Manager Thomas Frank on Wednesday insisted that Brentford have proved they are not chokers by booking their place in the Championship playoff final with an impressive 3-1 win against Swansea City.
Frank’s side trailed 1-0 after Sunday’s semi-final first leg, but they hit back to mark the last match at Griffin Park with a 3-2 aggregate success.
Ollie Watkins canceled out Swansea’s advantage in the opening minutes and Emiliano Marcondes doubled stylish Brentford’s lead before the break.
Bryan Mbeumo bagged their third goal after halftime and Rhian Brewster’s strike was too late to spark a Swansea revival.
Brentford are to face local rivals Fulham or Cardiff City in the playoff final at Wembley on Tuesday next week.
Fulham held a 2-0 first-leg lead heading into yesterday’s decisive meeting at Craven Cottage.
Successive defeats against lowly Stoke City and Barnsley at the end of the season ruined third-placed Brentford’s hopes of automatic promotion to the English Premier League.
The unfashionable west London club, forever in the shadow of neighbors Chelsea, remain in the hunt to reach England’s top flight for the first time in 73 years.
Frank was adamant he always believed his team could cope with the playoff pressure.
“Because we had these two minor setbacks everyone was talking about ‘can they handle it,’ but you know we put too many things on a specific game,” Frank said.
“We were just on it. The way we played tonight, I honestly think we could have won three or four nil,” he said.
“I said after training yesterday that we wouldn’t leave this pitch until we’re in the final. I felt we were the better team and thought we had that irritated feeling in our bodies,” he added.
Brentford owner Matthew Benham has introduced an analytical approach off the field, overseen by two codirectors of football, to make the most of their meager resources in comparison to the Championship’s wealthier clubs.
It has proved a successful formula and Brentford are now just one win away from a lucrative ￡70 million (US$91 million) place alongside Chelsea, Liverpool and company in the Premier League.
That would be the perfect way to say farewell to Griffin Park, the club’s home since 1904, as Brentford prepare to move into a new stadium next season.
Although the ground was empty due to COVID-19, Danish boss Frank had called on his players to deliver “one last magical moment” at the old place and Watkins rose to the occasion in the 11th minute.
Breaking quickly from a Swansea corner, Brentford cut through the visitors’ defense as Watkins ran onto Mathias Jensen’s precise through-ball and slotted a clinical finish under Erwin Mulder.
Brentford had been too conservative in the first leg, but they were surging forward with poise and purpose this time, and doubled their lead in the 15th minute.
Said Benrahma lofted his cross into the penalty area and, with Swansea’s defense slow to react, Marcondes had time and space to guide his header past Mulder.
Brentford had not won a single playoff match in 11 previous attempts dating back to 2002.
Frank’s team made it three less than a minute after the interval.
Brentford’s Rico Henry had been sent off in the first leg, but he was available to play after the red card was quashed on appeal.
Making the most of his reprieve, Henry tore down the left wing and whipped over a cross that Mbeumo met with a superb volleyed finish.
Brewster pounced on a mistake from Pontus Jansson to lob Swansea’s goal in the 78th minute, but Brentford held on.
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