Brentford v Cardiff City

Peter Whittingham strokes home; credits Huw Evans agency

It was a Boxing Day goal bonanza at Griffin Park after both sides traded blows, which saw an exciting end to a lacklustre game.

After Whittingham gave the Bluebirds an early lead and with time running out, Brentford equalised with a wonderful effort from substitute Sullay Kaikai with six minutes remaining.

However Neil Warnock must have thought he had snatched a late win when on 88 minutes Kenneth Zohore raced clear to score.

However, the sting in the tail from the Bees was when Kaikai headed home in time added on to see the game end all square.

Zohore holds off  Tom Field; credits Huw Evans agency

Cardiff lined up in a 3-5-2 with Sean Morrison supported either side by Matthew Connolly and Bruno Ecuele Manga in the bluebirds defence and Manga in particular was very strong at the back.

Cardiff took the lead against the run of play after referee Simon Hooper decided Andreas Bjelland brought down Cardiff defender Sean Morrison in the box from a free kick and Peter Whittingham calmly stroked the ball down the middle to give the Bluebirds the lead.

Prior to that, Cardiff were indebted to a couple of fine saves from Brian Murphy in the Cardiff goal, whilst in the second half he denied Ryan Woods and John Egan with outstanding reactions.

Murphy could do nothing about Brentford’s first equaliser, as substitute Kaikai cut inside from the left and hit a brilliant curling shot from outside the area that went into top corner.

Cardiff looked most threatening from throw ins and set pieces, with Aron Gunnarsson able to launch the ball into the six yard area and Kenneth Zohore providing an outlet in behind.

Brentford had a warning in the first half when Zohore chased down a long clearance from a corner against and only a fine save by Daniel Bentley, the Brentford goalkeeper, prevented a goal.

It seemed the Bees didn’t alter their marking as Zohore raced away in the second half to make it 1-2 from a near identical situation, showing good strength to hold off Tom Field after Harlee Dean tried to play Zohore offside from another through ball.

Zohore showed why he is the number one striker for Neil Warnock with a powerful performance, which underlined why Rickie Lambert was left on the bench.

Warnock decided to pair Zohore with Junior Hoilett, however, the latter was disappointing, often caught offside and always on the periphery buzzing around but outshone by the powerful Zohore.

A pairing of Zohore and Lambert would surely be too powerful for most Championship defences.


Sullay Kaikai was fantastic; credits

With the game slipping away Bees Head Coach Dean Smith made a double substitution just after the hour mark, replacing the ineffective Lasse Vibe and Romaine Sawyers with loanee Sullay Kaikai and Josh McEachran.

Both Vibe and Sawyers found it hard to get into the game and it may have been down to Brentford not making Cardiff retreat into a back five, which would have allowed them more space to operate in.

With Brentford happy to receive in front of Cardiff they never tested Cardiff out wide.

The lack of width by Brentford enabled Cardiff to compact the play centrally, whilst the Cardiff back three will never have had an easier afternoon.

The only time the bluebirds back three were moved, was when they gained a throw-in inside their own half and central defender Sean Morrison would jog over to throw it down the line, pushing on the wing back Joe Bennett.

After Jake Bidwell’s departure to QPR, youngster Tom Field has emerged as a possible long-term replacement in the left back role.

However, both Brentford wing backs needed to operate more like wingers with the Bees also playing with a back three.

Neither of the wing backs were able to go past their man until the scoreline required someone to make a difference.

Brentford’s first equaliser came after Field beat two players with two separate nutmegs before crossing for McEachran to set the ball back to Kaikai to equalise.

The on loan Crystal palace striker Kaikai was lively as soon as he was introduced and provided the Bees with some much-needed pace and penetration.

Therefore it was a wonder why he wasn’t introduced earlier, although the double substitution by manager Dean Smith did have a positive effect on the Bees performance thereafter.

With Brentford always chasing the game, it was left to one of the outside centre backs John Egan or Andreas Bjelland to venture a little further forward and try to create two v ones out wide, although neither looked comfortable doing so.

For protection, Ryan Woods would drop into the centre half position to enable the outside centre backs to advance forward but Brentford lacked the inventiveness and creativity a natural wide man provides, such as the injured Alan Judge.

After Cardiff went in front, the second equaliser came from Brentford penetrating the Cardiff penalty area wide and Kaikai met a brilliant cut back cross from John Egan to glance into the far corner of net.

Brentford ended the game as they should start, attacking wide to score centrally, a tactic that served them so well under Mark Warburton and to get the most out of this Brentford side, it is out wide where the Bees will find their wings.

Brentford: (3-5-2) Bentley; Egan, Dean, Bjelland (sub Hofmann 77 mins), Colin, Woods, Yennaris, Sawyers (sub McEachran 63 mins), Field, Vibe (sub Kaikai 63 mins), Hogan
Subs (not used): Bonham, Saunders, Kerschbaumer, Barbet
Cardiff City: (3-5-2) Murphy; Peltier (sub Pilkington 64 mins), Connolly, Manga, Morrison, Bennett, Gunnarsson, Whittingham (sub O’Keefe h/t), Ralls, Hoilett (sub Noone 77 mins), Zohore
Subs (not used): Wilson, Lambert, Harris, Huws
Referee: Simon Hooper
Attendance: 11,098