Sheffield Wednesday 2 Ipswich Town 1
Lucas João (16,77) Nsiala (40)
Nsiala – red (75)
A brace from Lucas João gave Sheffield Wednesday back-to-back home wins – but the winner was a sucker punch for Ipswich who earlier had Nsiala harshly dismissed for an apparent foul on Forestieri.
João’s header from a cross had given the Owls the lead at Hillsborough, before Nsiala himself headed an equaliser five minutes before half time.
João’s second headed goal came just two minutes after referee Jeremy Simpson dismissed Nsiala – even though he appeared not to make contact with the theatrical Forestieri.
Sheffield Wednesday: Dawson, Palmer, Thorniley, Lees (c), Penney, Pelupessy, Bannan, Matias (Forestieri 72), Nuhui, João (Fletcher 79) Reach
Unused: Wildsmith, Fox, Hutchinson, Kirby, Baker
Ipswich Town: Bialkowski, Donacien, Nsiala, Chambers (c), Knudsen, Chalobah, Nolan, Edun (Downes 78), Edwards, Jackson, Harrison (Sears 85)
Unused: Gerken, Spence, Ward, Roberts, Kenlock
Sheffield Wednesday set out with a fluid 4-3-3 system. Ahead of the defence, midfielders Barry Bannan and Joey Pelupessy dropped deep with Marco Matias more advanced on the right. Matias frequently changed positions with Adam Reach, who started off in front of Matias on the right. Reach was supported further forward by Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas João.
Ipswich switched around their usual 4-3-3 for a 4-1-4-1 system. Striker Kayden Jackson received his first Championship start and played in the central attacking role. Ellis Harrison – who has played a similar role for Ipswich for most of the start of this season – moved to the left. Gwion Edwards was the right-side winger with Jon Nolan and Tayo Edun joining him in midfield. Trevoh Chalobah sat in front of Ipswich’s back four.
First half takeaway:
For Ipswich, Tayo Edun played in a much more central (and advanced) role than in previous outings. Here, he showed he was a player who could win the ball high up the field, play intricate passes into the forward line, support the forwards in an attacking phase, and make key interceptions further back. Midfielder partner Jon Nolan offered Paul Hurst’s team the chance to push forward early on as he took up attacking positions, getting on the ball regularly, and starting the attacking phase.
Sheffield Wednesday’s early play, in contrast to the away team, seemed straight out of the Sam Allardyce playbook. Owls goalkeeper Cameron Dawson launched numerous early balls looking for giant striker Nuhiu, with the Kosovo international rarely failing to win the ball before bringing a teammate into play. As Wednesday began to attack, Reach and João would push further forward to press the Ipswich defenders and force them to play it long. (This rarely succeeded however as Ipswich appeared much more confident in possession of the ball throughout most of the game).
Wednesday, however, opened the scoring through João after 15 minutes with slack marking from a Bannan corner easily punished as the Portuguese striker attacked the space behind Chalobah. This gave the home team extra momentum and forwards Reach and João regularly swapped sides while Nuhiu was adept at continually winning fouls and free kicks.
The first half also proved how key Fulham loanee Edun is to Ipswich’s new style of play. Whenever they played on the front foot, Edun seemed involved as his crisp passing forward helped Ipswich get up the pitch more quickly Edun was also an extra played to join the forwards in pressing from the front.
Ipswich scored the equaliser five minutes before half time. A second corner in quick succession taken by Edun was carefully kept in play wide on the attacking left by Jackson. He passed it back along the line to Edwards, whose cross lopped off Penney. Edun was quickest to react and headed into the area where Chambers won and nodded the ball Nisala’s way. Despite Wednesday having the biggest player on the pitch defending, in Nuhiu, Nsiala punched his header past Dawson and into the net.
Second half takeaway:
As the second half started, Wednesday showed more confidence with the ball and began to mix up the more direct style with a patient, passing approach. Continuing to win the ball back deep inside their own half, the composure and skill of Bannan offered them a creative force in the middle which had seemed lacking. Left-back Penney continued to support attacks on the flank.
The away side continued to create most chances through work started by either Edun or Nolan. The pair was also effective as a second block in preventing Wednesday from continually getting a foothold on the ball in the middle of the park.
Ipswich, for some reason, continued to retreat further back, and as a result of ceding space to Wednesday, allowed the home team to gradually pick the right pass and advance up the field. This style of play allowed Jos Luhukay’s team to dominate the middle of the second half, and when they brought on striker Forestieri, looked far more likely to score than Ipswich. Credit to Luhukay for his tweaks: he pushed Pelupessy further forward alongside Bannan which meant greater options in the middle of the park. This meant Nuhiu wasn’t required to keep dropping deep to start a move and could focus on occupying the Ipswich centre-backs. With Ipswich being pressed back, Chalobah was finding it harder to start moves from his assigned midfield pivot role.
These changes in the game, along with Nsiala’s red card, made it harder for Ipswich to get a foothold in the last quarter of an hour. It was no surprise the winning goal from João came straight after the red card, with the Ipswich goalkeeper partly to blame for not dealing with Bannan’s free kick. The loose ball hit the post, before João made the most of the second attempt to score.
The last few minutes saw Chalobah in central defence and Ipswich mostly looking to play on the counter and push men forward for set pieces – including captain Chambers in a forward role late on.
Ipswich’s tactical tweak, with Ellis Harrison playing as a wide forward on the left, didn’t seem a great success. Although he won the ball lots, his final pass was often poor. Compared to previous games however, the Ipswich midfield looked more dynamic with Nolan and Edun better at playing in an attacking role than Cole Skuse previously (this is no surprise as Skuse has only this season tried to add an offensive side to his game). Edun was the all-action midfielder while Nolan looks a great buy for Ipswich. It appeared to make sense to change Harrison earlier on in the second half, and Ipswich could have used Jordan Roberts or Grant Ward as more natural wide options.
Nuhiu won plenty in the air but there was little overall threat to accompany this for Sheffield Wednesday. João was often pushed into too deep a position on the left to really make an impact in the attacking phase of play, while Matias failed to make much headway on the right. He was helped by Liam Palmer getting forward regularly on the right to support attacks, while youngster Penney also showed maturity at both ends of the field. Arguably, Luhukay should have introduced Forestieri much earlier – the latter added guile to Wednesday’s forward play. The red card appeared harsh, and although Forestieri did appear to land slightly awkwardly, it only suggested minimal contact. João’s predatory nature was on display to then head his team’s winner.