Brentford and Lille ended their respective pre-season campaigns with a goalless draw at Gtech Community Stadium.
The majority of the game was played in horrendous conditions, and it was only really when the rain relented after the break that the game kicked into life.
Mark Flekken made a number of fine saves, the best of which turned Tiago Santos’ deflected effort away to safety, while the Bees’ brightest moments came courtesy of Keane Lewis-Potter.
The winger brought a smart save out of Lucas Chevalier, had an effort cleared off the line, and then turned provider for Ethan Brierley to steer a late effort narrowly over.
The away side got their foot on the ball from the off, looking to build from the back despite the desperate conditions. The Bees, for their part, were pressing high and it made for an interesting tactical battle in the opening stages.
On a number of occasions, Brentford looked set to win the ball back high only for Lille to play themselves out of trouble to great effect.
Jonathan David curled the afternoon’s first effort over the bar from 20 yards while good tracking back from Bryan Mbeumo prevented the ball from reaching an unmarked Ismaily at the back post.
A deflected Leny Yoro shot caused Brentford their most alarm of the opening 25 minutes; the centre-back’s effort bounced off Ethan Pinnock and spun past a wrong-footed Flekken. Fortunately for Thomas Frank’s side, it also spun past the post.
Adam Ounas fired a free-kick over from 20 yards before Flekken was called into his first real action of the half. Hakon Haraldsson dispossessed Pinnock on the right byline and opened up an angle for a shot from 12 yards. However, Flekken stayed big to get a strong hand in the way of the strike and recovered to collect the looping loose ball.
Pinnock and Haraldsson clashed once again on the stroke of half-time but this time it was the Brentford defender who came out on top, getting his body in the way of the Icelander’s low drive.
The Bees lost the services of both Mbeumo and Frank Onyeka during the first half, with the pair going off with injuries which Frank confirmed post-match should not affect their availability for next weekend’s Premier League opener against Tottenham Hotspur.
It was the opening 15 minutes of the second period that saw Flekken’s goal come under the most serious threat of the contest. The Dutch keeper’s first action after the break was to get a strong hand to Santos’ deflected low drive which looked set for the bottom corner.
Lille’s marauding right-back was proving a real attacking threat. In a 10-minute spell, he sent a 25-yard effort fizzing past Flekken’s left-hand upright, had a shot blocked by Pinnock, brought a regulation save out of Flekken, and dragged a volley wide from the edge of the box.
Benjamin Andre flicked a header well off target, Ounas was denied by a Lewis-Potter block, and Ben Mee got in the way of Remy Cabella’s low shot before Brentford began to ask questions of their own in the final 30 minutes.
Lewis-Potter was the architect of Brentford’s best moments, carrying on his fine pre-season form. A smart turn took him away from Andre easily, but he then couldn’t beat Chevalier as he looked to shoot across him and into the far corner.
The winger then left Ismaily in his wake with a perfect first touch from Pinnock’s ball down the line. He drove in from the left and, once again, aimed across Chevalier and towards the far post. This time he beat Chevalier but not Bafode Diakite who had retreated onto the line.
Diakite made another crucial intervention shortly after, his header preventing Mathias Jensen’s curling cross from reaching an unmarked Wissa at the back post.
Mbeumo and Onyeka’s first-half replacements had been the B-team pair of Ethan Brierley and Tony Yogane and it was they who came closest late on to a winner.
Jensen turned out of trouble just inside the Lille half and set Lewis-Potter free again down the left – the clearance from his cross landed at the feet of Brierley who steered his first-time volley narrowly over with Chevalier beaten.
The final action of the match came down the other flank with Yogane weaving his way into the box before firing into the side-netting from the angle of the six-yard box.
Moments later the final whistle was blown, bringing down the curtain on the Bees’ pre-season campaign.
Brentford: Flekken; Roerslev, Pinnock, Mee (Kim 65), Hickey (Adedokun 75); Janelt, Onyeka (Yogane 31), Jensen; Mbeumo (Brierley 29), Lewis-Potter, Wissa
Subs not used: Raya, Balcombe, Olakigbe, Laidlaw
Lille: Chevalier; Santos, Diakite, Yoro (Alexsandro 60), Ismaily; Baldba, Cabella, Andre (Gomes 60); Ounas (Virginius 60), Haraldsson (Malouda 85), David (Gudmundsson 85)
Subs not used: Jakubech, Negrel, Ousmane, Yazici, Messoussa, Bayo, Ferrah, Toure, Burlet, Mbamba, Baret
Frank delighted with defensive resolve
Following some high-scoring games in the USA, Thomas Frank admitted he was pleased to see his side keep a clean sheet during their final game of pre-season against Lille.
“Of course we like to score goals, and we’d prefer to win, but we’ve just conceded eight goals in three games, so we needed to get back to that little bit more solidness,” said the head coach.
“Lille are a very good team. I like the way they played and I like the way they pressed. In some ways they’re very similar [to us] in their pressing and how they try to build up.
“It was a very good test for us, no doubt about that. I’m pleased with it.
“We didn’t produce many chances during the first half, but the second half was better. But every single time we managed to get the structure right and play in behind, which shows that we are a big threat.”
Flekken: Trust the process
Brentford goalkeeper Mark Flekken said that Saturday’s performance and clean sheet were real positives for him heading into the new season.
The summer signing played 90 minutes in his first outing at the Gtech, impressing supporters with some smart stops and impressive distribution.
And the keeper was happy to put in a solid performance in west London, after three appearances for the Bees in the USA.
He said: “My opinion from the back was that it was a tough first half – Lille put up some really, really good pressure and they didn’t leave us many options to build up from the back.
“We progressed very well as a team in the second half, we created some big chances, and it was too bad we didn’t reward ourselves with a goal.”
He added: “When I compare today to the pre-season camp in America, it’s a big difference, speaking about my own performance.
“I had some unlucky moments in the pre-season camp, but we’re in the middle of a process, we trust that process, and today was a good one to keep that going.”
Brentford 5 Lille 1 (behind-closed-doors friendly)
Kevin Schade and Michael Olakigbe both scored twice as a Brentford XI put five past a Lille XI in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the Robert Rowan Performance Centre on Saturday morning.
Christian Norgaard was also on the scoresheet as he got a good hour in his first outing of pre-season.
The 75-minute game was played in wet and windy conditions, not befitting a pre-season outing, and Brentford’s performance wasn’t that of a summer warm-up either.
The Bees were sharp in the press and incisive on the ball, regularly forcing their Ligue 1 opponents into errors in possession.
From one of these, Schade got his first of the game after seven minutes. The Bees striker read Adam Jakubech’s pass out from goal, nipped in front of the intended recipient and then rolled home, left-footed, from close range.
A second arrived shortly after. Nathan Collins peeled away to the back post to meet Mikkel Damsgaard’s floated corner. His first header across goal was blocked at close quarters but his second dropped perfectly for Norgaard to sweep home from eight yards.
Brentford’s advantage from set-pieces was evident and it was no surprise when another corner led to a third within the opening 20 minutes. Mads Bech was felled on the edge of the area, having taken down Damsgaard’s delivery, allowing Olakigbe a chance from the penalty spot which he converted coolly, low to Jakubech’s left.
There was no let-up from Thomas Frank’s side as half-time approached. Olakigbe had a shot blocked, Schade curled wide at the end of a flowing move from deep, and Damsgaard brought a smart save out of Jakubech, before Lille pulled one back with their first serious attempt on target.
Aaron Malouda, son of former Chelsea winger Florent, created the opportunity with a driving run through the midfield. He then played it out to the overlapping Gabriel Gudmundsson on the left who delivered low for Alan Virginius to bundle home.
Lille’s two-goal deficit could have become one on the stroke of half-time but for a fine low save from Strakosha to turn away Malouda’s sweetly-struck drive.
Any thoughts that Lille would get back into the game were dispelled soon after the break when Brentford added a fourth. Yehor Yarmoliuk showed good strength to win a 50/50 on the edge of the box and then good vision to pick out Olakigbe, attacking the back post, for a simple finish.
The former Fulham youngster then came close to a richly-deserved hat-trick, seeing his 30-yarder turned over the bar by Jakubech. Norgaard then drove over from a tight angle, likewise Yarmoliuk from slightly further out, as chances continued to come.
Lille’s only sights of goal in the second half fell to Yusuf Yazici and Malouda but neither tested substitute goalkeeper Ellery Balcombe.
It was left to Schade to complete the scoring late on with the pick of Brentford’s morning goals. Damsgaard was heavily involved in the build-up, a lovely turn on halfway opening up space for him to drive into. The Danish attacker then fed it out to Olakigbe on the left who teased in a cross, which the unmarked Schade rose to plant home from eight yards.
Brentford: Strakosha (Balcombe 55); Ajer, Collins, Zanka, Bech; Norgaard (Brierley 60), Yarmoliuk, Damsgaard; Baptiste, Olakigbe, Schade
Subs not used: Laidlaw, Adedokun, Yogane, Ji-soo
Lille: Jakubech; Mbamba, Toure, Ousmane, Gudmundsson (Burlet 65); Vanbaleghem, Baret; Virginius (Ferrah 65), Yazici, Malouda; Bayo (Messoussa 36)