Wilder's pride after derby thriller as the city is red: Sheffield Wednesday 2 Sheffield United 4
A Steel City classic.
It was the red and white half of Sheffield who deservedly were left celebrating after a thrilling topsy-turby battle at a raucous Hillsborough.
After a five-year hiatus, the 128th instalment of the derby lived up to the hype - and then some.
The all-Sheffield affair had a little bit of everything. Meaty tackles. Plenty of twists and turns. Wretched defending. Six goals.
It will surely go down in derby folklore as one of the best.
And, ultimately, the best team won.
What a weekend for lifelong Blade Chris Wilder, who celebrated his 50th birthday on Saturday. Little wonder the United manager, a former Bramall Lane ball-boy, described their comprehensive victory against their arch-rivals as the “proudest moment” of his career.
Full credit to Wilder. He set the Blades up superbly tactically and his players executed the game plan to a tee.
Chris Basham added extra steel to their midfield and throwing Mark Duffy on in the second half when the match was still in the balance proved an inspired decision.
You would never have known United entered the much-anticipated showdownwith an injury-hit forward line. Leon Clarke and hot prospect David Brooks, the outstanding player on the pitch, ripped Wednesday’s defence to shreds. At no stage did the Owls ever look capable of getting to grips with either of them.
It was a day to forget for Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal, who shouldered the blame for their defensive horror-show. At a loud, noisy S6, the Owls froze on the big occasion. Too many individuals had an off day and failed to do the basics properly. With and without the ball, Wednesday were second best, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.
United dominated the first half. They outfought, outmuscled and out-played a Wednesday side who have spent substantially under Thai owner Dejphon Chansiri. Wilder’s side has cost significantly less to assemble and his team looked hungrier and sharper from the off. John Fleck fired them in front in the third minute. Brooks, who was clumsily brought down by Tom Lees, back-heeled the free-kick into Fleck’s path and the Scot drilled a fierce shot past Keiren Westwood. Not a bad way for Fleck to celebrate his new contract.
Wednesday were second best in all departments as United swarmed all over them and it was no surprise when Clarke doubled the visitors advantage on the quarter of an hour mark. Clarke, who bagged 18 goals in 87 Owls appearances between 2007 and 2010, raced on to a long punt upfield, beat the offside trap and fired a shot underneath Westwood.
It was schoolboy defending by the Owls and Basham and Jack O’Connell spurned chances to put more daylight between the two teams.
United’s 2,000-plus travelling fans were in dreamland, aiming ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’ chants at Carvalhal.
Against the run of play, Gary Hooper handed Wednesday a lifeline before half-time. He cleverly hooked home Ross Wallace’s cross to claim his 100th goal in English football. It was Hooper’s fifth goal on the spin and he did not deserve to finish on the losing side.
After a disjointed, lack-lustre Owls showing, Carvalhal made a surprise change at the interval. Lucas Joao was introduced, with David Jones coming off, and the Portugal international brought pace, energy and unpredictability to Wednesday’s team.
Attacking the Kop, the Owls played with more urgency and at a higher tempo. The pressure was relentless. They put their great rivals under the cosh but United held firm and should have restored their two-goal lead after a great run by Brooks. He outfoxed Jack Hunt and slipped in Clarke but Clarke blazed over with just Westwood to beat.
It appeared a costly miss when Joao made it two apiece in the 65th minute. He expertly kept his composure to rifle a lef- foot shot past Jamal Blackman after fine play by Adam Reach. Cameron Carter-Vicker slipped and Joao pounced.
Hillsborough erupted. The fans were bouncing. It appeared the pendulum had swung the Owls’ way.
Their joy was cut short 38 seconds after the restart.
Duffy exchanged passes with Clarke and turned Joost van Aken inside out before unleashing a fierce shot past Westwood from an acute angle. Westwood will feel disappointed to have been beaten at his near post but it was a fabulous individual goal by Duffy.
It set up a gripping, entertaining finale, with Barry Bannan going close for the Owls while Westwood produced a smart stop to deny Brooks at the other end.
The link-up play between Brooks and Clarke was a feature throughout and they combined for United’s fourth. Clarke bulldozed his way past Tom Lees and van Aken before deftly lifting his shot over Westwood to take his tally to six goals in his last five league matches against Wednesday.
It was a wonderful spectactle and United were convincing winners.