Swansea hold a 1-0 aggregate lead over Barnsley ahead of the Championship play-off semi-final second leg from the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. Mark O'Haire shares his best bet...
"EFL play-off semi-final second legs have produced 2.54 goals per-game since 2000 with 49% of fixtures delivering Over 2.5 Goals and 56% of matches rewarding Both Teams To Score backers"
Swansea v Barnsley
Saturday May 22, 18:30
Ayew steals the show for Swansea
Swansea arrive back in Wales with a narrow 1-0 lead following their semi-final first leg showdown with Barnsley on Monday night. Andre Ayew's beautifully-crafted strike before the break settled proceedings at Oakwell as the Ghanaian cut inside from the right and curled an unstoppable left-footed effort past home goalkeeper Bradley Collins.
Ayew's moment of genius brought the tie to life after an opening 39 minutes that had been high on commitment but low on chances. Thereafter, Steve Cooper's troops appeared happy to protect their advantage, especially so in the second period, with the Swans preferring to stay in their defensive shape as the inevitable Barnsley barrage arrived.
Goalkeeper Freddie Woodman made a few smart saves to aid the away victory and Cooper was full of praise for his players post-match. He said, "We knew what kind of game it would be and we stood up well to it. But we've been here before this tie last year. It's only a small lead if you manage it and protect it. That's got to be the focus and mentality now."
Barnsley insist they can overturn the deficit
Barnsley boss Valerien Ismael insists his side can overturn the 1-0 deficit in the second leg at Swansea on Saturday. The Frenchman felt Andre Ayew was offside before scoring the only goal of the game at Oakwell and was made to rue some big missed Reds chances after the break as the Tykes increased the tempo and pressure during the second period.
Ismael made three changes to his side from the last league game nine days earlier. Alex Mowatt returned to the team in place of Jasper Moon while Daryl Dike and Dominik Frieser replaced Carlton Morris and Conor Chaplin. And whilst Barnsley shaded most of the first half, the hosts failed to create any standout opportunities before falling behind.
An improved effort after the interval saw Morris nearly grab an injury-time equaliser but his flick from Cauley Woodrow's corner came back off the crossbar.
Speaking post-match, Ismael said: "The players felt that atmosphere in the first 20 or 25 minutes with a lot of mistakes in transition. We didn't play well in the first half. The second half performance gives us a good feeling for the second leg. It's the play-offs and anything can happen. We have nothing to lose. There will be big pressure on Swansea."
Victory at Oakwell means Swansea have extended their unbeaten streak against Barnsley across all competitions to 17 games (W10-D7-L0), a run of results that stretches back to 1983. The Swans have won all three meetings with the Reds this term without conceding and have returned W10-D2-L0 when welcoming the Tykes to Wales since 1975.
Swansea 2.526/4 stuttered over the finishing line in the Championship, pocketing just W7-D4-L8 from their final 19 fixtures, including W3-D2-L6 in their most recent 11 coming into the play-offs. But Steve Cooper's side have proven a tough nut to crack over the course of the campaign, particularly at the Liberty Stadium where Swans have suffered only five defeats.
Barnsley's 2.8615/8 remarkable transformation saw Valerien Ismael turn the Tykes into relegation battlers to promotion contenders in the space of six months. Only Norwich (13) tabled more away triumphs than the Reds' tally of 11 during the Frenchman's reign, although the visitors were turned over in six of nine trips to fellow top-10 teams this term.
Swansea's matches under Steve Cooper tend to be tight affairs. The hosts have posted Under 2.5 Goals 1.758/11 in nine of their past 13 games, whilst a huge 70% of their overall Championship encounters featured fewer than three goals. The same figure also paid out when City hosted league action at the Liberty Stadium as contests averaged just 1.87 goals.
Barnsley's battles provided more entertainment with 39 encounters under Valerien Ismael seeing 2.36 goals per-game on average. Indeed, Monday's first leg was only the fourth time in 20 recent match-ups in which the Reds had failed to score. With the visitors' season now on the line, expect the Tykes to pile on the pressure in this second leg showdown.
EFL play-off semi-final second legs have produced 2.54 goals per-game since 2000 with 49% of fixtures delivering Over 2.5 Goals 2.001/1 and 56% of matches rewarding Both Teams To Score backers 1.865/6. With that in mind, there's a degree of value found in supporting a repeat of BTTS here, especially with Swansea silencing only four of their last 18 opponents.
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