Sheffield Wednesday’s forward line certainly enjoyed themselves in the Albufeira sunshine.
Fernando Forestieri, Gary Hooper (2) and Steven Fletcher all got on the scoresheet as Carlos Carvalhal’s side recorded a third successive pre-season victory.
It has to be said that Nacional were pretty mediocre opposition. Keiren Westwood, making his first appearance since their Championship Play-Off final defeat, was rarely troubled and the top-tier Portuguese side found the Owls’ attack too hot to handle.
“It’s not the score that is important in friendly games. It is the process. I think we have taken another step forward,” carbalhal told The Star afterwards.
“We did some mistakes in the game. There are a few things we need to correct but there were a lot of positives for us.
“It was fantastic to feel the support of the fans in my country.
“Another positive thing is that it is the fourth game that we have played and we have kept three clean sheets. We have conceded just one goal which was in the last minute against Alfreton.
“Another positive thing is that we are scoring goals which is good.”
In the final quarter of the contest, Forestieri and company tore Nacional’s tired defence to shreds.
There were a number of impressive individual performances. Tom Lees was imperious at the heart of their rearguard, Forestieri was a constant nuisance and Hooper took his goals superbly. Fletcher’s maiden goal capped off a fine evening’s work.
Wednesday, wearing their new away shirt for the first time, created the first meaningful opportunity, with Marco Matias steering a left foot wide after Nacional made a hash of dealing with Ross Wallace’s free kick.
The poor playing surface certainly hindered both teams’ ability to get the ball down and play. It was worn and bobbly in places.
Kieran Lee forced Rui Silva into action in the 13th minute. The midfielder’s fierce drive was smartly turned away after good build-up play by Forestieri and Lucas Joao.
But Nacional, who finished 11th last season, nearly opened the scoring against the run of play as Sergio’s drive was deflected narrowly off target.
Joao, playing against his former club, tried his luck from just outside the penalty area, seeing his rasping drive pushed away by Rui Silva.
Wednesday were then forced into a defensive reshuffle when Jack Hunt and Sam Hutchinson had to come off due to knocks. What will concern Carvalhal is that the injuries are starting to pile up with less than a fortnight to before the new season gets underway. The Owls look particularly light defensively and desperately need some new blood in that department.
As an attacking unit, Carvalhal’s men always carried the greater threat, with Forestieri proving a great outlet up front. It took a good block to prevent Barry Bannan’s low drive testing the reflexes of Rui Silva following a neat move involving Joao and Ross Wallace.
Wednesday’s breakthrough inevitably came from Forestieri, who beat the off-side trap, racing on to Joao’s defence splitting pass before calmly firing past Silva. It was an unerring finish and smacked of a man full of confidence and self belief.
Nacional wasted a glorious chance to level things up five minutes after the interval when Marna fed Vitor Goncalves but the striker fired wide from an acute angle.
Led by Manuel Machado, Nacional simply couldn’t keep Forestieri quiet. The Argentine-born player thought he had grabbed his and the team’s second goal in the 53rd minute. He lashed home from close range after Silva spilled Tom Lees’ bullet header but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.
It was Forestieri’s last major contribution as he and Joao were brought off just after the hour mark.
Cheered on by around 500 Wednesdayites, Carvalhal’s side kept on pushing for a second goal and Bannan, who produced annother industrious performance in the centre, curled over from distance.
It proved to only be a slight reprieve for Nacional as Hooper doubled the Owls’ lead, tapping in Fletcher’s pinpoint centre.
By this point, it was all one way traffic. Wednesday were well in control and Matias, who is improving with every match, flashed wide when well-placed.
Hooper’s second was a peach of a finish. He was sent clear in a one-on-one situation and deftly lifted the ball over the advancing Silva.
Scotland international Fletcher added the coup de grace in the closing stages, bursting clear before rounding Silva and firing home.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Hunt (Vermijl 26), Lees, Hutchinson (Semedo 26), Palmer (Helan 71); Wallace, Lee (Melo 71), Bannan, Matias (Stobbs 75); Forestieri (Fletcher 63), Joao (Hooper 63).