Arnaut Danjuma scored a clinical counter-attacking goal to give Bournemouth a slender 1-0 advantage over Brentford in their Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final.
The Dutch winger settled a tight first leg in the Cherries’ favour by starting and finished a flowing breakaway move on 55 minutes. Bees substitute Bryan Mbeumo wasted a golden chance to restore parity ahead of Saturday’s return match in west London.
He somehow diverted wide of an open goal 12 minutes from time. Backed by fans for the first time since December, Bournemouth also had opportunities to strengthen their hopes of a Wembley final.
Dominic Solanke saw a first-half header strike a post, while Philip Billing squandered a fine early opening. Brentford finished 10 points above their hosts in the table but struggled to involve 31-goal striker Ivan Toney in the game.
Thomas Frank’s Bees arrived on a stormy south coast unbeaten in 12 games. Both managers opted for the continuity of unchanged starting line-ups.
Home fans – around 2,000 in total – were on all four sides of the ground. And there were light-hearted boos as the visitors entered the field, followed by rapturous applause for the hosts.
Superb from the boys 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/2taBG9TuZq
— AFCB Superstore (@afcbsuperstore) May 17, 2021
In-form Brentford began well, yet it was the home side who had the major opportunities of a cagey opening period. After Jefferson Lerma’s powerful volley flew narrowly off target, the unmarked Billing skewed horribly wide in the 12th minute.
It was only the third occasion this season that Cherries fans had been permitted inside the ground. And the first time since Jonathan Woodgate replaced Jason Tindall as manager in early February.
The terraces were increasingly vocal as their team continued to get joy from out wide. One-time England striker Solanke went closest to a first-half opening, nodding against the outside of the post from a Lloyd Kelly cross.
Bees goalkeeper David Raya later denied a Steve Cook header following a corner just before the interval. Toney was on hand to block David Brooks’ follow-up effort.
Captain Cook was then forced off – replaced by former Brentford man Chris Mepham – after suffering an apparent knee injury. Brentford hold a dismal play-off record, having failed to gain promotion on each of the previous nine occasions they qualified.
They were struggling to threaten and paid a heavy price for committing men forward as the deadlock was broken in style.
Danjuma helped dispossess Bees defender Pontus Jansson deep in Cherries territory. And, after the ball was worked on by Solanke, raced more than 80 yards to slot Brooks’ perfectly-weighted pass beyond Raya.
With a trip to Wembley at stake, there were understandably nervy moments for Woodgate’s men to negotiate. Cherries keeper Asmir Begovic was alert to smother from substitute Emiliano Marcondes.
Mbeumo howler could be costly
He was then left relieved by Mbeumo’s amazing miss in the 78th minute. The net looked certain to bulge when Christian Norgaard centred from the left.
But, with the goal gaping, unmarked substitute Mbeumo slid in to somehow divert wide. Danjuma had a thunderous free-kick pushed away by Raya in the closing stages.
But most of the action was at other end as Bournemouth dug in to claim an important win.