Play-off worry as Carvalhal and Sasso sent off in Owls defeat ... Aston Villa 2 Sheffield Wednesday 0
There are bad days, and then there are really bad days.
For the Owls, everything unravelled at an alarming rate at Villa Park.
Jonathan Kodjia’s double either side of the interval dealt a major blow to Wednesday’s play-off aspirations.
Fulham’s superb victory over leaders Newcastle United means they can go above Carlos Carvalhal’s troops into sixth spot if they claim maximum points in their game in hand against Blackburn Rovers tomorrow night.
The second half of Saturday’s defeat was arguably the low point in the Owls’ season. Vincent Sasso saw red for a late lunge on Conor Hourihane, head coach Carlos Carvalhal was sent to the stands for his subsequent protests outside of his technical area and captain Glenn Loovens joined their lengthy injury list.
But the truth is ,Wednesday, missing a number of key players, including Tom Lees, Kieran Lee, Gary Hooper and Fernando Forestieri due to injury, have lacked strength in depth all campaign at centre-half. It is an area of the team that should have been addressed last summer or, at the very least, in January. Reinforcements did not arrive in that department and it hurt them over the weekend.
The Owls’ back four consisted of Jack Hunt, Jose Semedo, a defensive midfielder, Morgan Fox, a left-back, and Adam Reach, a left winger, in the final quarter of an hour. It is true Wednesday have been unlucky with injuries but their squad is unbalanced. They shouldn’t need to play so many players out of position at such a critical stage of the season.
LACK OF A CUTTING EDGE
The frustrating thing for Wednesday and their 2,700 -plus travelling fans is they started reasonably well and probably had the better of the first period.
Sam Winnall twice went close to opening the scoring. He fired wide from 25 yards and was later denied by Sam Johnstone after a positive surge by Reach, who replaced Forestieri in the Owls’ only change.
Sasso’s close-range header was disallowed for offside. It was tight but it appears Winnall had just strayed into an offside position when he knocked the ball down for the Frenchman.
Those missed chances came back to bite the visitors as Kodjia rose above Hunt at the back post to nod in Hourihane’s inviting delivery. Villa took a short corner quickly and Wednesday switched off as a defensive unit.
“In the Championship the first goal is very important, and unfortunately we didn’t get it,” said Carvalhal.
Moments after Kodjia’s opener, Ross Wallace curled wide when he should have at least hit the target. As a collective, Wednesday are just not ruthless enough in front of goal.
The Owls’ task was made even harder three minutes after the break when Sasso was given his marching orders. His first touch was poor and he tried to recover the situation by diving in with his left foot to tackle Hourihane near the halfway line. I thought, initially, the red was harsh but Sasso’s studs were high.
Pundit Alan Curbishley said: “He has lunged in and left his leg so high. It is reckless and endangering the opponent. I don’t see how Carlos Carvalhal can complain about it too much.”
Villa chief Steve Bruce felt “big decisions went their way” but claimed the referee was spot on to send Sasso off.
“These days, I think if you go off the ground with your studs showing, we all know what the outcome is. I think the referee has got it right,” he said.
It incensed Carvalhal and he ultimately followed Sasso down the touchline.
Wednesday lost their discipline and Carvalhal lost his bearings.
He appeared to be confused as to where he was being sent to and briefly strayed into the home dugout.
“I don’t think he knew where to go,” said Bruce. “I think it’s the first time he’s been sent off. I think he thought the steward was going to put him in with our punters. That went down like a lead balloon.”
The Owls can feel hard done by over the offical’s call to reject Hunt’s strong penalty shout. Hunt got the wrong side of Jordan Amavi, who appeared to pull him back. Another ref may have seen that incident differently.
But Kodjia compounded their misery by claiming his 17th goal of the season with 11 minutes to go.
A sorry end to a painful, costly day.