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The EFL Championship promotion playoffs are officially underway, with Bournemouth and Swansea City seizing narrow advantages during Monday’s semifinal first legs.
Bournemouth 1-0 Brentford
Arnaut Danjuma scored the only goal after 55 minutes of action at the Vitality Stadium down on the south coast of England, as the Cherries look to make it a clean sweep of last season’s relegated sides returning at the first time of asking.
To further the statistical oddity, Bournemouth winning promotion via the playoffs would see Norwich City, Watford and themselves promoted in reverse order of how they went down a season ago.
In a tight affair with very little to separate the sides save for a singular goal, Brentford enjoyed more possession of the ball(57 percent) and out-shout Bournemouth 11-9, but the Bees were woeful in front of goal as they managed just one shot on target.
Furthermore, the game’s best scoring chance was tragically wasted by Bryan Mbeumo without Asmir Begovic having to make the save. Mathias Jensen served up a delightful cross toward the far post, where Mbeumo was all by his lonesome with half of the goal totally vacant of human lifeform. Mbeumo slid in to apply the finish but hammered his shot wide of the post when a crucial equalizer looked a certain outcome.
Even without away goals in effect in the EFL Championship promotion playoffs, Thomas Frank’s side would have been massive favorites heading back to the Brentford Community Stadium at 1-1. Alas, even 1-0 down the Bees, who scored more goals (79) than any other side this season, are the likelier of the two sides to go through.
Barnsley 0-1 Swansea City
200 miles to the north, up in south Yorkshire, Jordan Ayew bent a pinpoint blast past the Tykes’ defense to put the side from south Wales ahead at the halfway point.
Barnsley were hugely improved in the second half after coming out flat in the opening period, but Swansea goalkeeper Freddie Woodman made a trio of spectacular saves — two in the opening seconds and one in the dying seconds of stoppage time — to preserve the clean sheet. As such, the Swans are massive favorites to reach the Championship promotion playoff final at Wembley in 12 days’ time.
USMNT striker Daryl Dike put in a decent enough performance on the day, largely following the rest of his side’s cue with a failure to perform in the first half before acquitting himself much better after halftime.
EFL Championship semifinal 2nd leg schedule
Saturday, May 22
Brentford v Bournemouth — 7:30 am ET
Swansea City v Barnsley — 1:30 pm ET
EFL Championship promotion playoff final
Saturday, May 29 — 10 am ET — Wembley Stadium
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Promotion playoffs: Bournemouth, Swansea seize slim leads in leg 1 originally appeared on NBCSports.com