Bees finally get taste of play-off honey as Wembley triumph ends 74-wait for top flight
Championship Play-Off Final
Brentford (2) 2 Toney pen 10, Marcondes 20
Swansea City (0) 0
Finally, gloriously, almost unbelievably, the Bees are there.
Back in the top flight of English football after the small matter of a 74-year absence.
Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea – all are on their way soon to the spanking new stadium by Kew Bridge which may be welcoming full houses for the first time before too long.
For many of the older Bees fans, it is a ‘pinch me’ moment that is frankly off the scale. Thomas Frankly.
But in the end, it all seemed ridiculously serene. Almost without drama. Two goals to the good with the game only 20 minutes old. The opposition down to 10 men after 65 minutes. Genuine scares kept to an acceptable minimum.
It wasn’t meant to be so straight-forward. Brentford weren’t meant to win because red and white striped teams always lose at Wembley, so the myth says.
Then again, after nine failures in nine previous play-off attempts, perhaps it was. The club had earned a day off from heart-breaks and gut-wrenching tension. David Raya had no incidents to fear a repeat of the calamitous moment in last year’s final when he was suckered by a long-range free-kick.
Frank, the debonair Dane masterminding this triumph could hardly have expected, after last year’s heartache, that he would be calmly strolling around his sun-kissed technical area, mostly enjoying the moment rather than fretting or needing to kick an ice box as he did in the semi-final.
We had only been playing 10 minutes when Ivan Toney settled the nerves by rolling in a perfect spot-kick, low to the right of keeper Freddie Woodman.
The on-loan keeper had given away the penalty after a panicked lunge at the feet of Bryan Mbeumo as the Frenchman raced to meet a through-ball from Sergi Canos.
Added to his 31 regular-season strikes and semi-final play-off pen against Bournemouth, that made it 33 for the season. Quite a warning that, for the Premier League’s defenders.
Ten minutes later and the game looked as good as over. A hacked clearance down the line started the perfect breakaway charge, with Mbeumo feeding Mads Roerslev to his left and the Dane’s check-back and rolled cross was gleefully swept in at the far post by Emiliano Marcondes.
Had it not been for an extra coat of paint on the Wembley crossbar, Toney would have added a third within moments of the second goal, sending a dipping shot from outside the area onto the underside of the woodwork and down onto the line.
Swansea had been chasing shadows from the off. A clumsy lunge in the opening moments by skipper Matt Grimes on Canos might easily have resulted in more than a yellow.
It was all such a far-cry from the chilly August night last season when Fulham finally snuffed out their promotion bid at this cavernous venue. This time they had 6,000 of their own fans in a crowd of 12,000 to witness one of the great moments in the club’s history.
After the interval, Andre Ayew came close to getting the Swans back into it with a diving header attempt that glanced wide. Jamal Lowe turned inside the box and fired wide. But none of it felt that perilous.
Mbeumo spooned over a Canos cross. Ethan Pinnock smashed a rising shot into the shoulder of his defensive partner Pontus Jansson. Toney almost crowned another marquee contribution with a goal but had a shot blocked on the six-yard line.
But by then, Swansea had shut the door even further on themselves by having Scottish defender Jay Fulton red-carded for a wild leap into the heel of Mathias Jensen with a quarter of the game still to go. It was not deliberate, but reckless and it summed up the Swans’ effort.
What a story this is. More than seven decades in the making via so many years in the lower leagues in front of a few thousand dedicated souls that it seemed likely, not so long ago, to be the default position forever at a downbeat corner of west London in a charming but crumbling Griffin Park.
Now we have the fruition of an incredible rise of a fringe club through the emotion-free number-crunching model which created a relentlessly successful conveyor-belt of dependable players.
The betting magnate fan who put his shirt on the team he supported, cashing in on the greatest gamble of his life. Matthew Benham has made the seemingly impossible come to pass. Statues have been commissioned for less. Fans chanted his name before the end.
And of course, there will be a lot of cashing in beyond the glory of making it to the top flight. There’s the small matter of the calculated windfall that comes with making it to the Premier League.
The figure inflates so rapidly that a match billed as the £160m game a few days ago had become £178m by the day of the match itself.
Whatever the final figure, it will not be that which fires the imagination of fans this summer. They will be daydreaming of the mouth-watering fixture list to come – of their heroes coming face-to-face with some of the most famous names in the football world, on a weekly basis.
The issue of what signings they may need, what ambitions they should realistically harbour for next season are things that can wait another day – at any rate, until after the party that is to come.
Bees: (3-4-1-2) David Raya – Dalsgaard, Jansson (Reid 79), Pinnock – Roerslev, Jensen, Janelt (Ghoddos 74), Canos (Forss 74) – Marcondes (Bidstrup 90) – Toney, Mbeumo. Subs not used: Daniels, Norgaard, Fosu, Stevens
Swans: (3-4-1-2) Woodman – Naughton (Cullen 61), Cabango, Guehi – Roberts, Fulton, Grimes, Bidwell (Manning 83) – Hourihane (Dhanda 63) - Ayew, Lowe. Subs not used: Hamer, Bennett, Smith, Whittaker, Latibeaudiere, Freeman