay.

PA
PA

It was, however, a goal largely of Brentford’s own making as Mads Roerslev bizarrely turned down several chances to cross, instead giving the supporting Pontus Jansson a pass he could have done without. The big centre-half, popping up on the right wing, duly gifted away possession and then could only watch, caught high up the pitch as Brooks raced away, kept his head, and picked out the clinical Danjuma to slot home his 16th goal of the campaign.

Frank pressed ahead with his intended triple change and Mbuemo was instantly more involved than the near-anonymous Marcus Forss, linking up nicely with Mathias Jensen, who rippled the side netting, before fellow substitute Marcondes gave Begovic his first piece of work, a brave block at close-quarters.

Dalsgaard then entered the fray, allowing Norgaard to step into midfield and immediately the Bees looked a more settled, cohesive side, and perhaps, in terms of personnel, more like the one which will start the return on Saturday. Henry, in particular, looked as if he’d never been away.

There was still to be one glorious chance to head into that game on terms, but Mbuemo somehow failed to convert with the goal gaping as Norgaard fired across the face.

Should Brentford eventually reach the final, they will be praying for an outcome at odds with August’s heartbreaking extra-time defeat to Fulham. For now, though, they could do with the echoes of last season to sound on.

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