BOURNEMOUTH: Arnaut Danjuma's second-half goal earned Bournemouth a narrow 1-0 advantage over Brentford in the first leg of their Championship promotion playoff semi-final on Monday (May 17).
With a limited but vociferous crowd inside the Vitality Stadium, the south coast club struck in the 55th minute when Dutchman Danjuma was slid in by David Brooks before composing himself to find the back of the net.
Brentford, beaten in last year's playoff final by Fulham after squandering a chance to gain automatic promotion, searched for an equaliser and should have grabbed one when forward Bryan Mbeumo somehow failed to convert Christian Norgaard's low cross.
A curling strike from Andre Ayew late in the first half sealed a 1-0 win for Swansea City at Barnsley as fourth met fifth in the other semi-final first leg tie.
The result leaves Steve Cooper’s side in charge of the tie ahead of the return match at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday as they eye a return to the Premier League three years on from their relegation.
Third-placed Brentford had been the form team ahead of the playoffs with four successive league wins, while Bournemouth, who finished sixth lost their last three of the season.
But they now face a nervous second leg at their own stadium if they are to maintain their hopes of a return to the top flight for the first time since 1947.
Bournemouth are looking to bounce back at the first opportunity after being relegated from the Premier League last season after a five-season stay.
Playoff ties are always tense affairs when the prize is a place in the Premier League and this was no exception, although there were plenty of chances for both sides.
Bournemouth should have gone in front early on when Adam Smith got behind Brentford's defence and pulled the ball back for Philip Billing who sliced his side-footed attempt wide.
The hosts went even closer when Dominic Solanke headed a cross from Lloyd Kelly against the post.
Brentford had a penalty appeal waved away when Tariqe Fosu-Henry appeared to have been fouled but for all their possession they rarely threatened the Bournemouth goal.
After falling behind they did look the better side, but might live to rue the miss by Mbeumo.
At Oakwell, Ghana international Ayew cut inside and guided a bending shot into the far corner 39 minutes into a first half that provided plenty of intensity but few chances of note.
Barnsley, roared on by around 4,000 home fans welcomed back for the first time since March 2020, mustered a spirited response after the break.
Substitute Carlton Morris’ shot was parried by Freddie Woodman into the path of Callum Brittain, but the Swans goalkeeper recovered well to charge down the follow-up effort.
Daryl Dike headed wide from a corner, Cauley Woodrow’s free-kick drew another save from Woodman and Morris could only volley over with space in the box as the hosts piled on the pressure.
Swansea weathered the storm and Jamal Lowe and Matt Grimes threatened a second for the visitors, but Morris was inches away from a spectacular stoppage-time equaliser when his backheel flick from a corner came back off the cross bar.