LONDON (Agencies): Brentford will play in the Premier League for the first time next season after beating Swansea City 2-0 in the Championship play-off final.
Ivan Toney’s penalty put them on the road to the top flight before Emiliano Marcondes’ crisp far-post finish. Thomas Frank’s team will play at the highest level for the first time since 1946-47 having eased past a Swansea side who finished with 10 men.
Victory could be worth about £178m to the west London club. The Bees were beaten in last season’s second-tier play-off final by Fulham, who ran out 2-1 winners after extra time.
But the pain of Brentford’s last visit to this stadium turned to elation as they finally tasted play-off success at the 10th time of asking, and next season they will become the 50th club to play in the Premier League.
Swansea’s hopes of rejoining the elite disappeared as they failed to produce their best at Wembley, with any hope of a second-half comeback not helped by the contentious dismissal of Jay Fulton for a foul on Mathias Jensen.
Brentford’s big day finally comes
Brentford fans have waited a long time for a moment like this. This was the club’s 10th play-off campaign and fifth final, with previous trips to Wembley coming in 1997, 2013 and last season, while there was a Millennium Stadium meeting with Stoke in 2002.
The grand total of play-off promotions before today? Zero. There have been three EFL Trophy final losses, too, so Brentford will feel they were due a victory on the big stage. Driven on perhaps by the memory of their most recent Wembley reverse, which came only 10 months ago, Frank’s side finally found a path to victory.
Brentford’s win was made in the opening quarter, when they went in front courtesy of the first attack of any note. Sergi Canos slid the ball in behind the Swansea rearguard for Bryan Mbeumo, and goalkeeper Freddie Woodman came racing off his line but made contact with player rather than ball.
Even on this grand stage, Toney appeared totally unflustered as he ambled up and rolled the spot-kick low into the bottom corner of the net, beyond the dive of the despairing Woodman. Buoyed by their opener – and with Swansea struggling to get going – Brentford swiftly doubled their advantage.
The move started when a long throw into the Brentford box was cleared to Mbeumo, who carried the ball deep into opposition territory before feeding the overlapping Mads Roerslev. The Dane lifted the ball across goal for Marcondes to rifle a fierce, low drive inside Woodman’s near post.
Swansea were reeling. Any hope Steve Cooper’s side had of a response may have been wiped out within a minute, as Toney’s dipping long-range volley beat Woodman only to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce away to safety off the line. Brentford eased their way through to the break, with the one first-half scare for David Raya coming when Andre Ayew met Conor Hourihane’s free-kick with a looping header which hit the top of the bar.
Swansea’s first genuine chance came early in the second period, when Connor Roberts crossed for Ayew but he could only glance a header wide of the far post. Brentford threatened again, with Mbeumo lifting wastefully over, before Fulton’s unfortunate dismissal all but finished Swansea off.
The midfielder appeared to tread accidentally on Matthias Jensen before slipping as his studs got caught, but referee Chris Kavanagh flashed the red card in an instant. With that Swansea were beaten and it is Brentford who can look forward to facing Manchester City, neighbours United, Liverpool and company next season.
What next for Swansea?
For the second successive season Swansea’s hopes of a return to the Premier League have been ended in the play-offs by Brentford. Cooper’s players responded admirably after last year’s semi-final loss, but this reverse may be harder to stomach.
Nine months of hard work has come to nothing and there will now be questions about what comes next. Cooper has only a year to run on his Liberty Stadium deal and there has already been speculation over his future, with managerless Crystal Palace believed to be among his admirers.
Ayew, Swansea’s talisman up front and their top scorer for the last two seasons, sees his lucrative contract expire next month.
It would be a shock if he is still around next season, while Woodman, Marc Guehi and Hourihane are all heading back to their parent clubs after loan spells.
Then there are the likes of Roberts and Matt Grimes, who have only a year remaining on their respective deals and may therefore be in the shop window.
On top of all that, there will be no more Premier League parachute payments following Swansea’s relegation in 2018.
Once the dust settles on a day when they failed to do themselves justice at Wembley, Swansea could now face a busy summer.