Andre Ayew strikes to give stubborn Swansea slender lead at boisterous Barnsley

·2-min read
Andre Ayew of Swansea City celebrates with Matt Grimes after scoring his team's first goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg match between Barnsley and Swansea City - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Andre Ayew of Swansea City celebrates with Matt Grimes after scoring his team's first goal during the Sky Bet Championship Play-off Semi Final 1st Leg match between Barnsley and Swansea City - Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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All problems are relative. This time last year, Barnsley looked doomed to life in League One, so the task of overturning a single goal deficit to put them within a game of reaching the Premier League is far from the most daunting of prospects.

The odds, and history, may be against them, but after their remarkable season it would be unwise to write them off. Swansea go into the second-leg as favourites thanks to Andre Ayew's 17th goal of the season, but there remains plenty of life in this compelling tie, as Valerien Ismael was keen to point out.

The Barnsley head coach said: "We've got nothing to lose and the pressure is still on Swansea. Anything can still happen. We have a few days now to prepare and we will keep fighting. To lose is very frustrating and I thought their player came back from an offside position to score the goal."

The Welsh side are unbeaten in 13 games against their play-off opponents, and while their hopes of avoiding a second successive semi-final exit might not have been high after winning just three of their final 11 Championship matches, this dogged display bodes well for their chances of progression when the sides reconvene.

Ayew injected a rare moment of quality to give the visitors a 39th-minute advantage. Reacting to a Kyle Naughton flick into the box, the forward deftly shifted the ball onto his left foot before curling a shot into the bottom corner from 12 yards to momentarily silence 4,500 wonderfully boisterous home supporters.

Swansea withstood the inevitable second-half onslaught, where, rather less predictably, many of their problems stemmed from their own attacking corners and the threat posed by the hosts on the counter.

It took a combination of defender Marc Guehi and keeper Freddie Woodman to block Callum Brittain's close-range effort on the line. Woodman saved Alex Mowatt's goal-bound free-kick and the crossbar came to the rescue in stoppage time from substitute Carlton Morris' flick.

It is 21 clean sheets this season for Woodman, and a fourth of the campaign against these opponents on Saturday will seal Swansea's place at Wembley. Head coach Steve Cooper said: "It was fine margins and this result will mean nothing if we don't build on in the next game. We're in a good position, but we know the most important whistle is the final one on Saturday."

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