Match Report: Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Leeds United - Whites walloped by rampant Owls
Sunday, 1st Oct 2017 16:45 by @LucasMonk_
Leeds United today ceded crucial ground in the skirmish for automatic promotion after succumbing to an ignominious three-nil defeat at the hands of Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday.
Relief and unadulterated elation will doubtless be presently felt by the Sheffield Wednesday manager, Carlos Carvalhal, after what was a seismic triumph for his charges over Leeds United this afternoon. The besieged Portuguese, who had found himself under heightened scrutiny prior to kick-off at the Hillsborough Stadium following the Owls’ narrow defeat to Birmingham City on Wednesday evening, confounded all expectation by masterminding his team to a merited three-nil victory, thus inflicting upon Leeds a third successive clobbering away from home. A first-half brace on the part of Gary Hooper, in addition to a rasping effort from Kieran Lee - with eight minutes of normal time remaining - secured a richly deserved victory for the hosts.
Having elected to make a plethora of changes prior to United’s eventual comeuppance against a robust, direct Cardiff City - now managed by former Leeds manager Neil Warnock - on Tuesday, head coach Thomas Christiansen recalled Samu Sáiz, Eunan O’Kane, Ezgjan Alioski, Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Matthew Pennington, who replaced the suspended Liam Cooper, to the starting eleven.
Following a customary toss of a coin, it was the prerogative of the hosts to begin proceedings.
United made a sprightly start to the match, with Samu Sáiz posing problems to the Wednesday defence. In the game’s fourth minute, the Spaniard surged into the opposing penalty area prior to crossing for Kalvin Phillips, who could only head wide of the mark.
Five minutes passed before Sáiz would take it upon himself to chance his arm for goal; after receiving possession from a throw-in on the left channel, the diminutive playmaker fired a powerful effort toward goal from the verge of the area - though his effort did not find the target.
With a quarter of an hour played, Sáiz embarked upon a mesmeric run, eluding the defensive endeavours of some four defenders, before crossing to the far post for Ezgjan Alioski, who unfortunately guided his effort against the side netting.
Having weathered a storm of a Spaniard’s making, Sheffield Wednesday began to venture forward with more regularity than had been the case in the opening exchanges of the match. With 21 minutes played, a deflected attempt on goal by Adam Reach elicited an attentive save from United ‘keeper Felix Wiedwald.
A mere four minutes would elapse before the hosts established a slender advantage. A Ross Wallace free-kick from the right wing was headed across goal by former United defender Tom Lees, and Gary Hooper ghosted in to prod the ball home past a hapless Wiedwald.
Not content with a one-nil lead, the Owls diligently pursued a second goal and were erroneously cheated out of one by the linesman.
With 15 minutes to play until half-time, Barry Bannan displayed exemplary vision to play Kieran Lee through on goal. The industrious midfielder assuredly slotted the ball home to prompt delirious celebrations from the home supporters - only for the goal to be disallowed for offside by the linesman. Subsequent replays, however, showed the linesman’s decision to have been incorrect.
A minute later, and United defender Matthew Pennington made an imperative intervention to prevent Hooper from scoring a second goal of the match after the former Celtic hitman had received possession from Lee inside the area.
The hosts would continue to craft opportunities with which to increase the margin of their advantage. Steven Fletcher, an aerially imperious forward of a traditional disposition, headed marginally wide from inside the penalty area after a sumptuous delivery by Wallace from the right.
Fletcher, having inadvertently contrived to spurn what was a gilt-edged chance, would however play an integral role in the creation of his team’s second goal. A lofted, right wing cross from Liam Palmer was nodded back across goal by the towering Scotland international, before Hooper guided a deft header past a stationary Wiedwald to send the Wednesday supporters into ebullient celebrations with 41 minutes played.
Carlos Carvalhal’s team refused to relent in their exertion of attacking pressure despite having deservedly doubled their advantage - following a free-kick for the Owls, Bannan struck a driven effort toward goal that fizzed narrowly wide.
There remained time for Leeds to register their first attempt on target before the conclusion of the half, with Pierre-Michel Lasogga seeing a tame header saved by home ‘keeper Joe Wildsmith after connecting with a Kemar Roofe cross.
Neither manager opted to make any alterations to their respective lineups at half-time, and Leeds began the second period seeking to regain a foothold in the match.
As they had done in the early embers of the first period, United made much of the running and were rather unfortuitous to not have halved the deficit with only three second-half minutes elapsed. A cross by Alioski from the left channel eluded Joost van Aken’s clutches and so the ball fell serendipitously for Lasogga, who could only find Wildsmith’s right-hand post with his low, right-footed effort.
United would rue Lasogga’s dissipation of that opportunity. Before long, Wednesday regained control of the match and only moments after Lasogga’s effort, Bannan struck from the edge of the box and, though it was wildly inaccurate, his attempt served as a warning to the visitors.
On 63 minutes, Hooper was presented with a glorious chance to score a hat-trick having been slotted in on goal by the masterly Bannan, though the forward would be denied by an otherwise beleaguered Wiedwald who parried the effort to safety.
Four minutes passed before Leeds had a seldom attempt for goal. Sáiz received possession inside the penalty area from Pablo Hernández - who had replaced Alioski as a substitute - before curling a timid effort wide of the mark. Only a minute previously, Lee had cleared a headed attempt by Pontus Jansson off the line.
With the game’s end fast approaching and United’s hopes of mounting what would have been a stupendous comeback fading, Wiedwald was called into action in the 78th minute to beat away a venomous, left-footed effort from just outside the area by Wallace.
Two minutes passed before Bannan, who had been a formidable creative force for his team throughout the match, received possession from Wallace inside the area before directing a curling effort against Wiedwald’s left-hand post. The Scotland international, who previously played for United on loan from Aston Villa in the 2010-11 season, was desperately unfortunate not to have found the net.
A third Sheffield Wednesday goal would soon arise, however, in the 82nd minute. Eunan O’Kane’s feeble clearance fell into the path of Lee, who, at the first time of asking, crashed a rasping right-footed drive into the bottom-left corner to make victory for his side certain. At this juncture, many of the away supporters began to locate the exits.
In added time, Hooper was denied a hat-trick once more by Wiedwald, who diverted a close-range effort on the part of the former Norwich striker against the crossbar to spare his team further embarrassment.
Audible cheers greeted the last blast of the referee’s whistle, as the hosts deservedly recorded their first victory since September 12. For Leeds, a third successive away defeat.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2) - Wildsmith; Hunt (Palmer 39’), Lees, Aken, Reach; Wallace, Lee, Jones, Bannan (Butterfield 87’); Hooper, Fletcher (Rhodes 90+1’).
Unused Substitutes: Dawson, Pudil, Nuhiu, João.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) - Wiedwald; Ayling, Pennington, Jansson (Dallas 71’), Berardi; O’Kane, Phillips; Roofe (Sacko 62’), Sáiz, Alioski (Hernández 62’); Lasogga.
Unused Substitutes: Lonergan, Shaughnessy, Vieira, Grot.
Half-Time: Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 Leeds United - Hooper (25’, 41’).
Full-Time: Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Leeds United - Hooper (25’, 41’), Lee (82’).
Match Statistics (Sheff. Wed / Leeds)
Possession: 54% / 46%
Attempts: 16 / 11
On Target: 7 / 2
Corners: 7 / 4
Fouls: 15 / 13
Man of the Match: Gary Hooper (Sheff. Wed).
The 29-year-old Harlow-born forward, who first rose to prominence as a prolific scorer in the colours of non-league Grays Athletic between 2006 and 2008, possessed the requisite quality to put the Leeds defence to the sword, and would have scored a memorable hat-trick if not for the efforts of United ‘keeper Felix Wiedwald. Hooper’s incessant movement when not in possession of the ball wreaked havoc upon a discombobulated Leeds rearguard, who could not mitigate the potent threat posed by the former Celtic striker.
Booked: Palmer (Sheff. Wed).
Venue: Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield (34,854 capacity).
Attendance: 27,972 (80% of capacity).
Referee: Andy Madley
An omnishambles, a rout, a debacle. For the third time in succession away from home, United were bested by their opponents in every department and possessed no answer to the wondrous wing wizardry of Sheffield Wednesday.
It is not an uncommon occurrence in football for the scoreline to hoodwink, and this was one such instance. As Len Shackleton said of the opposition (Newport County) after a match he contested in his fabled playing days, Leeds “were lucky to get nil!”.
United were desperately porous at the back and were most fortunate not to have conceded a greater number of goals than they did (Kieran Lee’s disallowed effort in the first have should have certainly not been disallowed, and Wednesday twice struck the aluminium afterwards). The absence of the club captain, Liam Cooper, was sorely felt. Bereft of his essential leadership verities, the Leeds defence were collectively incoherent, inadequate and incompetent.
The man of the match was, without the merest vestige of doubt, Gary Hooper, who was most efficiently aided by the tireless, workmanlike performance of Steven Fletcher. Hooper’s adhesive manipulation of the ball, masterly finishing capabilities and incessant movement out of possession are all so inimical to opponents and for my money there are not many better forwards in the division.
Felix Wiedwald has already been subject to much gratuitous criticism and attack from so-called Leeds United supporters following the match, but this was a collective failure and as such cannot be ascribed to any given individual. The United net was peppered with efforts throughout the match owing to defensive errors and zilch else, and it should be noted that on two occasions Wiedwald denied the stellar Hooper a hat-trick.
A return to the drawing board is necessary for Thomas Christiansen, Julio Banuelos and the management at large. An opportune international break presents an opportunity for a thorough assessment of recent slipshod performances and once complete, an enticing home fixture against a floundering Reading awaits. The outlook of many will be bleak at this moment, and pardonably so after such an ignominious defeat and our recent relinquishing of first position, but the season remains young and United have made clear their potential - there is still ample time for it, and their collective aspirations, to be realised.
Photo: Action Images
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