Brentford (0) v (1) Swansea City
Wednesday 29 July - 19:45
Sunday evening’s 1-0 win for Swansea City highlighted how chaotic the Sky Bet Championship Play-Offs are, it had everything!
A penalty (and a penalty save), a sending off, the woodwork being rattled and a thunderous strike to win the game. The first 45 minutes presented a big chance for both sides, the first falling to Brentford and their top scorer, Ollie Watkins.
His backwards header looked destined for the bottom-right corner of Erwin Mulder’s goal but the Dutchman’s outstretched hand made sure the scores remained level.
Just before the break, Swansea had their chance, a corner by Conor Gallagher was met by the head of Andre Ayew - but he could only look on as his effort cannoned off the right-hand post.
The second period took off and Ayew’s performance after the break summed up the highs and lows of the Play-Offs. The low came first on this occasion…
After Rhian Brewster was fouled by Pontus Jansson in the box, Ayew retrieved the ball and placed it onto the spot, however a huge save from Bees goalkeeper David Yaya ensured the affair remained goalless.
The high for Ayew came 18 minutes later, as his wonder strike found the top right-hand corner of Raya’s goal, giving the joint-Golden Glove winner absolutely no chance.
Rico Henry was also given his marching orders by referee Keith Stroud earlier in the second half, but that red card has since been overturned.
Stats ahead of the game
- Brentford have lost three of their last four games against Swansea at Griffin Park (W1), including a play-off semi-final second leg in 2006 when both sides were in League One. However, they did win 3-1 at home earlier this season against the Swans.
- Swansea are winless in their last four trips to the capital in all competitions (D1 L3), most recently a 1-1 draw with Millwall in June.
- Brentford have lost just two of their last 16 Championship home games (W12 D2), conceding just three goals in their last six games at Griffin Park.
- Swansea have only kept one clean sheet in their last 10 Championship away games, however they’ve only failed to score in two of those trips on the road.
- Brentford are winless in their last 11 Football League play-off games (D3 L8), last winning in May 2002 against Huddersfield in the third tier semi-final second leg.
- No team scored more goals at home in the Championship this season than Brentford (44 goals, also West Brom). In contrast, only Sheffield Wednesday (39), Leeds (37) and Brentford (36) scored more on the road than Swansea (35).
- During the 2019-20 Championship campaign, Saïd Benrahma was involved in 291 open play sequences that ending in a shot; 46 more than any other player in the division.
- André Ayew has been directly involved in 25 goals for Swansea in all competitions this season (18 goals, 7 assists); just one fewer than his last three campaigns combined in England and Turkey (26).
- No player has scored more home goals in the Championship this season than Brentford striker Ollie Watkins (14, also Aleksandar Mitrovic).
- Rhian Brewster has eight goals in his 11 appearances on the road for Swansea this season, including each of the last three.
Fulham (2) v (0) Cardiff City
Thursday 30 July - 19:45
Scott Parker’s Fulham side put themselves in pole position ahead of Thursday night’s second leg against Cardiff City at Craven Cottage.
Two second-half goals of pure quality separated the Whites and the Bluebirds on Monday evening. After an uneventful first-half, Fulham kicked into overdrive.
The first goal for Fulham came four minutes after the restart; a majestic solo strike from Josh Onomah saw him skip past three players before giving Alex Smithies the eyes and slotting home.
Parker’s decision to leave out the league’s top-scorer Aleksandar Mitrovic paid off. The Serbian was touch-and-go ahead of the game at the Cardiff City Stadium due to injury and, with eyes on their second-leg home fixture, he was not risked.
It proved to be a smart choice by the 39-year-old manager, whose evening got a whole lot better as Neeskens Kebano fired home an exquisite free-kick moments before the final whistle.
Mitrovic could, of course, come back into the fold for that second leg on Thursday evening, but the Whites boss might have an eye on the Play-Off Final instead, especially with that two-goal lead after the first leg.
Stats ahead of the game
- No team have ever failed to reach the Championship playoff-final after winning the semi-final first leg by 2+ goals (15 previous instances).
- Fulham are unbeaten in their last six home games against Cardiff (W3 D3), including 2-0 victory as recently as July 10th.
- Cardiff have won six of their last eight games on the road (L2), with four of those victories coming by a two-goal margin or larger.
- Fulham are unbeaten in their last eight games, winning six and drawing two whilst keeping five clean sheets during this run.
- During the regular Championship season, Fulham made 588 sequences of 10+ passes from open play; 139 more than any other side in the division. In contrast, Cardiff City made just 88 – the fewest of any side.
- Cardiff City had the oldest average starting XI during the regular Championship season, with an average age of 28 years and 143 days old.
- Fulham’s Josh Onomah has been directly involved in five goals in nine games since the restart (3 goals, 2 assists), after just two in 23 league appearances in 2019-20 before the break (1 goal, 1 assist).
- Cardiff City scored 28 set-piece goals during the 2019-20 Championship season; two more than any other side. In contrast, only Barnsley (12) score fewer such goals than Fulham (15).
- Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 14 goals in 20 Championship home games this season, netting three in his last two games at Craven Cottage.
- Lee Tomlin has had a hand in 18 Championship goals this season (8 goals, 10 assists); eight more than any other Cardiff City player.