Match Verdict: Sheffield Wednesday 0 Leeds United 2 - Bullied Owls left with plenty to ponder

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It is far, far too soon to be sounding the alarm or pressing any panic buttons.

But there is plenty for Owls chief Carlos Carvalhal to ponder after watching his side suffer back-to-back Championship defeats for the first time in nearly a year.

Things could have been very different had the Owls taken their opportunities when they were on top in the opening 20 minutes against their Yorkshire rivals.

But gradually the Whites took control of the midfield battle as Wednesday lost their cohesion. Although the hosts monopolised possession, Carvalhal’s side lacked a cutting edge in the final third.

Leeds’ game plan was spot on. After a rocky start, the visitors tightened up their backline. They were disciplined, compact and kept their shape superbly.

Leeds bullied Wednesday in the middle of the park, winning more second balls and had pace on the flanks to quickly turn defence into attack. Hadi Sacko was a great outlet on the right hand side throughout. Summer signing Sacko supplied a pin-point cross for Marcus Antonsson to break the deadlock just after the hour mark.

Owls Fernando Forestieri between Utd pair of Bridcutt and Vieira ... PIC STEVE ELLIS

Owls Fernando Forestieri between Utd pair of Bridcutt and Vieira ... PIC STEVE ELLIS

Midway through the second half, Rob Green produced a great save with his legs to prevent substitute Gary Hooper from equalising after Steven Fletcher had wriggled his way past Liam Cooper.

But even with Tom Lees back in their line-up, Wednesday never looked totally secure or convincing defensively and Chris Wood stroked in a second late on to seal Leeds’ first victory under new boss Garry Monk.

As Carvalha conceded, the result capped off a “tough week” for the Owls.

Forestieri Fluffs His Lines

Owls keeper Keiren Westwood saves at the feet of Utds Hadi Sacko....Pic Steve Ellis

Owls keeper Keiren Westwood saves at the feet of Utds Hadi Sacko....Pic Steve Ellis

Perhaps it could have been a different story had Fernando Forestieri been more clinical in front of goal. All eyes were on the Argentine-born player, who was making his first start since apologising for refusing to face Norwich City.

He was taunted by the away fans for not travelling to Carrow Road but the little maestro appeared to be trying too hard to impress.

His uncharacteristically wayward finishing only compounded a frustrating derby for him and the team. Forestieri pounced on a mistake by Charlie Taylor, burst clear in a one-on-one situation but prodded wide. And less than 60 seconds later, he calmly rounded Green only to see his fierce effort headed away from near the goal line by Leeds captain Cooper.

After the break, Forestieri was switched to the left wing to accommodate Hooper. We saw a few of his trademark jinking runs and he forced Green into action once but the 26-year-old failed to provide that spark.

Carlos Carvalhal and Garry Monk.
Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United. Skybet Championship.  Hillsborough. 20 August 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Carlos Carvalhal and Garry Monk. Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United. Skybet Championship. Hillsborough. 20 August 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Forestieri is Wednesday’s best player and the spotlight is on him more than ever before after his decision not to play against Norwich. He has to handle that pressure and, like the rest of the team, cope with the increased expectation levels.

The problem is they remain too reliant on Forestieri to produce moments of individual brilliance to swing matches their way. Wednesday have only managed one league goal from open play this season and that came courtesy of Forestieri, who top-scored with 15 goals last term. Other guys need to step up and take the weight off his shoulders.

Wednesday’s Big Midfield Poser

It doesn’t help that the chemistry in midfield doesn’t look right. The Owls were lightweight in the centre, lacked steel and width. Things became very congested in the middle and that played into Leeds’ hands.

There was just no great speed or urgency to Wednesday’s play.

“I am not one for excuses as you know but we have had a tough week,” said Carvalhal.

Owls Steven Fletcher with Utds Liam Bridcutt...Pic Steve Ellis

Owls Steven Fletcher with Utds Liam Bridcutt...Pic Steve Ellis

“We wanted to give the same as we did against Aston Villa and Norwich, but the balance of the team is not at 100 per cent in this moment.”

Fielding Almen Abdi, who struck the crossbar with a 25-yard free kick before the interval, on the left flank is not getting the best out of the attacking midfielder. For the second match on the spin, Abdi was taken off at half-time after struggling to make an impact, although Carvalhal later revealed a shoulder injury also affected Abdi’s performance.

Abdi, primarily a central midfielder, said part of the reason why he left Watford in the summer was because he was unhappy that they played him out of position so why are Wednesday doing exactly the same thing?

Back in June, I wrote that the Owls should recruit a tall, powerful midfielder to give them more flexibility but that has not materialised.

It’s Time For Calm Heads

But what people shouldn’t lose sight of despite two poor displays is that this team came close to going up only three months ago. They haven’t become a bad side overnight.

Carvalhal said: “We lost a bit of confidence after Burton. The team didn’t recover as we expect. Leeds played very compact and physical and we needed to play with more mobility and pass and move. We didn’t do this.

“It is good that we have one week to work with the players. We need to refresh our batteries and start again. It is a good moment for us.

“We have quality in the team but we must put everything in the correct place. We have plenty of time as the season is very long.”

Marcus Antonsson and Tom Lees chase a loose ball.
Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United. Skybet Championship.  Hillsborough. 20 August 2016.  Picture Bruce Rollinson

Marcus Antonsson and Tom Lees chase a loose ball. Sheffield Wednesday v Leeds United. Skybet Championship. Hillsborough. 20 August 2016. Picture Bruce Rollinson