Swansea City will battle Brentford for a place in the Premier League after a tense 1-1 draw with Barnsley gave them a 2-1 aggregate victory in the Championship play-off semi-final.
Matt Grimes’ sparkling goal put Swansea 2-0 up in the tie but Barnsley levelled through Cauley Woodrow’s sharp finish.
Valerien Ismael’s team piled pressure on as they looked to take the contest to extra time.
But Swansea held on and will face Brentford at Wembley.
Like the first leg, this was not a pretty contest as Barnsley’s high-tempo, direct style caused problems for Swansea.
But as they had on Monday night – and have done on numerous occasions this season – Steve Cooper’s side proved they could compete in a physical contest.
Barnsley’s plan was to knock Swansea out of their stride from the outset, and Ismael’s men asked questions in the first half without creating many chances.
But it was Swansea who seized the initiative six minutes before half-time when Grimes curled the ball inside the far post.
Barnsley responded admirably after the break, claiming a deserved equaliser as Woodrow rifled in from the edge of the area.
The Tykes asked all the questions from that point on, but Swansea dug deep to hold on and set up a meeting with Brentford on Saturday, 29 May.
One game away from a top-flight return
Last season Swansea won their play-off semi-final first leg against Brentford 1-0 only to miss out on Wembley after a 3-1 loss in the second.
Having gone a step further this time around, Cooper’s team face a rematch with Thomas Frank’s side in this year’s final.
Swansea won their first leg at Barnsley thanks to the sort of resilient, determined display which they produced on a regular basis until a late-season dip in form ended their hopes of automatic promotion.
The hosts dealt with a Barnsley barrage at Oakwell, and it was similar story for much of the second leg.
Chances were at a premium in a first half lacking quality, as Callum Brittain fluffed one shooting opportunity from a corner and lifted another effort beyond the far post.
The one touch of class was provided by Grimes, who brought the ball down just outside the box after Brad Collins had palmed out Conor Hourihane’s free-kick.
Grimes’ quick feet took him past the onrushing Brittain before he guided a glorious effort into the far corner of the net.
Barnsley heads did not drop, with Carlton Morris seeing an effort saved before Jordan Williams’ far-post shot was blocked by the sliding Jake Bidwell.
Swansea were creaking, and Barnsley deservedly levelled when Williams led a rapid counter-attack before squaring for Woodrow to flash a crisp shot into the bottom corner of the net.
The hosts were camped in their own half in the closing stages but, for all the late control, Barnsley could not conjure the sort of clear-cut chance needed to keep their season alive.
Relief reigned among 3,000 Swansea fans – watching their team in the flesh for the first time in 441 days – when the final whistle eventually came.
Three years after relegation from the Premier League, their team are are one game away from rejoining the elite.
What next for Barnsley?
Promotion was not on Barnsley minds when Ismael arrived at a club who were 21st in the table in October 2020.
Ismael’s impact has been spectacular, with Barnsley claiming a play-off spot having taken 74 points from his 39 games in the dugout.
They came up just short despite making Swansea work for 180 minutes.
The challenge now is to maintain momentum next season.
Captain Alex Mowatt is out of contract and will not be short of suitors this summer, while Daryl Dike’s loan from Orlando City is now at an end – although Barnsley did have an option to buy in the deal which brought him to Yorkshire.
The good news for Barnsley is that Ismael signed a three-year deal when he took over at Oakwell.
Assuming he stays around, Barnsley will feel another promotion push is possible in 2021-22.
- 6FultonBooked at 90mins
- 14HourihaneSubstituted forSmithat 74′minutes
- 10A Ayew
- 15RoutledgeSubstituted forRobertsat 54′minutes
- 20SibbickSubstituted forKitchingat 89′minutes
- 21PalmerSubstituted forWilliamsat 45′minutes
- 29AdeboyejoSubstituted forDikeat 45′minutes
Match ends, Swansea City 1, Barnsley 1.
Second Half ends, Swansea City 1, Barnsley 1.
Jay Fulton (Swansea City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jordan Williams (Barnsley) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jay Fulton (Swansea City).
Attempt missed. Michal Helik (Barnsley) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jordan Williams with a cross.
Attempt missed. Carlton Morris (Barnsley) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Mads Andersen.
Foul by Callum Brittain (Barnsley).
Korey Smith (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Barnsley. Liam Kitching replaces Toby Peter Sibbick.
Attempt saved. Connor Roberts (Swansea City) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Foul by Callum Styles (Barnsley).
Connor Roberts (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Cauley Woodrow (Barnsley) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt missed. Carlton Morris (Barnsley) header from very close range is just a bit too high. Assisted by Cauley Woodrow with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Barnsley. Conceded by Jake Bidwell.
Attempt missed. Carlton Morris (Barnsley) header from the right side of the six yard box is close, but misses the top right corner. Assisted by Alex Mowatt with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Barnsley. Conceded by Jamal Lowe.
Foul by Carlton Morris (Barnsley).
Marc Guehi (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.