Brentford and Fulham served up a play-off final that possibly showed why neither side could go up in the automatic places as Fulham triumphed 2-0 after extra time at Wembley.
Both sides came into the final in good form. Brentford had won seven of the nine games they’d played since lockdown ended, while Fulham had put in a great effort to beat a determined Cardiff side over two legs in the semi-final.
Said Benrahma has shown that he is of Premier League quality all season, with a superb touch and 64 shots on target in the regular season, a Championship record.
For Fulham, Alexander Mitrovic, who started on the bench, has been their talisman this season.
Brentford 1-2 Fulham (After Extra Time)
Both teams looked nervous in a first half that saw few chances, but plenty of honest endeavour. Fulham were better with the ball, but largely found themselves restricted to counter-attacks that don’t suit their set-up. A snapshot by Neeskens Kebano in the opening minutes of the second half saw Fulham threaten, but Brentford started to exert some control with their use of the ball.
As legs tired, chances were more frequent. The defences, who had been solid as rocks for an hour, were starting to crack. A break from Fulham saw Bobby De Cordova-Reid miss from eight yards when it looked easier to hit the target.
The match reached extra-time after late pressure gave way to nerves, with both sides trying not to lose rather than going for the victory. Mitrovic came on as extra-time loomed and in the extra period, looked threatening. But the link-play behind him was flawed. Attacks broke down time and time again, bookings were flashed like confetti, as both sides slipped in terms of discipline and daring.
Then, as half-time in extra-time loomed, Joe Bryan curled a clever free-kick fully 40 yards past the despairing dive of an out-of-position David Raya, who was expecting a cross but instead saw the decisive shot evade him and land in the net, sending Fulham’s players into a frenzy of celebration. Two minutes from the end of extra-time, Bryan was at it again, playing a delightful one-two with Mitrovic before slotting home.
A consolation goal in injury time after extra-time for Brentford meant nothing. The West London derby with the biggest stakes on the line ever saw Fulham promoted. In the end, Fulham made it to the promised land. In doing so, they’ll be playing the big boys at Craven Cottage next year, just over a year after they were relegated from the division.
Can they survive? On the evidence of this season, that would be a major, major achievement for Scott Parker. But this is football, and for Fulham F.C., Premier League football now.
In the Premier League, anything can happen.