Advantage Swansea as 10-man Brentford are made to toil in tight first leg tie
Swansea City 1 Brentford 0
Play-off semi-final first leg
Brentford have it all to do in their last ever match at Griffin Park on Wednesday night if they are to make it to Wembley for the play-off final.
But they showed great resilience during a testing second half and are very much in the hunt against a side they beat twice in the regular season.
David Raya saved a penalty but the Bees had to play the final 20 minutes with 10 men following the controversial dismissal of Rico Henry and conceded a superb goal to Andre Ayew nine minutes from time.
That slender lead will encourage the south Wales club to believe they could be destined to make it, having sneaked into sixth place in last week’s dramatic final day of the Championship season, when a collapse by Nottingham Forest opened the door.
Ayew turned and fired home superbly after good build up play by Conor Gallagher and Jay Fulton and it made amends for the 64th minute penalty he failed to put away,
A foul by Pontus Jansson on Rhian Brewster gave Ayew the chance to give the Swans the lead from the spot, but a stuttering run-up and tame shot allowed Raya to save.
But two minutes later, any sense of relief for Thomas Frank’s men dissipated when referee Keith Stroud decided Henry had tackled late and dangerously, although replays showed he got the ball when sliding in on Connor Roberts.
In spite of the setback, the Bees were well-organised and it needed a magical finish from Ayew to condemn them to a third defeat in a row in their heady pursuit of the Premier League. They are still very much in with a shout of making it a memorable send-off to their old ground later this week.
The good news is that the Bees showed no signs of feeling sorry for themselves after blowing a gilt-edged chance to beat West Brom to the finishing line for automatic promotion.
The Bees arguably had the better of the early stages, creating good openings and looking anything but morose after their shattering and unexpected defeats to Stoke and Barnsley in the final matches of the Championship campaign.
Said Benrahma twice went very close to edging them in front – firstly by unconventional means, with an off-target header, then with a more familiar slalom and shot over the bar after two defenders had been left trailing in the Algerian’s wake.
Ollie Watkins looked in good nick and an improvised back header almost found a way into the bottom corner and the 25-goal striker nodded just over from a Henry cross.
But the hosts have a dangerous player of their own in Liverpool loanee Brewster, who fashioned a low shot at Raya and a header from a corner which cannoned back off a post. The Bees stopper did well to deny the Swansea marksman a clean strike at the rebound.
Matt Jensen slid a ball just wide at the start of the second half after having the ball slipped into the inside-left channel by Benrahma and the Bees stayed positive throughout, even if they were forced to retreat more when the numbers became uneven.
It’s all to play for on Wednesday on what promises to be another tense night of high emotion.
Line-up: Raya – Dalsgaard, Jansson, Pinnock, Henry – Jensen (Baptiste 85), Norgaard, Dasilva (Marcondes 70) – Mbeumo (Roerslev 70), Watkins, Benrahma (Valencia 85). Subs not used: Canos, Dervisoglu, Jeanvier, Fosu, Daniels