CARLOS CARVALHAL last night hailed Fernando Forestieri as a “special killer” after firing Sheffield Wednesday to a hard-fought victory over newly-relegated Aston Villa.
The Italian struck with just five minutes remaining to settle an engrossing clash at Hillsborough with an ice-cool finish.
It meant Wednesday’s bid to go one better than last season and win promotion had the ideal start to underline the value Forestieri, top scorer for the Owls in 2015-16, has to the Yorkshire club. “He is a special player,” said the Portuguese in the wake of the 1-0 victory over Villa.
“Tom Lees is a special player, Kieren Westwood is a special player.
“Sam Hutchinson is a special player, so is Barry Bannan. They are all special. All my players are special. We are a team. No-one can win anything alone. But he (Forestieri) is a special killer. That is different.
“In moments like that, he can be very cold. (Steven) Fletcher is the same, as is Gary Hooper. Their head goes very cold and they can score. I believe that when they get the ball.”
Forestieri’s strike came moments after a sliced clearance from Villa goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini had presented the Italian with the ball 40 yards from goal.
He quickly darted forward to leave the defence trailing before drilling a low shot under his fellow countryman.
“We scored a goal through a mistake,” added Carvalhal. “But it was only a mistake because Gary Hooper closed down the goalkeeper. He pressed him into the mistake.
“The ball fell to our special player. And Fernando scored the goal. After that, I felt we had the energy to win the game.
“We played a very strong team but we deserved to win this game.”
The only blot on the day for the Owls was debutant Fletcher being forced out of the action midway through the first half with a nasty head wound that required stitches.
He won’t feature against Cambridge United in tomorrow night’s League Cup first-round tie as Carvalhal prepares to ring the changes.
“We can do better and we will do better,” added the Owls chief, who after Fletcher’s early exit fielded a team featuring ten of last season’s squad. “But this was the first game and important to win against an Aston Villa side that has good players.
“We are improving the team and they are playing at another level compared to early last season
Even though we had ten players from last season, I felt we played more aggressively and more compact. We moved the ball very well.”
In contrast to Wednesday, Leeds suffered a miserable start to the season yesterday with a 3-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers.
Second best for long periods, the United players were jeered off by a section of the 3,000 strong travelling army of fans who had headed to Loftus Road.
Garry Monk, on his bow as the club’s head coach, admitted to sympathising with supporters who had left Yorkshire in the early hours to make the noon kick-off.
“We are disappointed with the result and it is not how we wanted to start the season,” said the Elland Road chief.
“But let’s remember that it is one game. There are lots of games left to fight for and I am more than confident in this group – that they have the quality and character to make sure we get a reaction in the next game.
“In the first half, we gave QPR the impetus and a little bit too much respect which allowed them to be on the front foot. We gave goals away with mistakes. It is something that as a young group they’re going to have to learn from but they will. The luxury of this type of league is that you get more games coming soon.”
Leeds are next in action on Wednesday night in the League Cup first round at Fleetwood Town, who are managed by Uwe Rosler.
Asked about the fans’ reaction at the final whistle, Monk added: “Of course (I understand it). When you lose a game, you are going to be frustrated. We went out there with the intention to give them the right result and the right start but I said it is a long process. We are not going to judged or be defined by one game.”
Reports: Pages 4-6