LONDON: Thomas Frank insisted Brentford proved they are not chokers by booking their place in the Championship play-off final with an impressive 3-1 win against Swansea on Wednesday.
Frank’s side trailed 1-0 after Sunday’s semi-final first leg, but they hit back to mark the last match at their Griffin Park stadium with a 3-2 aggregate success.
Ollie Watkins cancelled 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 half-time and Rhian Brewster’s strike was too late to spark a Swansea revival.
Brentford will face local rivals Fulham or Cardiff in the play-off final at Wembley on August 4.
Fulham hold a 2-0 first leg lead heading into Thursday’s decisive meeting at Craven Cottage.
Successive defeats against lowly Stoke and Barnsley at the end of the regular season ruined third placed Brentford’s hopes of automatic promotion to the Premier League.
But the unfashionable west London club, forever in the shadow of neighbours Chelsea, remain in the hunt to reach England’s top-flight for the first time in 73 years.
And Frank was adamant he always believed his team could cope with the play-off 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.
“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.”
Brentford owner Matthew Benham has introduced an analytical-based approach off the field, overseen by two co-directors of football, to make the most of their meagre 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 £170 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.
Poise and purpose
Although the ground was empty due to the coronavirus, 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’ defence 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 defence slow to react, Marcondes had time and space to guide his header past Mulder.
Brentford hadn’t won a single play-off match in 11 previous attempts dating back to 2002.
But 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, on loan from Liverpool, pounced on a mistake from Pontus Jansson to lob Swansea’s goal in the 78th minute, but Brentford held on.