One Tuesday night, at an empty Wembley, a tearful Scott Parker saw his crusade of turning round a shattered club he described as “wounded” finally end in triumph, as thanks to Joe Bryan’s two extra time goals, they bounced straight back.
First the full-back, who had scored only one goal all year before last night, curled in a lovely free kick – and then he stabbed in a second with three minutes of extra time left.
In a game that should have been played in front of a packed West London crowd, it was Fulham who claimed the £170 million prize of Premier League football, after a gruelling, grinding contest.
For poor Brentford, the 73 year wait for top flight football goes on. Thomas Frank’s exciting young side never really got going, and missed the few chances they created. The Bees have not won now in nine play off attempts.
Fulham were the better side and just about deserved their win – the quality of their football better, directed by an immaculate display from skipper Tom Cairney, who never wasted a pass.
Golden Boot boy Aleksandar Mitrovic – who missed both legs of the semi-final with a hamstring problem, was only on the bench for the Cottagers. But again, they did not need him.
It was not the exciting game we expected from two of the Championship’s most attacking sides. Fulham were sharper in a nervy start, as Josh Omonah tested David Raya.
Then Onomah turned neatly onto Tom Cairney’s angled pass, but the Bees goalkeeper pulled off a fine one hand stop.
It was tight, tense stuff – but Harrison Reed was lucky to only pick up a booking for a risky challenge on Christian Norgaard.
Neeskens Kebano’s curling free kick whistled into the side netting. But the much vaunted “BMW” forward line of Brentford had barely troubled the Cottagers defence.
Then after a fine run from Dennis Odoi, Kebano crossed and Bobby Decordova-Reid fired just over the angle.
But suddenly Brentford began to play, as Said Benrahma started to run at Fulham, and the Cottagers escaped as Michael Hector seemed to handle, and then Emiliano Marcondes flashed a free kick over.
Then Mathias Jensen fed Ollie Watkins, and Fulham keeper Marek Rodak had to tip his shot over the bar.
As extra time loomed, on came Mitrovic, as Fulham threw on their joker.
But then when Sergi Canos crossed low, Watkins stabbed a golden chance for the Bees wide at the near post.
Then Brentford gave away another another unnecessary free kick. Mitrovic was booked and incredibly not shown a red card for grabbing Canos round the throat and pushing him to the floor.
But as Brentford struggled to recover, Bryan took the free kick and cleverly caught out Raya as he curled the ball inside the near post, with the Bees goalkeeper expecting a cross.
Then, with the minutes ticking away, the former Bristol City fullback exchanged passes with Mitrovic – and slid in the goal that clinched the biggest prize.
Henrik Dalsgaard nodded in with seconds left – but it was too little too late.