Swansea City v Barnsley | The Key Battles
Swansea City are on their way to a fifth play-off final from eighth attempts after sealing a 2-1 aggregate victory over Barnsley at a jubilant Liberty Stadium on Saturday night.
Steve Cooper’s side can now prepare for a Wembley final appearance on May 29, where they will take on Brentford with the chance to secure a return to the Premier League after a three-year absence.
It took an excellent all-round team effort to secure a safe passage past the Tykes, and there were a number of key performances across the two legs.
Here, we assess some of the key battles across 180 minutes of absorbing, hard-fought knock-out football.
Ben Cabango/Marc Guehi v Daryl Dike/Victor Adeboyejo
Daryl Dike had been one of the Championship’s form marksmen following his arrival on loan at Oakwell from Orlando City, netting nine goals in 19 games prior to the play-offs.
His battle against fellow 20-year-olds Ben Cabango and Marc Guehi was always likely to be a key part of the equation across the two legs, and the Swansea pair could not have done much more when it came to ensuring their side’s success.
American Dike got next to no change out of the pair during the first leg in south Yorkshire, and the same was true when he was introduced as a half-time sub in the second leg.
Valerien Ismael handed Victor Adeboyajo a start at the Liberty but, once again, Cabango and Guehi were simply colossal and able to limit the opportunities available.
Matt Grimes v Alex Mowatt
The battle of the two influential captains in the middle of the park was another to look forward to ahead of the pair of semi-final ties.
Both have the ability to make their sides tick when on song, and if either could find the upper hand it could prove invaluable to their respective sides.
As with all of Steve Cooper’s squad, the Swansea midfield were going to need to be ready to accept the physical challenge and Grimes – more than ably backed by Jay Fulton, Conor Hourihane and Korey Smith – certainly was.
Those in white shirts scrapped for everything and, when a moment of quality was required, Grimes produced with a wonderful second-leg strike that was eerily reminiscent of Leon Britton’s effort against Nottingham Forest a decade earlier.
Freddie Woodman v Carlton Morris
Swansea goalkeeper Freddie Woodman was outstanding across the two games, and the saves he made from Carlton Morris proved particularly crucial to the final outcome.
In the first leg, Woodman parried an awkward bobbling effort from the substitute to keep Swansea ahead, and immediately made an even better stop to deny Callum Brittain’s follow-up.
The on-loan Newcastle man also got the faintest of touches to Morris’ flicked near-post effort in stoppage time at Oakwell, which came back off the crossbar.
And, back on home turf for the second leg, Woodman denied Morris once again as he parried away his far-post header as well as another effort.