Sheffield Wednesday match report: Owls 2 Sheffield United 4
Sheffield Wednesday were ripped apart defensively as arch rivals Sheffield United deservedly claimed a 4-2 victory in a pulsating Steel City derby at Hillsborough.
United, who have made an impressive start to life back int the Championship, raced into a two-goal lead in the opening 15 minutes after strikes by John Fleck and Leon Clarke.
But Wednesday came roaring back, making it two apiece following goals either side of the interval by Gary Hooper and substitute Lucas Joao.
However, the Blades were not to be denied a third straight win on the road, with Mark Duffy grabbing a third and Clarke notching his second of the afternoon to sentence the Owls to their first league defeat in eight outings.
It was a belated birthday present for United boss Chris Wilder, who turned 50 yesterday.
For our Owls news and opinion on twitter follow hereWednesday made one change to their starting line-up, recalling Ross Wallace to midfield. Daniel Pudil dropped to the substitutes bench, with Adam Reach switching to left-back.
As for United, captain Billy Sharp was named on the bench after shrugging off a rib injury. Ex-Owl Leon Clarke spearheaded their attack, with highly-rated youngster David Brooks deployed in the number 10 position. Clayton Donaldson and Kieron Freeman missed out through injury.
And the Blades made a dream start, taking the lead in the third minute after a fine free-kick routine. David Brooks, a lively figure for the visitors in the first half, was brought down by Tom Lees around 22 yards out. Brooks touched the free-kick into the path of John Fleck, who signed a new long-term contract this week, and he rifled his shot past Keiren Westwood.
Defensively the Owls looked all over the place at times and United bossed the midfield battle. Chris Wilder's players looked fired up and Wednesday were second best in all departments.
It was no surprise when the Blades doubled their lead on the quarter of an hour mark. Wednesday old boy Leon Clarke capitalised on some lousy defending by the hosts, beating the off-side before calmly firing a shot underneath Westwood.
United continued to dominate and could have extended their lead but Chris Basham blazed over the crossbar on the stretch before Jack O'Connell sent a free header straight at Westwood from a corner.
For more news from Hillsborough click hereThe Blades travelling fans were enjoying themselves, aiming 'you're getting sacked in the morning' chants at Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal.
But Gary Hooper handed Wednesday a lifeline on the stroke of half-time, hooking a low right foot drive past Jamal Blackman after good work by Ross Wallace on the right flank.
Carvalhal freshened things up at half-time, taking off David Jones and throwing on Lucas Joao.
Wednesday made a strong start to the second half, with Kieran Lee having a fierce shot blocked before Blackman denied Adam Reach.
Hooper's strike lifted the mood around Hillsborough and changed the complexion of the derby as the Owls poured forward in numbers.
But just after the hour mark, United could have restored their two-goal cushion after a sublime piece of skill by Brooks. The talented forward jinked his way past Jack Hunt and slipped in Clarke, who ballooned his shot over when well-placed.
And Wednesday restored parity through Joao, who lashed in after collecting Adam Reach's centre.
Joao's leveller had Hillsborough bouncing but the home fans celebrations were cut short by substitute Mark Duffy, who brilliantly waltzed his way into the penalty area before drilling a rasping right foot shot past Westwood.
Jordan Rhodes came on for the Owls but the outstanding Brooks could have put the contest out of their reach. His left foot piledriver was superbly kept out by Westwood.
With 13 minutes remaining, United made the game safe. Clarke latched on to Brooks' pass, shrugging off the attentions of Tom Lees and Joost van Aken before expertly lifting the ball over the advancing Westwood.
Owls: Westwood; Hunt, Lees, van Aken, Reach; Wallace (Butterfield 78), Lee, Jones (Joao HT), Bannan; Fletcher (Rhodes 68), Hooper. Substitutes: Wildsmith, Palmer, Pudil, Nuhiu.
United: Blackman; Wright (Duffy 62), O'Connell, Carter-Vickers; Baldock, Coutts, Fleck, Basham, Stevens; Clarke, Brooks (Lundstam 85). Substitutes: Moore, Sharp, Lafferty, Evans, Carruthers.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire)