Advantage Bournemouth. Arnaut Danjuma’s goal is all that separates the sides ahead of Saturday’s return leg in west London, after Jonathan Woodgate’s side deservedly put an end to Brentford’s 12 match unbeaten run.
“It’s far from over. We know we’ve got it all on going to Brentford but it’s a slight advantage,” said Woodgate. “We know what a good team they are, especially at home, and I’m sure their fans will be bang up for it.”
The combined talent of these two squads is not in question, but the play-offs are a test of nerve, not quality and it is certain to be tense in the second leg.
“There’s still massive belief in there,” said Thomas Frank. “We lost our focus on the biggest threat they have, the counter attack. We will be ready and we’ll be coming flying out, 100 per cent.”
Frank also complained at the lack of Var in the tie saying that it was “100 per cent a penalty” when Adam Smith collided with Tariqe Fosu-Henry early in the game.
Brentford have drawn plenty of admirers for their savvy, “moneyball” approach to recruitment and the attractive style which the affable Frank has employed.
But that will be of little consequence if the Bees stumble as they did last season, succumbing to Fulham after extra-time in the Play-off Final.
The “BMW” was then broken up and sold for parts. Said Benrahma to West Ham, Ollie Watkins left for Aston Villa while Bryan Mbeumo stayed in West London.
The club’s recruitment team worked its magic once more and in came Ivan Toney from Peterborough.
With 31 goals this season, regardless of the outcome for Brentford, it seems likely that Toney will be playing Premier League football next season but he was quiet in this first leg. A better touch from him in the opening moments after Fosu-Henry had searched him out with a long pass might have seen Brentford open the scoring.
Philip Billing had the best early chance. David Brooks opened up the right channel with a fine pass to Adam Smith but Billing fluffed his effort from the pullback.
Dominic Solanke then did much better as he met Lloyd Kelly’s near post cross with a header which clipped the post and fell behind. As half time approached, Bournemouth came again and David Raya saved acrobatically from Danjuma’s corner and then Brooks’ follow-up was hacked clear.
Woodgate then suffered a blow as captain Steve Cook was forced off with injury to be replaced by former Brentford central defender Chris Mepham.
This was special game for the return of Bournemouth’s supporters and they were on their feet as Danjuma coolly rounded off a swift counter after Solanke and then Brooks combined to find him 15 yards from goal.
“Brooksy gave me to ball on a perfect moment and I just took a touch and whipped it into the far corner,” said Danjuma.
“I’m so happy with the win but it’s just half-time really. Ideally you want to win more than 1-0 really,” said the 24 year-old who has confirmed that Ajax have been in touch with him regarding a possible transfer.
There was no sense of panic amongst the Brentford ranks and Vitaly Janelt fashioned an opportunity for Emiliano Marcondes which Asmir Begovic did well to come out and smother.
Bryan Mbuemo was one of four subs introduced by Frank and he should have scored when Christian Norgaard squared for him to score but he somehow only found the side netting.
Never have Brentford been promoted via the play-offs in nine attempts and they have work to do once more to change that unwanted record.