Sheffield Wednesday 1 Benfica 0 - Forestieri on target as Eagles prove no match for Owls

GOAL..Owls Fernando Forestieri hits home first half goal celebrates with Sam Hutchinson
GOAL..Owls Fernando Forestieri hits home first half goal celebrates with Sam Hutchinson
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Fernando Forestieri grabbed his second goal in as many appearances to seal an impressive pre-season victory for Wednesday over Portuguese giants Benfica.

The little maestro was coolness personified, slotting home in the 23rd minute after good play by Marco Matias, to maintain the Owls’ unbeaten record ahead of the new campaign.

Owls Barry Bannan fires in a  shot

Owls Barry Bannan fires in a shot

Forestieri was Wednesday’s standout performer but Carlos Carvalhal’s side produced a classy performance against an under-strength Benfica side.

Defensively the Owls were strong and well organised and limited a top side in Benfica, who regularly play in the Champions League, to few clear sights at goal.

Sam Hutchinson put in a strong showing at the heart of their rearguard and Liam Palmer, playing as a makeshift left-back, was rock solid.

And Carvalhal’s men always looked a threat in the final third, with Barry Bannan a class act in the middle of the park and Forestieri a real livewire up front.

Benfica fans light flares

Benfica fans light flares

“Benfica are a strong team; one of the best teams in Europe,” he said.

““We did really well with our defensive organisation. Defending is not an individual process. It is about all the players.

“We played like a team. We are happy we won but the most important thing is the process.

“I don’t give too much importance to the score in friendly matches.”

Rival coaches Owls Carlos Carvalhal and Benfica's Rui Vitoria at the final whistle

Rival coaches Owls Carlos Carvalhal and Benfica's Rui Vitoria at the final whistle

Carvalhal fielded his strongest possible line-up. Strikers Gary Hooper and Steven Fletcher were not included in their match-day squad for the second match running due to injuries. There was also a late change on the teamsheet for Wednesday, with new goalkeeper Jake Kean replacing academy graduate Joe Wildsmith.

It was Kean’s first outing since arriving on a free-transfer from Norwich City. Keiren Westwood sat-out the marquee friendly, having only recently resumed first-team training following a long summer away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland.

Fresh from thrashing Derby County 4-0 in the Algarve Cup last weekend, Benfica started on the front foot and came close to going ahead in the eighth minute.

Grimaldo lifted a dangerous free-kick in towards the back post and Wednesday failed to clear their lines as Junior miscued with the goal at his mercy.

GOAL..Owls Fernando Forestieri hits home first half goal

GOAL..Owls Fernando Forestieri hits home first half goal

There was a minute’s applause in the 13th minute for Owls fan Thomas Bothamley, who tragically lost his life earlier this month.

Bothamley, who was 13, had been due to attend the friendly. It was an emotional tribute.

Forestieri led from the front for Wednesday, holding the ball up intelligently and not giving Benfica’s backline a minute’s peace.

The Argentine-born forward was the hosts main attacking weapon and almost capitalised on some slack defending by their illustrious opponents only to be denied by the agility of Paulo Lopes.

Moments later, Forestieri made amends for that miss, rifling an unstoppable left foot shot into the bottom corner after receiving Marco Matias’ lovely pass.

Forestieri was proving a real handful for Benfica’s defence and Luisao was cautioned after he unceremoniously brought down the diminutive attacker.

Wednesday were enjoying a good spell of pressure and Barry Bannan threatened to double their lead before the half hour mark, drilling a fierce shot wide from distance.

Benfica, who won the Portuguese title for a record 35th time last season, maintained their composure and poise, but wasted a glorious chance to level things up before the interval through Rui Fonte, who fired straight at Kean after a quick counter attack.

Carvalhal will have been pleased with some of their enterprising, attacking football. Lucas Joao, acting as a good foil for Forestieri, side-footed over after being freed by Bannan.

It took a good interception by Luisao to prevent the lively Forestieri from reaching Joao’s through ball as the hosts continued to press for a second.

Wednesday were shading the midfield battle and Bannan curled agonisingly off target following another misplaced pass.

Forestieri was given a huge round of applause when he was taken off just after the hour mark. He looked sharp which bodes well for the challenges that lie on the horizon.

But the Owls didn’t have things all their own way and Benfica upped the ante in the final quarter of an hour.

Tom Lees some how managed to turn substitute Pizzi’s fizzing low centre over before Lisandro glanced agonisingly wide.

Carvalhal added: “We are happy we won but the most important thing is Aston Villa on August 7.”

Wednesday: Kean; Hunt, Lees, Hutchinson, Palmer; Wallace (Vermijly 62), Lee (Melo 76), Bannan (Hirst 89), Matias (Semedo 71); Joao (Helan 82), Forestieri (Nuhiu 62). Substitutes: Stobbs, O’Grady, J Lee, Clare, Arijus Brazinskas.

Attendance: 12,207