Soccer-Toney and Marcondes fire Brentford into Premier League

LONDON (Reuters) - London club Brentford ended years of heartbreak to seal their place in the top flight for the first time in 74 years thanks to a dominant 2-0 win over Swansea City in the Championship playoff final on Saturday.

Soccer Football - Championship Play-Off Final - Brentford v Swansea City - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - May 29, 2021 Brentford's Pontus Jansson lifts the trophy as they celebrate after winning Championship Play-Off Final Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

Ivan Toney’s early penalty and a goal on the counter-attack by Emiliano Marcondes put Brentford in command with only 20 minutes on the clock and they were rarely threatened.

Victory for Brentford erased the painful memories of nine playoff failures, including in last season’s final against Fulham, and will earn them something in the region of 170 million pounds ($241 million) in Premier League income.

The high stakes of what is regarded as the richest game in world club football appeared to stifle Swansea, who finished fourth in the regular season to Brentford’s third, and they were reeling after five minutes at Wembley.

Brentford’s Bryan Mbeumo was fouled by Swansea goalkeeper Freddie Woodman and Toney coolly dispatched the penalty for his 33rd goal of a superb first season with Brentford.

The 5,000 or so Brentford fans who made the short trip were ecstatic in the 20th minute when Mbeumo accelerated down the left before waiting for support from the overlapping Mads Roerslev who picked out Marcondes to fire home.

Swansea, who were relegated in 2018 after seven seasons in the Premier League, attempted to apply some pressure and things might have been different had Andre Ayew managed to direct his diving header on target in the 48th minute.

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But when they had Jay Fulton sent off for a second booking after 65 minutes, it sealed their fate.

The final whistle sparked jubilation for Thomas Frank and his players and offered conclusive proof of the methods of club owner Matthew Benham -- a former professional gambler who employed the deep statistical analysis of data that earned him millions to great effect to transform a club which has lived in the shadows of the capital’s giants.

Toney is a prime example of Brentford’s “Moneyball” transfer policy. He was signed for five million pounds last year from Peterborough to replace Ollie Watkins who joined Aston Villa for 33 million pounds, having arrived for 1.8 million.

He capped a remarkable season and could have even made the game safe before halftime when his dipping volley crashed against the underside of the crossbar.

“It’s crazy,” said Toney, who failed to make the breakthrough at Newcastle United and spent much of his career out on loan.

“We were the better side even when they had 11 men and they didn’t create any chances. We fully deserved it. I’m in the Premier League with the best bunch of boys.”

Brentford manager Frank steered his team to a 21-match unbeaten run earlier in the season but a dip in form scuppered their automatic promotion chances, with Norwich City and Watford finishing in the top two places.

But they finished the season strongly and, after overcoming Bournemouth in the semi-final, were not about to let promotion slip through their fingers again.

“Right now I’m empty,” Frank said. “I don’t know how to describe it. Last season I thought we deserved to go up but we didn’t and that’s football. This group of players is incredible.

“Everyone made a major part in this. I think we have been one of the best teams in the past two years.”

($1 = 0.7043 pounds)

Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Clare Fallon