Brentford 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2: Like winning the Lottery for Owls

Lucas Joao scores the winner. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Lucas Joao scores the winner. Pictures: Steve Ellis
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“It was our day. It was a lucky day. This is football. In the Lottery we won 2-1.”

In his own inimitable way, Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal acknowledged the footballing gods shined on his side at Griffin Park ... and they hit the jackpot.

Joy for Lucas Joao

Joy for Lucas Joao

Firstly James Tarkowski was a tad unfortunate to be sent off for bringing down Atdhe Nuhiu in the first half. It was a definite penalty, but other referees might have been more lenient with the centre-back, especially given that Jake Bidwell had tracked back and was the covering defender. Nuhiu, who had struck the crossbar earlier with a header, and Wednesday weren’t arguing over the controversial decision as the giant striker duly slotted home from 12 yards.

The Owls were superior in all departments in the opening 45 minutes and good value for their 1-0 lead. The vast majority of chances in my notebook came from the visitors. It was not total domination. But pretty close.

Defensively Carlos Carvalhal’s men looked efficient, energetic in midfield and lively up front. Brentford had no answer.

Let’s not forget the Bees are no mugs. Under Mark Warburton, they came within a whisker of gaining promotion last season, reaching the play-off semi-finals. But without injured Spanish playmaker Jota and Andre Gray - sold to Burnley for a reported £9 million before the transfer deadline - Brentford lacked a spark to break down the Owls’ well-organised backline.

Atdhe Nuhiu converts from the spot

Atdhe Nuhiu converts from the spot

However, going down to 10 men on Saturday seemed to inspire Brentford and Wednesday rode their luck after the break.

Barry Bannan, the Owls’ standout performer, conceded: “We went away from our game-plan but you have to give them great credit as you couldn’t tell they had 10 men.”

You really couldn’t.

What frustrated Carvalhal is that Wednesday’s game management was below par. Despite their numerical advantage, the visitors made life more difficult for themselves by giving the ball away at regular intervals.

Atdhe Nuhiu ceebrates

Atdhe Nuhiu ceebrates

Carvalhal argued they lost energy and stopped pressing their opponents into submission. Brentford took a grip of the midfield battle and all the momentum was with them after Alan Judge’s exquisite right-foot curler.

When substitute Jeremy Helan was dismissed after stupidly collecting his second caution, for barging over Sergi Canos, it seemed inevitable Wednesday would drop more points on the road.

But the Owls’ strength in depth came to the fore again. Carvalhal claimed Alex Lopez’s late introduction helped wrestle back some of the initiative, but Lucas Joao made the telling contribution.

It would have been easy for the Portuguese Under-21 international to let his head drop after fluffing his lines a couple of times in front of goal. His sheer athleticism, pace and power can frighten defenders. It is just his finishing he needs to sharpen up.

The way Joao, in a pressure situation, stroked the ball past David Button should give him a lot of confidence for the challenges looming on the horizon.

As Bannan pointed out on social media, it was not a pretty victory but they say it is a sign of a good team when you are winning without playing your best. Wednesday are still looking to string together a 90-minute performance.

Things got a little bit spicy, at times, on Saturday, but the Owls got the job done and you would like to think the best is yet to come from this group of players.

There have been times when Carvalhal’s squad-rotation policy has been widely criticised this season. In total, he has made 22 changes in the last three matches. He openly admits he is still learning about his players.

But since switching from a 4-2-3-1 to 4-4-2 formation, Wednesday have flourished and are playing the aggressive, entertaining brand of football chairman Dejphon Chansiri demanded.

Results are now starting to go their way.

As Carvalhal stressed to the media, Wednesday deserved more than the single point from trips to Burnley and Bolton Wanderers. Missed chances cost them dearly in Lancashire.

Brentford will feel hard done by following a spirited second-half showing. “Football is a beautiful game but also a very cruel one,” said under-pressure Bees boss Marinus Dijkhuizen.

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In the last fortnight, Wednesday have demonstrated they possess the quality and numbers to mix it with the best at this level. Can they consistently grind out victories to keep pace with the top sides? That’s what we will find out soon enough.

There are still plenty of areas where they need to improve. To paraphrase Carvalhal, they need to get better at locking their doors and windows to stop intruders from getting into their house. Judge’s goal came from a long punt upfield by Brentford goalkeeper David Button.

“We must learn what we did good and not so good to try and improve for the next game,” said Carvalhal.

Three consecutive wins have transformed Wednesday’s season. Only three points separate them from the play-off spots. Things are gradually starting to come together for Carvalhal’s men.

Drawing Premier League big guns Arsenal in the cup has simply added to the feelgood factor Carvalhal has created.

With Wednesday on a roll, there was probably a little part of Carvalhal thinking he should have played the Lottery on Saturday night.

With things going his and Wednesday’s way at the moment, the chances were good that he might just have had a winning ticket.

Brentford: Button 6; Clarke 7 (Canos 72), Dean 6, Tarkowski 5, Bidwell 6; McCormack 6 (Woods 87), Diagouraga 6; Vibe 6, Kerschbaumer 5 (O’Connell 41, 6); Judge 7; Djuricin 6. Substitutes: Bonham, Yennaris, Barbet, Udumaga.

Wednesday: Westwood 7; Hunt 7, Lees 7, Turner 7, Pudil 7 (Helan 42, 5); Wallace 6, Hutchinson 6, Lee 6, Bannan 8; Matias 6 (Joao 62, 7), Nuhiu 7 (Lopez 81). Substitutes: Wildsmith, Loovens, McGugan, Bus.

Referee: Geoff Eltringham (County Durham).

Attendance: 9,756.