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Sports News of Thursday, 23 July 2020


Championship final day: Africa’s winners and losers

Swansea City attacker Andre Ayew Swansea City attacker Andre Ayew

Winner: Semi Ajayi

It’s been a nervous end to the season for West Bromwich Albion. While Leeds United have ultimately run away with the title, their nearest rivals wilted at the death, and had taken just two points from a possible nine heading into the final day.

While a draw against Eberechi Eze’s Queens Park Rangers could have proved costly had results gone elsewhere, the 2-2 ultimately means that The Albion return to the top tier along with Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

Grady Diangana—on loan from West Ham United—was outstanding against the Hoops, while Ajayi will be somewhat relieved that a draw was sufficient after missing a decent opportunity to score when he failed to get on the end of a free kick.

Loser: Said Benrahma

While the Baggies return to the top flight under Slaven Bilic, Brentford will now have to enter the playoffs after being defeated by Barnsley at home—the last league game at Griffin Park.

An eight-game winning streak appeared to have set Benrahma and the Bees on their way to overhauling the Albion.

However, as the Black Country side stuttered, so did Brentford, losing both of their last two matches when even two draws would have sent them second.

Benrahma impressed again against Barnsley, but his teammates look jaded, even if Angolan Josh Dasilva did net an equaliser for Brentford to boost their hopes of finishing second.

Winner: Clarke Oduor

On the winning side at Griffin Park was Kenya’s Oduor, who netted a 91st winner to save Barnsley from a relegation that had appeared inevitable earlier in the night.

The East African stepped up at the last—after coming off the bench five minutes earlier—to finish at the far post and take Barnsley up to 21st, and just out of the three relegation berths.

Oduor’s goal—his first senior effort—prompted immense scenes of celebration from the Yorkshiremen, who won their last two matches to beat the drop, and an emotional response from manager Gerhard Struber.

Loser: Leon Balogun

While there was joy for Barnsley, Balogun and Wigan Athletic dropped into the third tier after their 1-1 draw with promotion-chasing Fulham proved insufficient.

Based on the points taken over 46 matches, Wigan’s return of 59 points would have seen them end the campaign in 13th place—and just outside the top half.

However, a 12-point deduction ultimately takes them all the way down to 47 points, and 23rd—between Charlton Athletic and Hull City, both of whom are also destined for League One.

Winner: Andre Ayew

Back at the top end of the table, Ayew and Swansea City pulled off a miraculous turnaround on the final day to pip Nottingham Forest to sixth place and the final playoff berth.

Heading into the final round of fixtures, the Swans needed to beat Reading, needed Forest to lose at home against Stoke City, and needed a five-goal turnaround to account for an inferior goal difference.

Remarkably, they achieved all of that and then some, thumping Reading 4-1 away, and, with Forest losing by the same scoreline, ended the campaign with a +9 goal difference, one better than the Tricky Trees’ +8.

Ayew, leading the line with Rhian Brewster, impressed on the day, contributing the assist for Liam Cullen’s second-half goal—Swansea’s third—and can now dream of joining brother Jordan in the Premier League.