IN comparison to Jose Mourinho, Jos Luhukay can very much be viewed as the quiet one.
Sheffield Wednesday’s reserved head coach is rarely impassioned in his musings with the press, unlike his Manchester United counterpart, who has courted fresh headlines this week by demanding ‘respect’ from the nation’s football scribes.
But a marked departure has seen Luhukay make his own stirring call for respect.
Namely, a call for respect towards the blue and white stripped jersey of the Owls – with the Dutchman firing a broadside towards any players who do not possess the desire and ambition to be successful for the club; both now and in the future.
After some strong in-house words in the wake of Wednesday’s wretched recent loss at Brentford, Luhukay achieved the response he was seeking by way of much-needed league victories over Millwall and Ipswich Town. But by way of a reiterating that message, it was reinforced in public ahead of last night’s game.
A third home victory inside a week may have eluded the Owls, but it was not through any lack of perspiration or effort from a much-changed side.
It took a moment of class to turn the tie firmly in the direction of the visitors – with Leo Bonatini being the beneficiary of some Adama Traore magic on 53 minutes before another of Wolves’ big-money marquee signings in Helder Costa added a late second from the spot to settle the tie.
Wednesday may have been beaten, but they were far from disgraced, with the response to the visitors’ opener displaying character and spirit, without the necessary polish.
A line-up featuring 11 changes from the side who started at the weekend displayed enthusiasm and appetite and there was no shortage of eagerness from both young and relatively old.
It was an evening which also painted the Owls’ academy in a positive light, with eight players aged 21 and under included in the hosts’ match-day squad. Teenager Jack Lee was handed a full debut and defender Frederik Neilsen started a game at Hillsborough for the first time. But despite milestone games for the pair, progression ultimately belonged to Wolves, who ended the game in comfort.
Wednesday may have contained Wolves’ £18m record signing Traore admirably in the first half on the winger’s full debut, but the former Middlesbrough speedster came to the party in blistering fashion on the restart – and continued the form that ripped up the Championship in the second half of last season.
Shortly after turning on the after-burners to set up a chance for Morgan Gibbs-White, Traore again showcased his devastating pace to hare away down the right before teeing up Bonatini, who tucked the ball home low past Joe Wildsmith to end his eight-month goal drought.
Despite having to soon repel a mini-spell of home pressure from the Owls – attacking a deserted Kop which was closed for the evening – the Midlanders ended the game on top.
Costa’s second, after being fouled by Morgan Fox, provided gloss for Wolves, whose sense of well-being was showcased by the presence of 2,700 visiting supporters.
The onus was on the Owls’ senior professionals from the off to set the example, which they demonstrably did in a first-half full of tenacity and appetite from those in home shirts, with the crowd warming to the endeavour on show.
Granted, the Owls struggled to prise open Wolves in the final third, but the work ethic was laudable, admirably led by Fernando Forestieri, who was a hive of industry.
Wanderers’ sole opportunity arrived on 33 minutes when space opened in midfield with Bonatini supplying Gibbs-White, but the winger dragged his shot tamely wide when well placed.
The Owls’ most dangerous moment arrived in the second minute when a viciously inswinging free-kick on the right from David Jones was glanced towards goal by Fox, but John Ruddy was well-stationed to gather.
Traore fired an early warning on the restart following a weaving run and soon carved open the hosts’ rearguard for Wanderers’ opener and Gibbs-White’s drive which hit the outside of the post almost added a second.
To their credit, Wednesday rallied with an acrobatic attempt from captain-for-the-night Steven Fletcher turned away adeptly by Ruddy, who then had to be alert to avoid being caught out at his near post following Forestieri’s free-kick.
But the hosts’ fire abated and Costa sent Wildsmith the wrong way from the spot to seal victory for Wanderers.
Sheffield Wednesday: Wildsmith; Baker, Hutchinson, Neilsen, Fox; Preston (Nuhiu 73), J Lee, Jones (Kirby 85), Boyd; Forestieri, Fletcher (Stobbs 73). Substitutes unused: Dawson, Palmer, O’Grady, Hunt.
Wolves: Ruddy; Dendoncker, Coady, Hause; Doherty, Saiss, Watt (Goncalves 62), Vinagre; Traore, Bonatini (Ashley-Seal 80), Gibbs-White (Costa 72). Substitutes unused: Norris, Bennett, Otto, Giles.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).