Fulham is on its way back to the Premier League following a 2-1 win over Brentford in the Championship playoff final to secure automatic promotion. The victory ends what was ultimately just a one-year absence from England's top flight division for the club.
Brentford and Fulham went the full 90 minutes of regulation without any goals and had the hash things out in extra time. The Cottagers were the ones who broke the dam on scoring that was partly thanks to ambition, and partly thanks to some less-than-stellar defending. Joe Bryan, who had only scored one goal this season for Fulham, decided to fire a shot from 40 yards out on a free kick around the 105th minute. The audacity to even try such a move caught Brentford keeper David Raya off-guard and out of position to stop the low skidding effort.
Bryan then doubled his goal-scoring tally for the game, scoring off of a quick give and go with striker Aleksandar Mitrovic and doubling his team's lead with three minutes remaining off of a quickly poked shot past Raya yet again. While Brentford wasn't kept off the score sheet on the day, Henrik Dalsgaard pulled a goal back with a header from eight yards out in the fourth minute of injury time, but the Bees' efforts were not enough to overcome their opponents.
"I'm not the hero, every single one of them, fans and people around us who has been with us all season is," Bryan told Sky Sports after the match. "We've been written off five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 times. I think I read somewhere we were supposed to be scared of them."
While it was an emotional celebration for Fulham, who had players and coaches on the verge of tears after the win, it was an especially heartbreaking loss for Brentford. As The Guardian's Barry Glendenning points out, this is was just the latest opportunity on the season that the Bees had to get promoted -- they could have secured promotion against Stoke City on July 18, Barnsley on July 22 and, of course, tonight. It makes it nine times now that the club has tried to gain promotion through the playoffs, and nine times that they've failed to do so.
To end this on a positive note, here are so more celebrations from Fulham.