The standard has now been set for the rest of the season.
The real Sheffield Wednesday turned up at Hillsborough.
After a nightmare four days where they lost to city rivals Sheffield United and lowly Birmingham City, the Owls started the healing process with a comprehensive victory over Yorkshire neighbours Leeds United.
It was a superb team performance against one of the Championship’s early pace-setters and the result eased the pressure on head coach Carlos Carvalhal. The Portuguese boss has been heavily criticised following a relatively sluggish start to the campaign but his players rose to the occasion in front of the TV cameras and delivered their best display so far.
In-form striker Gary Hooper led the way, grabbing a first-half double, and Kieran Lee added a third late on to ensure the Owls clinched a first victory in four matches.
Now the challenge for Wednesday is to replicate this performance on a more consistent basis. Few teams are able to live with them at this level when they play high-tempo, aggressive, attacking football. It is thrilling to watch.
Carvalhal, who fielded 10 of the 11 players who started the Steel City derby, said: “We have expectations but the personality of my players and their quality and organisation made it a fantastic game in this derby, and the fans will remember it for some time. I put in players who played in the last defeat at home and they gave me an answer.”
“I showed the players a £20 note before the game and said ‘I would pay four times this money’ to see you play your football.
“I have 100 per cent faith in this team, in this squad, and this performance showed why. It was very, very good. We played our football and the atmosphere was fantastic.”
Wednesday made a tentative, unconvincing start as Leeds, sitting in fourth position before kick-off, edged the opening quarter of a pulsating contest. Spanish winger Samuel Saiz was a constant menace. His trickery and darting runs from deep caused the host’s defence all sorts of problems.
Kalvin Phillips and Ezgjan Alioski could have headed the Whites in front but they lacked a killer instinct at the business end of the pitch.
It was left to Hooper to calm the home fans’ nerves inside Hillsborough. The 29-year-old stabbed home from close range after ex-Leeds defender Tom Lees nodded the ball into his path.
“What made a big difference in this game is that we scored first,” said Carvalhal. “After that, we managed the game very well.
“It makes a massive difference in derby matches when emotions are high.”
Confidence flowed after Hooper’s opener and the Owls could have been out of sight at half-time. Lee had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside after a lovely, intricate passing move before Steven Fletcher somehow headed Ross Wallace’s glorious cross wide with the goal at his mercy.
Fletcher, a handful in the air all afternoon, atoned for his bad miss in the 41st minute, teeing up Hooper for his second. The Scotland international headed substitute Liam Palmer’s deep delivery back across the face of goal and Hooper pounced to claim his seventh goal in as many outings.
The visitors were rattled and the home contingent loved it, chanting ‘Leeds are falling apart, again.’ (Wednesday’s fans sang the song when Leeds slipped out of the play-off zone at the back end of last term..
Things might have been different if Pierre-Michel Lasogga had made it 2-1 after the interval. Joost van Aken failed to clear his lines but Lasogga saw his low drive hit the base of the post and bounce clear.
It was an end-to-end affair and both sides created chances. Hooper twice went close to completing his hat-trick while Lee headed Pontus Jansson’s weak header off the line. Joe Wildsmith, in goal for the injured Keiren Westwood, put in an assured display and pulled off a vital save in the 76th minute to foil Saiz.
But the Owls quickly regained their verve and poise, with Wallace forcing Felix Wiedwald into a smart stop. Barry Bannan, an instrumental figure in midfield, then struck the post but Wednesday’s pressure eventually paid off. Lee lashed in an unstoppable shot in the 82nd minute.
Hooper hit the crossbar late on but it did not matter.
The Owls have that winning feeling again.