IN terms of announcing his arrival in English football, Sheffield Wednesday’s Marco Matias did so in the most spectacular of fashions.
Not only was the winger’s volleyed strike at Leeds United in August a rare thing of beauty, it was also sufficiently spectacular to be voted the ‘Goal of the Season’ at the recent Football League awards dinner.
His 37th-minute stunner at Elland Road suggested the £1.1m paid to Portuguese club Nacional could be the bargain of the season.
The reality, however, has been rather different with a lengthy absence through a hernia injury and the keen competition for places in Carlos Carvalhal’s squad having brought just one league start since the end of September.
It has made for a frustrating time for Matias but, with the season fast approaching the business end, he is hoping to round off that debut year in England in a similar fashion to how it began.
“English football is different,” the 26-year-old told The Yorkshire Post ahead of this weekend’s crunch encounter with Cardiff City, the only side that can now pip the Owls to sixth place.
“More strong, more fast than I am used to playing. But I like a lot of the English game. My dream was to play in England. I am here and very happy.
“I have not been able to play as many games (as I would have liked) but the fans have been great to me. Hillsborough is massive and the fans amazing.
“All the way through the match, they shout and cheer the team. It is amazing. I can’t explain how they make me feel. I want to make them happy and that means getting more goals.”
Matias had served early notice of his goalscoring prowess during pre-season, netting twice as Wednesday got to grips with the preferred system and style of play of new head coach Carvalhal.
It was, though, the goal at Elland Road that made everyone sit up and take note of the new arrival.
After intelligently timing his run to spring the United offside trap and latch on to Liam Palmer’s pass out of defence, Matias wrong-footed Liam Cooper courtesy of a deft flick over the defender that he followed with the sweetest of left-foot volleys.
Marco Silvestri could only watch helplessly as the ball sailed over his head before crashing into the net off the underside of the crossbar.
It had echoes of another famous goal, scored at Elland Road almost 20 years to the day earlier when Tony Yeboah unleashed a volley at the very same end against Liverpool that remains a staple diet of any list of ‘Best Premier League goals’.
Almost eight months on, Matias’s bamboozling of the Leeds defence was recognised by the Football League as he pipped four other nominations to scoop ‘Goal of the Season’.
The award was a notable achievement, not just in terms of the standard of goals he beat from elsewhere in the League but also those by his team-mates.
Ross Wallace’s bullet of a shot at Fulham on January 2 was not far behind Matias’s own effort in the spectacular stakes, and Lewis McGugan’s long-range effort against Preston North End was another to savour. Top of the lot, though, was ‘that’ volley at Elland Road.
“I am very proud to get the award,” said the former Portugal Under-21s international, who has three league goals to his name in a Wednesday shirt.
“Collecting it was a very special moment for me. I wish I could achieve more moments like this.
“That was the best goal of my career. I scored one last season (for Nacional) that was close to it. But not as good.”
Matias came off the bench last Saturday as Wednesday earned a 1-1 draw at Derby County in a lunchtime contest that was shown live by Sky.
Until Cardiff netted a dramatic winner at home to Bolton Wanderers a couple of hours later, that point at the Ipro Stadium looked to have all but booked the Yorkshire club a place in the play-offs.
Peter Whittington’s last-gasp penalty means the Bluebirds still retain hope of claiming sixth place, though Carvalhal’s men can snuff those out with a draw when the two clubs meet at Hillsborough.
If the Owls can get the necessary result to claim a top-six spot with a game to spare, Matias insists they will fear no-one once the promotion deciders get under way.
“I am confident about the play-offs,” he said.
“Our team is very strong. If we play together, we are strong and I think that will help.
“Carlos is the best coach for this project. He is a very, very good coach and he loves Sheffield Wednesday. I am happy to play for him.
“He is a nice guy and a good coach. He tries to help every player do better. He has done a lot for me.
“We will be okay when we play any team in the play-offs.”