The final game of the 2019-20 season had left Premier League promotion hopefuls Swansea with an uphill struggle to get into the play-offs.
In seventh place, three points behind Cardiff and Nottingham Forest, Steve Cooper’s side needed a lots of results to go their way, and to score a bucketful of goals in their own game against Reading to have any chance of taking the final play-off spot.
Luck sided early with Swansea when their on-loan striker Rhian Brewster scored a wonder goal in the 17th minute.
Picking up the ball 40 yards out, the 20-year-old drove forward and unleashed a powerful shot that sailed past Reading goalkeeper Rafael Cabral into the top corner.
The last five minutes of the first half saw more drama as Reading’s Yakou Méïté was sent off for an aggressive shoving van der Hoorn right in front of the linesman. Three minutes later, the home team scored an equaliser from the penalty spot courtesy of George Pușcaș.
Things turned back in Swansea’s favour in the second half. Young Welsh international striker Liam Cullen, 21, bagged his first professional goal for Swansea in the 84th minute, just three minutes after coming on as a substitute, taking the score line to 3-1 after winger Wayne Routledge had put the promotion hopefuls ahead for the second time in the game with a goal in the 66th minute.
Routledge’s second goal in the first minute of injury time was the perfect finale to an incredible match, with the Swansea manager and players scarcely able to believe the extraordinary turn of events.
Elsewhere, Cardiff was elevated to fifth place following a 3-0 win against Hull. Swansea’s other close rival Nottingham Forest, however, were soundly beaten 4-1 by visitors Stoke City.
It left Forest level on 70 points with Swansea, but a superior goal difference meant the Welsh side leapfrogged them into sixth place to clinch the fourth and final qualifying place for the Championship play-offs.
Swansea now face Brentford, the Championship’s top scorers, over two legs in the first of the two play-off semi-finals.
Swansea vs Brentford play-off semi-finals
The first match takes place at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium at 6.30pm on Sunday 26 July, with the return leg at 7.45pm on Wednesday 29 July.
The winner will play either Cardiff City or Fulham in the final for a place in the Premier League next season.
Swansea’s success in making the play-offs is all the greater considering this is manager Steve Cooper’s first season in charge of the club. With slender resources at his disposal, one important asset he was able to bring to the club for the second half of the season was England youth international Rhian Brewster.
Rhian Brewster’s impact at Swansea: 10 goals in 20 games
Cooper and Brewster have previously worked together at England U17 level. Cooper managed the side that won the U17 World Cup in 2017, where Brewster played a starring role, scoring eight goals to win the Golden Boot award.
On loan from Liverpool since January, Brewster has been in sparkling form, firing Swansea into promotion contention by hitting 10 goals in 20 games.
The East Londoner of Turkish Cypriot and Bajan heritage will be hoping to add to his tally in the next two games.
Main image, top, of Rhian Brewster against Reading, Wed. 22 July 2020. Photo © Twitter / Rhian Brewster