After the release of a controversial club statement by their owner Dejphon Chansiri, Sheffield Wednesday were at the centre of a lot of negative attention in the build-up to their game against Sunderland. Chansiri stated that he would not put any more money into the EFL Championship club, adding to the ever-growing division between the owners and the fans. When these ownership issues are combined with a new coach and an underperforming squad, the expectations for the Owls coming into the game couldn’t have been lower.
On the contrary, the mood on Wearside has been incredibly positive. Their young squad, led by Tony Mowbray, have made a promising start to the campaign and were sat in a playoff position before the game commenced. The heartbreak of last season’s playoff defeat is forgotten, and the fans are enjoying watching their team’s expansive brand of football.
SHW: Vásquez; Famewo, Diaby, Bernard; Paterson, Byers, Hendrick, Valentín; Buckley, Gregory, Musaba
SUN: Patterson; Huggins, Ballard, O’Nien, Hume; Neil; Clarke, Pritchard, Bellingham, Roberts; Burstow
The tone was set by Sunderland very early on – it only took them five minutes to take the lead. A poor pass from Vásquez led to Sunderland winning a free-kick, and eventually a corner. The corner was whipped into the back post area by Alex Pritchard, and a determined Daniel Ballard was there to meet it. Having broken free from his marker, he headed the ball powerfully into the Sheffield Wednesday goal, giving Sunderland a 1-0 lead.Embed from Getty Images
Only three minutes later, it went from bad to worse for Xisco and his men, as their sluggish start was punished by the away team. Jobe Bellingham picked up the ball in his own half and began driving forward. Whilst on the run, he played an exquisite cross-field ball to the dangerous Jack Clarke on the left wing. Clarke, surprisingly, was afforded space by the hosts and he took full advantage by cutting inside and firing a powerful low shot. The pace was too much for Vásquez, and the ball found its way into the corner of his goal, doubling Sunderland’s lead.
As shown by the score line, the first half was extremely comfortable for Sunderland. Their style of play proved too much for the home side to handle in all phases of the game: their high press, their fluidity in attack and their ability to play under pressure emphasised the gulf in class between the two teams.
Another moment of high quality led to Sunderland’s third goal. The ball was played low into Mason Burstow’s feet on the edge of the box by Trai Hume, where he had a defender, Bambo Diaby, tightly marking him. Upon receiving the ball, Burstow perfectly executed a clever turn, seeing him spin in behind the Wednesday centre half. In a moment of desperation, Diaby dragged the forward back and conceded a penalty.
It was Jack Clarke, the league’s top scorer, who stepped up to take the penalty, and he slotted it nicely into the bottom corner of the Sheffield Wednesday goal. The penalty was the cherry on top of an emphatic first-half performance – and Sunderland went into the break with a comfortable three-goal lead.Embed from Getty Images
The second half, in terms of possession and territory, was largely the same as the first. Slight tweaks from the home side gave the Black Cats a few more problems – a deep cross from the right-hand side found Callum Patterson, and he tested Sunderland’s Anthony Patterson with a well-struck half-volley – but Tony Mowbray’s side were never forced out of second gear.
Sunderland were not satisfied with only three goals, they kept pushing and testing the Wednesday defence, however, they were missing the ruthless finishing which served them so well in the opening 45 minutes. Despite not adding to their goal tally, they remained in control and picked up a thoroughly deserved three points.
Before the rest of the weekend’s fixtures, they move into fourth place in the Championship – only five points behind the leaders Leicester. It is an exciting time to be a Sunderland fan, and with four wins out of their last five games, they have built a solid platform to mount a charge for promotion.
For Sheffield Wednesday, however, things are looking bleak, both on and off the pitch. They are still the only team in the EFL Championship without a win to their name, and the drama being created by those at the top of the club will not help their efforts to stay in the division.