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Ajer grabs 99th-minute equaliser against Red Devils

Brentford 1-1 Manchester United

by Layth Yousif

 

A GRANDSTAND finish saw the points shared in west London in front of a sellout crowd of 17,138 on Saturday evening.

It was honours even as a lively Brentford side grabbed a 99th-minute equaliser through Kristoffer Ajer — after Mason Mount thought he had won the match for the Red Devils with his 96th-minute opener.

It was a remarkable end to an enthralling match clash saw Thomas Frank’s side post 31 shots against Erik ten Hag’s lacklustre side in a match the Bees should surely have won given their dominance.

Brentford were the superior side for long spells against an underwhelming Red Devils team strangely lacking in intensity.

The draw leaves United eight points off fifth-place Spurs in what could be the final Champions League place, while the Bees consolidated 15th place in a tightly packed relegation battle at the bottom of the table.

Speaking after the match, Ten Hag said of the late leveller his team conceded, saying: “We should act differently. They were fighting but I did think Brentford wanted it more during the whole course of the game. I’m not happy with the performance.”

Earlier, Ten Hag named an unchanged side from the rollercoaster 4-3 FA Cup victory over Liverpool last time out.

Kobbie Mainoo started after shaking off illness earlier this week. The talented 18-year-old has had a stellar week on England duty, where he made his Three Lions debut from the bench against Brazil, before making such an impression when starting in the 2-2 draw against Belgium.

While Frank’s Bees made two changes to the side that lost to Burnley with suspended Sergio Reguilon replaced by Lewis-Potter and Yarmoliuk for Onyeka.

While Ivan Toney, another England player who made an impact against the Belgians — after coolly slotting home his spot-kick for his first international goal — captained the west Londoners, as they bid to ease away from a possible relegation battle.

In an excellent atmosphere, Red Devils captain Bruno Fernandes fired wide after only three minutes.

Toney headed wide shortly afterwards, shrugging off a painful knock in winning a corner from Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

It was a joy to watch Mainoo, not just for his acute awareness and his defensive discipline, but also, despite being a defensive midfielder — if such a thing exists in the increasingly splintered nomenclature of positional labelling these days — for the sheer joie de vivre that emanates from a talented teenager. As witnessed by the 18-year-old simply bouncing the ball off his shoulder en route to a teammate in a crowded situation.

Such creativity rendered with enjoyment in the fact it was delivered by literally a shrug of the shoulders.

Yet, it was Brentford who made the livelier start, full of intensity, and a powerful desire to be first to the ball.

On 25 minutes Toney hit the post after a superb through-ball by No 11 Yoanne Wissa to play the Bees’ striker, before his low drive across Onana’s goal had the United keeper beaten — only to see the ball bounce back and away. Wise then missed his header when well-placed, his visible frustration underlining just what a clear-cut chance he spurned.

Zanka clipped the bar for Brentford following Mathias Jensen’s excellent cross, prior to Toney firing over in the next move, as the hosts dominated a lacklustre United.

It was Vitaly Janelt’s turn next to fire narrowly wide. Followed by Wissa lifting the ball over the bar after good work by Janet and Mads Roerslev who combined well to work the space.

Witnessing such you were struck by the fact — or, rather, asked the question why — Brentford had only won three of their last 18 league matches. A strange statistic given their effervescent dominance, which included 14 shots in the first half. Although understanding their travails might be clearer when you checked that only one of the 14 were on target.

There was still time for Marcus Rashford to test Bees keeper Mark Flekken. That was before Wissa dovetailed well with Roerslev that left the United backline chasing shadows as the Bees worked the ball exceptionally well.

The lively Wissa wound his way into referee Simon Hooper’s book after frustration got the better of the Bees’ attacker, as he went in late on Fernandes. Albeit fuelled by the fact that nothing was given moments earlier when he was clearly fouled.

United boss Ten Hag switched Varane for Harry Maguire during the break.

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