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Sheffield Wednesday match report: Owls 1 Villarreal 3

Sheffield Wednesday v Villarreal.
Sheffield Wednesday v Villarreal.
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Sheffield Wednesday suffered a 3-1 defeat to La Liga side Villarreal in their final pre-season friendly today.

Strikes from Gerard Moreno, Ramiro Funes Mori and Karl Toko Ekambi proved decisive as the Owls slipped to a second successive defeat.

Wednesday more than held their own, particularly in the first half, and Liam Palmer cancelled out Moreno's 17th minute strike.

But Villarreal's class told in the end to leave Owls boss Jos Luhukay with plenty to ponder ahead of their Championship opener with newly-promoted Wigan Athletic next Saturday.

There was no place in Wednesday's squad for Keiren Westwood. Boss Luhukay said the 33-year-old, who is attracting interest from Stoke City, was nursing a minor knee injury after Tuesday's friendly defeat to Mansfield Town.

But Westwood later claimed on social media that he was fit and had missed just one training session in pre-season.

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Ultimately, Luhukay plumped for Joe Wildsmith in goal.

He also freshened up his defence, bringing in Daniel Pudil and George Boyd.

Wednesday looked lively in the early stages, with Fernando Forestieri's clever back heel releasing Boyd down the left but his looping cross to the back post was punched away by Villarreal goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo.

Villarreal, who finished fifth in Spain's top-flight last season, gradually settled down and found their rhythm.

After some patient build-up play, full-back Santiago Caseres drilled a shot from 25 yards over the top.

A superb crossfield pass from Barry Bannan released Liam Palmer down the right wing and his teasing cross was nodded over by Atdhe Nuhiu as the Owls threatened to open the scoring.

But Villarreal went ahead in the 17th minute, Pudil turning in Caseres' fine delivery under pressure from Gerard Moreno.

The Yellow Submarine grew in confidence and almost doubled their lead. Samu Castillejo, a lively figure throughout, fed Moreno, who curled a left foot effort agonisingly off target.

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It proved a costly miss as Palmer levelled things up in the 33rd minute. He burst through on goal after robbing Ramiro Funes Mori of possession before expertly firing a right foot shot into the bottom corner.

It was an entertaining half and a good workout for the Owls as they continue their preparations ahead of the new Championship season.

Alvaro Gonzalez had to be alert to cut out Pudil's low cross before Wildsmith produced a smart stop on the stroke of half-time to foil former Arsenal man Santi Cazorla.

Luhukay made three alterations at half-time, throwing on Cameron Dawson, Marco Matias and Lucas Joao.

His side switched off from a corner two minutes after the break and Mori rose highest to nod home from eight yards. It was a soft, sloppy goal.

There was a worrying moment for the hosts when Palmer was forced off with an injury. He was replaced by Ash Baker.

Both sides made a plethora of changes which disrupted the flow of the contest.

Matias dragged a shot well wide after good play before Villarreal extended their advantage.

Striker Ekambi exchanged passes with Moreno before delicately lifting the ball over the advancing Dawson. It was a moment of quality which brought a warm round of applause from the North and South stand of the ground.

Steven Fletcher was introduced in the final half an hour and he looked sharp and lively in attack.

He came closest to pulling a goal back for the Owls. The Scot raced on to Adam Reach's through ball only to see his left foot drive hit the post.

It was a good final workout for Wednesday but Luhukay will be acutely aware they need to tighten up defensively if they are to get to a fast start.

Wednesday: Wildsmith (Dawson 46), Palmer (56), Lees (Thorniley 61), van Aken (Nielsen 71), Pudil, Bannan (Fox 61), Pelupessy (Jones 61), Hutchinson (Matias 46), Boyd (Reach 61, Forestieri (Joao 46), Nuhiu (Fletcher 61)

Attendance: 10,631.

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