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Sheffield Wednesday: Crazy play on a crazy day … the story of Aston Villa 1 Owls 2

Villa Park joy for the Owls. Pictures: Steve Ellis
Villa Park joy for the Owls. Pictures: Steve Ellis

Contrast the two sides of the pitch at the end of a thrilling contest.

On one touchline, Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce traipsed towards the tunnel, head down, like a dead man walking, the boos of home fans all around him.

Victory sealed with a kiss

Victory sealed with a kiss

On the other, ecstatic Sheffield Wednesday followers cheered and bounced while Sheffield Wednesday players also cheered and bounced in front of them, fans and team celebrating a famous away triumph as one.

It wasn't meant to be this way. The Owls, after a midweek no-show at Nottingham Forest, were supposed to be beaten by an expensively-assembled Villa side ready to gatecrash the Championship's top six.

Wednesday hadn't read the script. There were five changes after the City Ground defeat, a change in formation to three at the back. Most crucially, there was a change in attitude.

Villa, play-off finalists last season, tipped by many for promotion in this one, were humbled in their own fantastic stadium by Jos Luhukay's men.

Happy Jos Luhukay

Happy Jos Luhukay

"I've had about 50 matches here," said Bruce, fighting for his job after his 100th game in charge of the Midlands giant. "There have been maybe five defeats.”

Then he added quietly: "Two of them to Sheffield Wednesday."

Just like last term, the Owls were irresistible at Villa Park and the scoreline was the same.

"Sometimes football is not predictable and my team is also sometimes not predictable, " said Luhukay. "We saw that here. It was not the same situation as Nottingham Forest on Wednesday. 

In it goes

In it goes

"This is why you play football and how you like to play football and enjoy it. It also makes our fans happy.

"I think this is maybe the best away game in the time I have been at Sheffield Wednesday. We have won other matches away but this was a special game for us to win and the way we won it was brilliant."

THE MATCH

Luhukay gave an impromptu press conference in a Villa Park corridor, interrupted by the clink of cutlery and crash of crockery as waitresses piled up their trolleys after feeding the corporate brigade in an adjoining suite.

The Owls boss didn't mind one bit. After all, he was the one wheeling away all three points.

His team had been the better side in a first half that will be forgotten by the end of this report, Steven Fletcher's off-target fourth-minute overhead kick the only moment of note.

The clash exploded into life in the 49th minute when Adam Reach saw his shot blocked but managed to find Marco Matias, giving a performance up front as bright as his pearly-white teeth, who buried his low 18-yard effort into the bottom corner.

Villa were level within five minutes as John McGinn crashed an incredible 25-yard swerving volley in off the underside of the bar. Even Barry Bannan will have silently applauded that one.

What happened next will live long in Owls memories.

McGinn's goal was the cue for Villa to apply the pressure, but only for five minutes as the Owls, led by Adam whose Reach was now extending everywhere, produced a response full of wonderful, crazy, lung-busting attacking intent.

"They were mentally strong and believed in each other," Luhukay said. "Everyone had the ball. Everyone played with the ball and with each other."

Minute 61: Reach plays in Fletcher who takes his shot to early, allowing Orjan Nyland to dive and gather.

Minute 62: Reach springs Matias clear on the left only for Nyland to save Villa again.

Minute 63: A precision cross is laser-guided by Reach on to the head of Fletcher who directs the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

Minute 64: Villa somehow find their way into the Owls half and Daniel Pudil clears Conor Hourihane's shot off the line.

Minute 66: Fletcher must score but the last-ditch tackle by Alan Hutton is stunning.

Minute 67: Fletcher does score. Joey Pelupessy crosses from the right and this time the striker's header matches the quality of the supply.

Villa came again, but Wednesday were more than equal to the challenge and could have extended their lead in the dying stages had substitute Lucas Joao not fatefully delayed his shot.

Three ups, one down

"When we didn't have the ball, we fought and worked," Luhukay said. "We always helped each other. It was a team victory. The spirit they had with each other ... they were fighting, they were working, and they played good football."

What a second half. Silver service from Reach while the manager will be able to dine out on this result for a long time to come.

THE CHANGES

Luhukay wasn't afraid to shake things up after the Forest disappointment - including giving a first start to centre-half Michael Hector - and everything he did paid off as Wednesday climbed to 10th in the table and dropped Villa to 13th.

"The formation is not the most important thing," he said. "It is how the team perform and come to success. It makes me unbelievably happy.

"We changed formation in the second half from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3 because the opponent went from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3. The squad is flexible. We have players with different quality. 

"Next Friday against Leeds United, who are number one in the league, we hope we can come to this kind of performance again. The team must again believe in themselves and each other. If we do that, we can do a lot of positive things in this season."

Luhukay departed with smiles, pats on the back and handshakes. Bruce, a decent, honest man, still had media duties to attend to and kept his composure in the face of mounting pressure.

"No, it wasn't good enough," he said. "We didn't play well at all. We were beaten by a very, very good side."

This wasn't the Villa's boss's day, it was Jos's, who even worked his substitutions to perfection.

Late on, he brought off a pair of the biggest contributors on an afternoon of Wednesday heroes.

First Fletcher departed to a standing ovation from the sold-out away contingent, followed by Matias who was afforded a similar tribute.

Two scorers, two subs, 2-1.

Villa (4-4-2): Nyland; Elmohamady, Chester, Jedinak, Hutton; Adomah (Bolasie 68), Grealish, Hourihane, McGinn; Abraham, Kodjia (El Ghazi 78). Subs: Bunn, Taunzebe, Whelan, Bree, Bjarnason.

Wednesday (3-4-3): Dawson; Lees, Hector, Pudil; Baker, Bannan, Pelupessy, Penney; Reach, Fletcher (Nuhiu 78), Matias (Joao 82). Subs: Wildsmith, Onomah, Kirby, Preston, Fox.

Goals: McGinn 54 (Villa); Matias 49, Fletcher 67 (Wednesday).

Referee: David Webb (Lancashire).

Attendance: 35,572.