Matt Grimes celebrates after scoring his fifth goal of the season
Steve Cooper will celebrate the Swansea City Championship semi-final triumph in the play-off against Barnsley by watching Brentford on his laptop.
Swansea will battle the Bees for a spot in the Premier League after a tense 1-1 draw with Barnsley secured a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Despite his pride in reaching Wembley, Cooper will be back to work immediately.
“As soon as I get home, the laptop will be on and I’ll investigate the opposition,” said the Swansea chief.
“Of course I’m proud. You’ve seen this football club’s journey, not just the two years I’ve been here. It’s unique and this is another chapter.
“But it’s not finished yet, we have another week next. It’s been a privilege to be at the stadium tonight with fans here and coming to Wembley.
“It will be an unforgettable night, but I also know that my greatest emotion is preparing for next Saturday.”
After a 1-0 first-leg triumph, Matt Grimes’ brilliant goal gave Swansea a 2-0 lead, but Barnsley responded with Cauley Woodrow’s sharp finish.
Valerien Ismael’s team then put pressure on trying to force the competition into overtime.
But Swansea had a nervous finale to set up a meeting with Brentford on Saturday, May 29th.
“It’s going to be a very different game technically and tactically,” added Cooper.
“We had two tough games against her. We didn’t play that well here, we played well in her place at the beginning of the season.”
“We showed that we can play in games like this this year. We’re on the biggest stage now, so we have to do it all over again.”
As in the first leg, this wasn’t a nice competition as Barnsley’s quick, straightforward style caused problems for Swansea.
But as on Monday evening – and several times this season – Cooper’s team has proven that they can take part in a physical competition.
Barnsley’s plan was to get Swansea out of the way from the start and Ishmael’s men started asking questions in the first half without creating many chances.
But it was Swansea who took the initiative six minutes before break when Grimes rolled the ball into the far post.
Barnsley reacted admirably after the break, claiming a deserved equalizer as Woodrow pulled in from the edge of the range.
The Tykes asked all questions from that point on, but Swansea dug deeply to hold on to their advantage.
Swansea’s Conor Hourihane challenges Barnsley’s Alex Mowatt
A game away from a first class return
Last season Swansea won the play-off semi-finals 1-0 in the first leg against Brentford to miss Wembley after a 3-1 defeat in the second game.
After Cooper’s team has gone a step further this time, it is facing a rematch with Thomas Frank’s team.
Swansea won its first leg at Barnsley thanks to the kind of resilient, determined portrayal they regularly produced until a late-season leap in form put an end to hopes of automatic promotion.
The hosts faced a Barnsley barrage at Oakwell and it was similar for much of the second leg.
The chances were slim in the first half as Callum Brittain messed up a shooting opportunity from a corner and made another attempt over the far post.
The only grade in class came from Grimes, who brought the ball down just outside the box after Brad Collins took Conor Hourihane’s free kick.
Grimes’ quick feet led him past the charging Brittain before a glorious effort led him to the farthest corner of the net.
Barnsley’s heads did not fall, and Carlton Morris saw an attempt saved before Jordan Williams’ long-range shot was blocked by the sliding Jake Bidwell.
Swansea creaked, and Barnsley rightly equalized when Williams led a quick counterattack before Woodrow fired a crisp shot into the bottom corner of the net.
The hosts were housed in their own half in the closing stages, but despite all the late control, Barnsley failed to conjure up the unambiguous chance it needed to keep their season alive.
There was relief among 3,000 Swansea fans – watching their team in the flesh for the first time in 441 days – when the final whistle finally sounded.
Three years after being relegated from the Premier League, Swansea are only one game away from returning to the elite.
Barnsley’s Alex Mowatt fights with Swansea’s Jamal Lowe
What’s next for Barnsley?
The promotion hadn’t occurred to Barnsley when Ismael arrived at a club that finished 21st in the table in October 2020.
Ishmael’s effect was spectacular: Barnsley took a play-off spot after scoring 74 points from his 39 games on the field.
They came only briefly, although Swansea worked 180 minutes.
The challenge now is to keep the momentum going for the next season.
Captain Alex Mowatt is out of contract and won’t be short of applicants this summer, while Daryl Dike’s Orlando City loan has now ended – although Barnsley had the option to buy the deal that brought him to Yorkshire.
The good news for Barnsley is that Ismael signed a three-year deal when he took over Oakwell.
Assuming he stays close, Barnsley will believe another surge of promotion is possible in 2021-22.
Swansea Head Coach Steve Cooper:
“We have shown a lot of character and determination in the last two games.
“Respect for Barnsley and the journey you have made this year. You were in as good shape as everyone else in the second half of the season.”
“They test you in a different way. It’s hard to play against them and it’s hard to get rhythm.
“So we knew we had to do certain parts of the game well, and we did. What I like about it is that the fans are back in the stadium for the first time and the people are gone for 14 months.
“We are experiencing a pandemic and you are seeing a team that is just fighting and giving everything they can for its people. That is important to me.”
Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael:
“Congratulations to Swansea. I think they deserve to be in the final. When you watch the two games, they were really clinical.
“They scored with their first shot on goal in the first game and there was only one shot on goal today.
“We did our job. We scored a goal. We wanted to stay in the game the whole time. The quality of Swansea made all the difference, it’s that simple.”
“We can be proud of our performance. We showed why we are in the play-offs – we deserve to be here.”
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but from tomorrow we’ll have time to think about it and see how we’ve done this season with one of the smallest and youngest squads.”
Player of the game
Cadre number10PlayernameAn Ayew
Cadre number5PlayernameMarc Guehi
Cadre number29PlayernameVictor Adeboyejo
- 6thFultonBooked at 90 minutes
- 14thHourihaneReplaced byBlacksmithat the 74 ‘protocol
- 10An Ayew
- fifteenRoutledgeReplaced byRobertsat the 54 ‘protocol
- 20thSibbickReplaced byKitchingat the 89 ‘protocol
- 21PalmerReplaced byWilliamsat the 45 ‘protocol
- 29AdeboyejoReplaced byDikeat the 45 ‘protocol
End of the game, Swansea City 1, Barnsley 1.
The 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).
Missed attempt. Michal Helik’s (Barnsley) header missed from the center of the penalty area to the left. Assisted by Jordan Williams with a cross.
Missed attempt. Carlton Morris (Barnsley) header from the center of the box is close but misses to the left. Prepared 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 by the goalkeeper.
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.
Missed attempt. Carlton Morris (Barnsley) header is a little too high at close range. Assisted by Cauley Woodrow with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Barnsley. The corner was caused by Jake Bidwell.
Missed attempt. 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. The corner was caused by Jamal Lowe.
Foul by Carlton Morris (Barnsley).
Marc Guehi (Swansea City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.