In the final ever match at Griffin Park, Brentford booked a place in the Championship play-off final at Wembley by overturning a one goal deficit from the first leg against Swansea. Beesotted contributor Paul Harrison goes through the highs of a night for the history books.

A stellar performance from Brentford resulted in a 3-1 win over Swansea, coming back from a 1-0 defeat in the first leg of the play-off semi-final to win 3-2 on aggregate.

It was a performance befitting of Griffin Park’s final ever match. On an emotional night for everyone involved with Brentford FC, the result created cherished memories.

Two goals inside the first fifteen minutes – courtesy of Ollie Watkins and Emiliano Marcondes – put the Bees in control of the semi-final and ensured that a breathtakingly positive start didn’t go to waste.

Bryan Mbeumo scored the third immediately after half-time to ease the nerves, although those nerves returned at the end when Rhian Brewster pulled a goal back for the Swans.

With this result Brentford book their place at Wembley for the Championship play-off final (Tuesday 4th August, 7.45pm KO). It will be the Bees’ first appearance at Wembley since 2013 – a devastating defeat to Yeovil in the League One final. Brentford will face the winners of the other semi-final – Cardiff City or Fulham (Thursday, 7.45pm KO).

Brentford are aiming to break their play-off curse: eight previous appearances, zero promotions. This win over Swansea showed that the Bees are more than capable of breaking it next Tuesday. More than capable of making it to the Premier League.

Talk about timing too. Let’s hope the stars align and the dream is realised.

THE MATCH

After a first-leg marred by controversy, the Bees found themselves facing an uphill task. 1-0 down to Swansea.

The final ever 90 minutes at Griffin Park needed to be special.

It had to be a world away from the previous three matches Brentford had played. All ended in defeat and were accompanied by a barrage of arguably unjustified “bottlejob” slurs from opposition fans.

I say “arguably unjustified” – whilst many of us thought the pressure would scupper promotion dreams at the death, I think we all knew deep down that a typical 2019-20 Brentford performance wasn’t far away.

Brentford had to fly out of the traps and dominate the game from kick-off. There needed to be more urgency, zippier passing, more bravery … all the things that got the Bees into 3rd and in the promotion race.

Thomas Frank talked about “irritation” and “determination” after the first-leg loss. The irritation and determination was going to fuel the players.

Emiliano Marcondes. Brentford v Swansea, Griffin Park.
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd.
29/07/2020

This energy was coursing through Griffin Park at kick-off. Even without fans present the players needed little to spur them on. The irritation and determination was evident right from kick-off, and led to an early goal.

David Raya plucked a dangerous Swansea free-kick out of the air and immediately started the counter-attack with a long throw out to Mathias Jensen on the right. Jensen was cool and composed to keep possession before sending an inch-perfect 50+ yard through ball towards Ollie Watkins. The Swansea defence was split open and Watkins made no mistake to tuck home his 26th goal of the season.

10 minutes gone. Brentford took the lead on the night and had restored order in the semi-final. 1-1 on aggregate – but the Bees weren’t stopping there.

Ollie Watkins celebrates scoring the opening goal. Brentford v Swansea, Griffin Park.
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd.
29/07/2020

Jensen was brimming with confidence, a totally different player to his last few outings. Some eyebrows were raised when the starting XI was announced, but Thomas Frank was right to stick by him. Jensen was involved in the next phase of play, carrying the ball from deep inside his own half.

It was a phase of play that was capped off by another goal. Barely five minutes had passed since the first goal, but Brentford’s intensity was relentless.

An exchange of passes on the left between Jensen, Watkins and Said Benrahma ensued. Benrahma saw Emiliano Marcondes running into the box and picked him out with an inviting delivery. The chance was by no means easy, but Marcondes’ deft header flew past Erwin Mulder nd nestled in the back of the Swansea goal.

2-0 up after just 15 minutes. Swansea’s advantage had been gobbled up by the Bees. The visitors were desperate for the first-half hydration break to catch their breath back.

Swansea soon had their chance. Ex-Bee Jake Bidwell picked out Conor Gallagher with a through ball, after Pontus Jansson was caught out of position. Gallagher went through one-on-one with Raya but the Bees’ keeper saved the day with a diving reflex save.

Alarm bells were ringing, but Brentford came straight back at the Swans seconds later. Jansson mopped up the rebound and immediately Brentford were on the counter. Benrahma pulled out yet more tricks to nip away from Swansea defenders, darting down the left and surging into the box. His effort struck the inside of the post and unluckily span away from goal.

The first 45 minutes drew to a close. Swansea needed to come at Brentford if they were to stand a chance. But Brentford were in the mood – the mood that has put many an opponent on their knees begging for mercy.

A tasty second half was in order.

Christian Norgaard. Brentford v Swansea, Griffin Park.
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd.
29/07/2020

And it delivered instantly. David Raya’s long kick forward was met brilliantly by Watkins – who had dominated each of Swansea’s three centre-backs in the air all game long. More tight passing in the opposition third saw the ball dished out to Rico Henry on the left. Henry delivered a perfect first-time cross into the danger zone, which was met by Bryan Mbeumo who volleyed home.

A brilliant finish to cap off another stunning team move. Less than a minute after the second half kicked off and Brentford were 3-0 up on the night. Crucially the Bees had a two goal cushion on aggregate.

Could Brentford relax now?

Perhaps the players could have eased off. But they didn’t want to. The collective pressing from the front five was relentless. Christian Norgaard plugged the gaps superbly, winning seemingly every 50:50 he went in for.

Swansea needed to play smart and pick their moments. A timely goal would heap the pressure right back on and put the Swans just one goal behind on aggregate.

They chose to exploit Brentford’s pressing. Rico Henry was caught high up the pitch, leaving a gap that Connor Roberts drove into. He carried his run into the box, checking back inside Henry and shooting – Raya was tested and did well to tip the shot over the bar.

Thomas Frank had been thoroughly impressed by the performances of all his starters, waiting until the 77th minute to make subs – Josh Dasilva and Sergi Canos came on for goalscorers Marcondes and Mbeumo. But the boss was forced to rack his brains again when Swansea pulled a goal back.

Jansson was in prime position to clear Andre Ayew’s hopeful long pass. But the Bees’ captain tried to pull off a backheel flick to Ethan Pinnock when a simple hoof would have sufficed. Needless to say his flick never reached Pinnock – Brewster intercepted and swiftly lobbed the onrushing Raya.

3-1 on the night. 3-2 on aggregate. 12 minutes plus injury time left on the clock.

Tense.

Bryan Mbeumo celebrates scoring the third goal. Brentford v Swansea, Griffin Park.
Picture by Mark D Fuller/Focus Images Ltd.
29/07/2020

But credit to the players yet again. They continued to play the Brentford way for the final minutes – tight and organised at the back, incisive and committed on the break.

Benrahma kept finding himself in space on the counter, and nearly got the goal his performance deserved. Two efforts that whistled mere centimetres over the bar, the latter after a spectacular solo run across the edge of the box.

This didn’t spoil the party though. Swansea barely mustered a chance when they needed to thanks to the Bees’ defensive effort. The full time whistle blew. Job done.

Brentford move into the play-off final in some style, and crucially with momentum.

Another season in the Championship for Swansea – best of luck to them. Signs are promising under Steve Cooper’s stewardship.

Braemar Road stand, Griffin Park. Brentford. July 2020. Photo – Billy Grant

Griffin Park has been Brentford’s theatre for 116 years, playing host to countless memories and magical moments. In the old girl’s swansong – against the Swans – these memories are right up there with the best.

Goodbye Griffin Park.

Hello Wembley.

POST MATCH

Brentford’s head coach Thomas Frank said:

“This feels unbelievably good. We are happy and, of course, we are excited. But we know we have one game to go – we want to give everything and we want to win that final.”

“We talked about not leaving the pitch without getting to the final. The message was we needed to start faster than we ever started before. And we did that.”

“At 3-0 we should have been through to the final, but we made a mistake we shouldn’t make. But after that they weren’t really dangerous and it was nice to show the defensive side of our game.”

“I am pleased and happy. It is a very nice moment and we have achieved something good. But we want to achieve something big and we are going to the final to win.”

Ollie Watkins said:

“I’m over the moon. We’ve had a tough last few games and it hurt a little bit. But we bounced back tonight.”

“We win and lose together. I felt like it was important to get the boys together after the Barnsley game, regroup, take a step back.”

“Tonight we’ve worked hard and I think we deserve it.”

Swansea’s head coach Steve Cooper said:

“The goals are obviously really disappointing. The first one is from our set-piece and the second and third ones, although they are really good finishes, you cannot leave people unmarked in the box like that.”

“We didn’t give up and we went right until the very end but we gave ourselves too much to do.”

THE STATS

Player ratings, provided by whoscored.com

The player ratings on whoscored seem to do the Bees a disservice. The whole team were superb, with the collective performance much closer to a 10/10 than the individual ratings. Three different goalscorers, and a totally different three players with the assists. Confidence returning to players who had struggled in the previous few weeks – notably Jensen and Mbeumo.

Jansson was the only player whose performance was a bit ropey – his errors leading to Swansea’s best chances. Perhaps a good day to be making errors though if your teammates can pick up the slack. All Jansson needs to do in the final is stay calm – his physical and defensive qualities will shine through.

Benrahma played well and collected the highest rating on whoscored, but Ollie Watkins was many people’s man of the match. He ran rings around Swansea’s centre backs, worked tirelessly and efficiently off the ball, and took his goal well.

Shot statistics (Brentford on the left, Swansea on the right).

Other statistics (Brentford on the left, Swansea on the right).

Swansea interestingly won the possession battle, despite being second best in almost every other attacking metric. Steve Cooper sets his team up the same way regardless of opponent, and Thomas Frank decided the best way to get at the Swans was to hit them on the counter.

This was definitely the right decision and it swung the tie in the Bees’ favour. Brentford have sometimes struggled to break down more defensive teams. Expect a solid defensive showing from our play-off final opponents.

xG Map, provided by infogol

In terms of xG, Brentford were deserved winners on the night. Mbeumo’s goal (56% of scoring) was the Bees’ best chance statistically, followed by Watkins’ goal (24% chance of scoring). Marcondes’ header (4% of scoring) was uncharacteristic of him, but expertly taken.

Swansea’s Conor Gallagher will be rueing his first-half chance (38% chance of scoring) that Raya saved.

THE FANS

Brentford

Swansea