Report | Swansea City 1 Barnsley 1 (Agg: 2-1)
A moment of magic from Matt Grimes sent Swansea City to Wembley as the skipper’s first-half strike helped Steve Cooper’s side through to the Championship play-off final.
In another tight, hard-fought contest with Barnsley, midfielder Grimes put the hosts in control as he curled a wonderful strike into the far corner seven minutes before the break.
That gave the Swans a 2-0 aggregate lead following their first-leg win at Oakwell on Monday, as they were roared on by the returning Jack Army.
Cauley Woodrow levelled on the night with 20 minutes left to set up a nervy finish, but Swansea showed character and nerve to ensure they will face Brentford at Wembley next Saturday with a place in the Premier League on the line.
Cooper had made just one change from the first leg, bringing in Wayne Routledge in attack as Liam Cullen dropped to the bench.
With Kev Johns leading the pre-match build-up in typically passionate and fervent fashion, the 3,000 present at the Liberty ensured the hosts received a rousing reception as supporters attended a home Swans fixture for the first time since March 2020.
It proved a frantic start with plenty of aerial duels as the sides battled for early control of such an important occasion.
Jamal Lowe was unlucky for a deflection to just run too far away from him as he drove into the area from Jake Bidwell’s pass with 10 minutes gone.
Lowe was involved again as he and Routledge combined to send Andre Ayew scampering towards goal, but Barnsley keeper Brad Collins did just enough to come out and smother at the Ghanaian’s feet.
At the other end the Swans were defending stoutly, as they had in the first leg, with Ben Cabango particularly prominent.
Marc Guehi then made an outstanding challenge just on the half-hour mark as Carlton Morris took aim on the edge of the Swansea box as Barnsley enjoyed a period of pressure.
But when the Swans lifted it they took a lead with a wonderful goal from Grimes, one which brought back memories of another play-off semi-final goal at the Liberty 10 years ago.
A Conor Hourihane free-kick was not fully cleared and the skipper brought the ball down, rolled past a man on the edge of the area and curled a fabulous left-footed strike into the far corner of the net.
For the watching Leon Britton, and many Jacks in attendance and watching on from home, it would surely have brought back memories of his strike against Nottingham Forest in 2011.
Collins then punched away a vicious inswinging Hourihane corner as the Swans held their 2-0 aggregate lead at the break.
Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael elected to make two changes at the break as Jordan Williams and Daryl Dike replaced Romal Palmer and Victor Adeboyejo respectively.
The Swans were soon forced into a change of their own as Routledge was left on the floor clutching his knee after landing awkwardly following a battle for possession.
The veteran was sadly stretchered off with Connor Roberts coming on to take his place.
The hour mark came and went with little further incident of note, with the hosts looking largely comfortable.
Jay Fulton briefly threatened to get in on goal, but Collins was out quickly to foil him.
Freddie Woodman’s evening to this point had been a quiet one, but he was called into action to parry away a Morris header from Callum Styles’ corner.
Barnsley were increasingly throwing caution to the wind, and Bidwell made a superb block to deny substitute Williams at the far post with just over 20 minutes to play.
But there was nothing Swansea could do when Williams burst away down the right and pulled a fine pass back for Woodrow to steer the ball into the bottom corner.
That set up a tense finish, with Barnsley pushing for the goal to send the tie to extra-time, and Mads Andersen headed a presentable chance over the bar at the far post from an Alex Mowatt set-piece.
Korey Smith, on for Hourihane, slipped at the vital moment when Grimes sent him clear, while Roberts was denied by Collins.
But it did not matter as the Swans set up a trip to Wembley and their fifth play-off final.
Swansea City: Freddie Woodman; Kyle Naughton, Ben Cabango, Marc Guehi, Jake Bidwell; Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes (captain), Conor Hourihane (Korey Smith 74); Wayne Routledge (Connor Roberts 54), Andre Ayew, Jamal Lowe.
Substitutes: Ben Hamer, Ryan Manning, Ryan Bennett, Joel Latibueadiere, Yan Dhanda, Morgan Whittaker, Liam Cullen.
Barnsley: Brad Collins; Toby Sibbick (Liam Kitching 89), Mads Andersen, Michal Helik; Callum Brittain, Romal Palmer (Jordan Williams 46), Alex Mowatt (captain), Callum Styles; Carlton Morris, Cauley Woodrow, Victor Adeboyejo (Daryl Dike 46).
Substitutes: Jack Walton, Conor Chaplin, Aapo Halme, Michael Sollbauer, Dominik Frieser, Jasper Moon.
Referee: John Brooks