After suffering a flurry of failures on the big stage, this time Brentford made promotion look like a doddle. They soared into an early two-goal lead courtesy of an Ivan Toney penalty and a cool Emiliano Marcondes strike, and Swansea City, overawed by the occasion, offered no reply.
For the first time since 1947, Brentford will play in the top flight of English football, finally conquering the play-offs at the 10th time of asking. At full-time, the sun-drenched, red-and-white segment of this enormous arena bobbed with joy.
Swansea, who had Jay Fulton sent off midway through the second half, never settled, with the captain Matt Grimes’s crude challenge on Sergi Canos an early indicator of the angst that seemed to eat away at Steve Cooper’s side from the off. Four minutes later, Freddie Woodman panicked as Bryan Mbeumo sped through on goal and brought down the electric forward. Canos sliced open the Swansea defence with a teasing pass and up stepped an unflustered Toney to dispatch the spot-kick, his 33rd goal of the season.
Swansea were rattled. Woodman ballooned a pass out of play and Cooper was cussing as Brentford poured forward on the counterattack a few minutes later. As soon as Mbeumo collected a Brentford clearance a few yards inside his own half, Cooper turned to the away dugout in pain, presumably having foreseen the result of the two-v-two scenario that was about to play out.
Brentford zoomed forward on the counterattack, as Mbeumo forced the Swansea defender Kyle Naughton to back up before waiting for the overlapping Mads Roerslev, who popped up on his left. Roerslev picked out the arrival of Marcondes, who rounded off a slick break at the back post. Brian Riemer, the Brentford assistant coach, almost lost his step amid the celebrations, jumping the advertising hoardings to leap on to Frank.
Brentford had made this pitch their playground and Toney came within centimetres of adding a spectacular third a minute later. He controlled a bouncing ball on his chest before letting rip with a right-foot strike that beat Woodman but walloped the crossbar. Toney gnawed at Swansea’s youthful centre-back partnership and Mbeumo proved a constant menace. Naughton was fortunate to avoid a foul after losing a battle on halfway and Mbeumo surged towards goal after seizing an aimless Marc Guehi header but failed to generate any power on his shot after swivelling clear of his marker.
Suddenly Brentford had mustered as many goals in the opening 20 minutes at Wembley as they had in their previous four play-off finals combined and Swansea, who had scored more than two goals only twice since a play-off semi-final defeat to Brentford last season, were left searching for a miracle. Brentford felt they should have had another penalty before the interval, when Vitaly Janelt’s powerful shot smacked the left hand of Jake Bidwell but the referee, Chris Kavanagh, penalised Toney for a foul in the buildup. Toney would have surely added a third but for a smart block by Bidwell late on.
Swansea’s supporters belted out the Welsh national anthem with gusto before kick-off but their team fell painfully flat. They roused before half-time, with André Ayew nodding a header on to the roof of the net and two minutes after the break Ayew again went close, heading wide from Connor Roberts’s brilliant cross, which was mistakenly waved through by Pontus Jansson.
With 25 minutes to play, it was game over. Fulton appeared to slip but inadvertently lunged into Mathias Jensen and the referee immediately reached for his back pocket. Fulton pulled his shirt over his face as he trudged down the tunnel and, up in the stands, a Swansea supporter put both hands on his head. At the other end, Brentford revelled in the catastrophe.