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Preview: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final

4 August 2020

After four fantastic Semi-Final games, we get down to the big one - the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final. Brentford are looking to reach the Premier League for the first time, while Fulham are looking to end just a one-year stay in the second tier of English football.

Brentford v Fulham - Tuesday 4 August (19:45) 

It is a West London derby in this season’s Play-Off Final; the Bees against the Whites under the Wembley arch. Just six miles separate the two grounds, but both sides will be keen to make sure that it becomes six miles and a league division between them. 

This will be the third time we see the two meet in competitive action this season, with Thomas Frank guiding his outfit to maximum points during the regular campaign. 

It might seem like a lifetime ago when Bryan Mbeumo netted the only goal of the game at Griffin Park in December in league action, sealing  their first three points of the season against Scott Parker’s side. 

Fulham fans won’t really want to look back at their last game against Brentford either, as it was the late, late show at Craven Cottage in their first game back after the restart. 

Two goals in two minutes sunk the Whites as Said Benrahma and Emiliano Marcondes netted in the 88th and 90th minute respectively. 

Brentford were the first to secure their spot in this year’s Final after overturning a first-leg defeat against Welsh side Swansea City. 

After Andre Ayew’s thunderbolt at the Liberty Stadium, Frank was in confident mood - stating before that second leg that his side would “100 per cent” win the game on Wednesday night. 

With Rico Henry’s red card getting rescinded from that first leg, Frank knew that his side had to be firing straight out of the blocks on home soil. 

And that’s exactly what happened. 

Brentford’s flair players clearly had the bit between their teeth as they scored two goals inside 15 minutes at Griffin Park, putting them in pole position for a Wembley place on Tuesday night. 

The first goal was a counter-attack of pure brilliance from the hosts, it took 11 seconds from the ball being in goalkeeper David Raya’s hands to being in the back of Erwin Mulder’s net. 

Raya’s throw found Mathias Jensen in space on the right and his superb defence-splitting through-ball found danger man Ollie Watkins, who had broken through the Swansea backline, and the slotted the ball under the advancing keeper - taking his goals total to 26 for the season. 

Emiliano then got in on the action; Jensen was again involved in the build-up as his pass found Benrahma in space - his dinked cross found the head of Emiliano who had found some space inside the Swans penalty area with his effort beating the flat-footed Mulder. 

The action didn’t stop there and, with the words of their Danish manager still ringing in their ears, the Bees set off in search of another goal to kill the game off. 

With less than a minute gone in the second period, Brentford extended their lead once again, a delicious cross from Henry was swept into the bottom-left corner by Mbeumo. 

The final 12 minutes of the game was not as plain sailing as the home side would have liked, as a mistake from centre-back Pontus Jansson led to Rhian Brewster having enough time to loop the ball over Raya’s head. 

But that proved to be the last significant moment for Steve Cooper’s side in the game, who had performed magnificently to get to that final Play-Off spot. 

Fulham made life a bit difficult for themselves in the second leg, but thankfully for them they had a 2-0 lead from the Cardiff City Stadium to fall back on, which helped them to secure their place in the upcoming Final. 

Goals from Josh Onomah and Neeskens Kebano secured that victory on Monday night. Heading to Thursday night’s game at Craven Cottage, the Whites made the worst possible start - on the flip side, it would have been the start Neil Harris would have been looking for from his side. 

After eight minutes of the affair, Cardiff took the lead. A corner from the right-hand side was nodded home by advancing centre-half Cutris Nelson to hand the Bluebirds a lifeline in their hunt for a return to the Premier League. 

But that jubilation did not last long and, as the old saying goes, ‘you’re most vulnerable when you’ve just scored’. After kicking off from conceding to finding the back of the Alex Smithies’ net, it took Scott Parker’s Whites just 24 seconds to level the game. 

A wicked, drilled cross from former Bluebird Bobby Decordova-Reid was guided home by Kebano to make it 1-1 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate. 

Neil Harris reacted after the break, clearly looking for a creative spark to kick-start their second-half comeback. The introduction of Lee Tomlin was a masterstroke from his perspective, as the 31-year-old found the net within two minutes of the restart. 

Cardiff huffed and puffed but they couldn’t break Fulham down again, and despite losing on the night, the Whites ensured that they will be facing their West London counterparts in Tuesday’s Final. 

No matter what happens in that Final, both sides can look back at their campaigns with a huge sense of achievement - Parker leading his side to a Play-Off Final in his first full season as Fulham manager, and Frank turning Brentford a mid-table side to the division’s top scorers. 

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