Great Britain

Ayew stunner gives Swans advantage in play-off contest with Barnsley

Andre Ayew's stunning first half strike handed Swansea City the advantage in their Championship play-off semi-final clash with Barnsley as they defeated the Tykes 1-0 in the first leg at Oakwell.

A frantic and cagey affair conjured up very few chances until Ayew produced a moment of magic to fire beyond Brad Collins six minutes before half time.

The home side were far more threatening in the second half and saw Cauley Woodrow, Carlton Morris and Callum Brittain all have efforts while Jamal Lowe came the closest to adding a second for Swansea.

But Swansea kept a clean sheet to ensure they have the advantage at the midway point of the two-legged affair which culminates at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening.

Steve Cooper opted to make two changes from the side that started in the 2-0 defeat to Watford at Vicarage Road nine days earlier.

Connor Roberts - who featured in all 46 of Swansea's regular season Championship matches - was replaced by the experienced Kyle Naughton at right-back while Ben Cabango was preferred to Ryan Bennett at the heart of his side's back four.

After more than a year of playing without fans, 4,500 Barnsley supporters were permitted to attend in what was undoubtedly a huge boost to Valerien Ismael's side - although 3,000 members of the Jack Army will get the same pleasure at the weekend.

They made their voices heard early on, but Swansea did well to ensure they weren't affected by the kind of jeers and cheers that have been absent for 14 months.

In truth, the Swans will have been fairly pleased with the opening stages, although the first chance of the contest fell to Romal Palmer who could only curl over Golden Glove winner Freddie Woodman's goal from the edge of the 18-yard box.

That opportunity allowed the Tykes to settle. But there was precious little to separate the sides in what was an understandably tight first half in Yorkshire.

Swansea struggled to give Barnsley goalkeeper Collins any problems, although Cabango and Marc Guehi dealt remarkably well with the threat of Woodrow and Daryl Dike when the hosts got into promising areas to ensure Woodman was also untested.

Ahead of the game, captain Matt Grimes spoke about the need for Swansea's experienced heads to step up to the plate in the play-offs.

And having barely had a sniff for almost 40 minutes, top scorer Ayew showed exactly why he's feared by defences throughout the division.

The Ghanaian latched on to Naughton's pass up the right flank and cut inside to leave Michal Helik trailing in his wake before curling beyond Collins to notch his 17th goal of the campaign.

The home crowd were left silenced as the only voices that could be heard came from the small contingent of coaches, players and staff that had travelled from south Wales.

Ismael's men looked to hit back before half time, with Helik having a tame header saved by Woodman after Guehi had brilliantly intervened to ensure Dominik Frieser didn't fire at goal from a cross as the away side took a slender lead into the break.

Barnsley immediately put the pressure on Swansea after the restart, and after palming away substitute Morris' initial shot, Woodman made a vital save to keep out Brittain's strike when it looked for all the world to see that the Tykes would equalise.

Morris was at the heart of everything after replacing Friesier, although Woodrow was unable to beat Woodman with a free-kick after the substitute had been brought down by Ayew.

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Morris was then off target with a volley before Swansea were very nearly the victims of their own downfall from a botched corner routine that allowed the hosts to break in numbers, but Jay Fulton was on hand to head clear at the pivotal moment.

Having been under the cosh, Swansea slowly settled again and looked to cause problems on the counter attack while they were not afraid to launch long balls forward for the likes of Liam Cullen and Lowe to run on to.

They were fortunate Dike was wayward with a pass after another break from a Swansea corner soon after though as the visitors continued to ride their luck.

Collins had to be alert to claw away former Barnsley man Conor Hourihane's free-kick just after the hour mark, with Grimes' follow-up effort being blocked.

Wayne Routledge replaced Cullen with a quarter of the match left to play as the Swans took the sting out of proceedings with spells that required some real composure and impressive game management.

A sublime run that included a piece of mesmerising individual skill from Lowe almost led to Swansea doubling their lead, although the attacker could only curl beyond the far corner of the Barnsley goal.

Even when Barnsley had openings, Swansea's defence continued to read play well while the impressive Woodman was alert throughout to help out those in front of him.

With 10 minutes left on the clock, Routledge went down in the Barnsley box under a challenge from Helik, although referee Geoff Eltringham did not feel the incident warranted a penalty.

Ayew then had an effort blocked before Collins eventually dealt with Grimes' rasping strike in the final stages.

Barnsley hit the bar in injury time, but Swansea saw out the final stages to take a slender advantage into the second leg, with kick-off at the Liberty taking place at 6:30pm on Saturday.

Andre Ayew of Swansea (R) celebrates scoring with Matt Grimes.

Barnsley: Collins; Brittain, Sibbick, Helik, Andersen, Styles, Mowatt (C), Palmer (Williams 76), Woodrow, Dike (Adeboyejo 86), Frieser (Morris 46).

Subs not used: Walton, Sollbauer, Kitching, Halme, Moon, Chaplin.

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton, Cabango, Guehi, Bidwell; Grimes (C), Fulton, Hourihane; Ayew, Cullen (Routledge 67), Lowe.

Subs not used: Hamer, Roberts, Manning, Bennett, Latibeaudiere, Smith, Dhanda, Whittaker.

Goal: Ayew 39

Yellow card: Ayew 51

Referee: Geoff Eltringham

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