Sheffield Wednesday: Forestieri puts Owls back on play-off road: Wolves 0 Owls 2
Problems. What problems?
A trip to bogey team Wolverhampton Wanderers looked a potentially tricky assignment for the Owls.
The task of picking up maximum points was arguably made even tougher by the arrival of new Wolves boss Paul Lambert. Saturday’s tussle was his first home match in charge and the biggest home crowd of the campaign cheered on the struggling West Midlands outfit. As it did at Cardiff City, would the new manager ‘bounce’ affect Wednesday again?
History was also stacked against Wednesday as Molineux has not been a happy hunting ground for them in recent years. You had to go back over a decade for their last victory at Wolves, with Wolves winning the last five in succession on home soil. The omens did not look good.
But records are there to be broken and the Owls clinched a morale-boosting victory at Molineux for the first time in seven attempts last weekend to keep in touch with the play-off contenders.
All the damage was done in the first half as they ruined Lambert’s home debut. Wednesday’s stylish, free-flowing passing football ripped Wolves apart. They should have been out of sight.
Fernando Forestieri and Lucas Joao, making his first appearance in nearly three months after recovering from injury, terrorised Wolves’ defence. The duo pressed and harried them into unforced errors, with the home side badly missing former Owls loan boy Danny Batth, who was serving a one-match ban after collecting five bookings, at the back.
You would never have known Wednesday had not triumphed on the road since mid-October as they raced into a two-goal lead following a 15th minute penalty by a Forestieri and Kieran Lee’s four goal of the season. It was an advantage they rarely appeared in danger of relinquishing.
Things could have been different had Wolves got their noses in front. Tom Lees, who was outstanding alongside captain Glenn Loovens, made a vital clearance to stop David Edwards getting on the end of a dangerous cross before Conor Coady dragged wide after a lovely piece of skill.
Confidence is a big thing in football and Wolves’ drained after they fell behind.
Barry Bannan fizzed in a delightful low cross which narrowly evaded Lee and Joao in the middle but Wolves failed to effectively clear it away and Forestieri pounced. The little striker was upended by Matt Doherty and referee Jeremy Simpson showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Forestieri made no mistake from 12 yards to claim his second goal in as many outings.
After Forestieri’s opener, the Owls dominated a one-sided first period. They battered Wolves, whose defence was all over the place. Led by the irrepressible Forestieri, Wednesday stayed on the front and Bannan blazed over before Lee grabbed the crucial second.
Forestieri ‘picked the pocket’ of Richard Stearman and darted forward at pace. With goalkeeper Andy Lonergan rushing off his line to narrow the angle, Forestieri prodded the ball into the path of Joao, who kept his cool to tee up Lee from 10 yards. It was the first time in nine Championship matches the Owls had managed to score more than once.
Carvalhal said: “We got the first goal and deserved it and we had more chances. The big difference to other recent games is we got the second goal.”
It was a defensive horror-shot from Wolves and they looked every inch relegation fodder but Wednesday superbly exploited their weaknesses and could, probably should, have scored more.
THE MAIN MAN
When Forestieri is focused and on song, there are few better forwards in the league than him. He can make things happen out of nothing. He is Wednesday’s X-Factor.
Forestieri is playing with a smile on his face again and looked intent from the off to make life as difficult as possible for Wolves’ backline. He closed them down at every turn. His workrate without the ball was exceptional and set the tone.
Lees, Loovens, Sam Hutchinson, Lee, Bannan and Joao all had good games but it was Wolves’ inability to keep Forestieri quiet which cost them dearly. There was one exquisite touch by the Argentine-born attacker near the halfway line in the first half which even had the home faithful aapplauding.
It has taken Forestieri a long, long time to hit top gear this season. Carvalhal has continued to persevere with him and his patience has paid off. Forestieri’s trademark love-heart symbol celebration is back in all its glory. The fans are now seeing the ‘Fessi’ they know and love.
Forestieri and Wednesday showed their resilience and determination to get the job done in the second half as Wolves raised their game. Nouha Dicko added extra pace and power to their forward line and things could have got very interesting had fellow substitute Ivan Cavaleiro taken one of his two late chances, but Wednesday were not to be denied.
“Wolves ran and fought a lot during the 97 minutes we played,” admitted Carvalhal. “They had new energy because they had changed the coach and it was the first home game and that made them tougher to play against.
“But I think we were ready for this environment and we did well.
“In the second half, we were very compact and solid and well organised and all the time tried to look for the third goal and posed a threat. The victory is well deserved.”
That it was and the result silenced some of Carvalhal’s critics. He left out the majority of his summer signings, who have failed to shine, and kept faith with the team who did him proud last year and they duly delivered.