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Swansea City 1 v 1 Barnsley
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 22nd May 2021 Kick-off 18:30
Guehi is the gluey as the swans go througheee !
Saturday, 22nd May 2021 23:09 by Keith Haynes

A master class in defending from Marc Guehi ensured Swansea City progressed to the EFL Championship final at Wembley next Saturday as the swans win 2-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw at the Liberty stadium.

It wasn’t the best of games, the neutral would have wanted a repeat of Brentford’s lucky win against Bournemouth in the other semi final, but that wasn’t Steve Cooper’s plan at the Liberty in front of 3,267 swans fans. It was the first time in fourteen months that Swansea had played in front of their home fans and the noise and support was electric as the swans and tykes fought out a 1-1 draw.

The first half saw an industrious Conor Hourihane at last take a game by the scruff of the neck providing the Jack Army with a completely different player to that they had seen in recent months. Moving the game forwards when in space and putting his body on the line earned him a few knocks to the head as the swans went about another solid defensive display. Matt Grimes as well, a captain with a mission as ever linking in play with Jay Fulton dissolving Barnsley’s one dimensional tactics. But it was at the back where Bidwell, Naughton, Cabango and Guehi shone, Every big ball was dealt with, every long throw was cleared and when Barnsley did show some form of passing ability Jamal Lowe and Andre Ayew were back in the mix tidying up and managing the game as they have numerous times this season.

The surprise selection of Wayne Routledge was frowned upon by some swans fans but it was clear from the off his role was to press in to the space left by Barnsley’s foraging long balls, and it worked. Tactically, and once again Steve Cooper and Mike Marsh got it right. As the half wore on with Barnsley as per the first leg running out of ideas the middle part of the half showed the swans in eighty percent of game possession. Routledge the willing runner with balls in to the channel saw him win a free kick that led to Matt Grimes superb strike which would lead to Swansea City winning the two legged tie.

At thirty six years of age and counting Routledge ran his socks off as a false nine in a front three alongside Ayew and Lowe. However it was much more than that. With Jay Fulton nullifying Barnsley’s strong arm tactics and disrupting their attempt at midfield dominance and Grimes popping clever balls forwards Routledge relentlessly running across the front line was a real torment to the Barnsley defence. Off the ball he took up positions giving him a yard start, sadly on three occasions resulting in offside calls, however even with play being disrupted as a result Barnsley were being given much to think about. This was a game for the experienced player, the selection of an older eleven at the start showed that. Hourihane in midfield further rubber stamped that tactic.

The first half was pretty underwhelming but from Routledge’s efforts a free kick out on the Barnsley right saw tykes keeper Collins punch wildly at the resulting cross. On the edge of the area it was met by Grimes. A beautiful side step leaving Brittain stranded left him with a seconds grace as he passed the ball in to the back of the Barnsley net. Once again the swans displayed that quality finishing wins crucial games of football, much the same as Ayew did in the first leg.

For all their huffing and puffing, pace and commitment Barnsley were again given a lesson in top quality finishing.

The second half provided the same challenges as the first leg, Barnsley brought on Dike to compliment the energetic Morris which gave the swans two twenty year old centre backs, Guehi and Cabango far more to think about. Combine their two ages and Wayne Routledge at 36 is only 4 years behind them. With the Sky cameras present again Andy Hinchcliffe as co-commentator eugilised over the continued defensive awareness and placement of Guehi. Intercepting every ball forwards he was never less than a half yard from Dike’s shoulder. The American was completely incapacitated by a young man’s defensive display not seen since the golden days of Ashley Williams.

Golden oldie Wayne Routledge was clearly fouled as the swans pushed forwards again and the injury result meant he was stretchered out of the game, Steve Cooper would later hold back genuine affection for the swans stalwart giving away his non involvement at Wembley in a weeks time. A very brief insight into Coopers admiration of his side he calls a family and a break from his normal calm exterior.

To their credit Barnsley never gave up but they never really threatened to take a hold of the game until a superb breakaway from a Swansea attack. Barnsley had responded admirably after the break, claiming a deserved equaliser as Woodrow rifled in from the edge of the area. A swans shot was blocked in the Barnsley area and the hit and run break saw Grimes hopelessly exposed as a cross came in to the edge of the Swansea area which was met by Woodrow clinically. It was as good a goal as those from Ayew and Grimes, it signalled substitutions from Ishmael who threw everything at the game. The swans looked tired up front and retreated with sub Korey Smith adding to the defensive effort.

The Tykes asked all the questions from that point on, but Swansea dug deep to hold on to their advantage. Once again Barnsley ran out of ideas, the swans soaked up the tykes effort and the relief was tangible as the referee brought the two game encounter to an end. Next Saturday Swansea City take on Brentford at Wembley, the winners go to the Premier League, I think we would have bought that scenario at the start of the season. Once again the swans will be underdogs, they have been underdogs since these play offs started, so nothing changes there. Except of course the underdogs are in the final.

Swansea head coach Steve Cooper
"We showed a lot of character and determination over the last two games. Respect to Barnsley and the journey that they've been on this year. They've been as in-form a team as anybody in the second part of the season. They test you in a different way. It's hard to play against 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 that is that, fans back in the stadium for the first time, people being away for 14 months. We're going through a pandemic and they're seeing a team that's just fighting and giving everything they can for their people. That's important to me."

Barnsley head coach Valerien Ismael
"Congratulations to Swansea. I think they deserve to be in the final. When you see the two games, they were really clinical. They scored with their first shot on target in the first game and today only one shot on target was in. We did our job. We scored a goal away. We wanted to stay in the game all the time. Swansea's quality made the difference, it's as simple as that. We can be proud of our performance. We showed why we are in the play-offs - we deserved to be here. For sure we are disappointed but from tomorrow we have time to reflect and see how we did this season with one of the smallest squads and youngest squads."

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton, Cabango, Guehi, Bidwell; Grimes (C), Fulton, Hourihane (Smith 73); Ayew, Routledge (Roberts 53), Lowe.

Subs not used: Hamer, Manning, Bennett, Latibeaudiere, Dhanda, Cullen, Whittaker.

Goal: Grimes 39

Yellow card: Fulton 90+4

Barnsley: Collins; Sibbick (Kitching 88), Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Palmer (J Williams 46), Mowatt (C), Styles; Adeboyejo (Dike 46), Woodrow, Morris.

Subs not used: Walton, Sollbauer, Halme, Moon, Chaplin, Frieser.

Goal: Woodrow 71

Referee: John Brooks

Ticket update : As it stands both clubs will receive 4,089 tickets for the Wembley final with 1800 being kept aside for god knows who.

How do you feel after the game ?
The swans are going to Wembley, let’s not forget that.

Photographs licensed from Reuters

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