After a tight play-off semi-final second leg at Hillsborough, Huddersfield Town are through to the final with a penalty shootout victory. But what did we learn from the game?
This blog felt the praise Sheffield Wednesday got for their defensive performance in the first leg was a little generous. The argument was that they would start attacking once they were at home, but that did not happen. The big gap between their midfield quartet and their front two, Fernando Forestieri and Steven Fletcher did not enable quality service, though the latter had a sixth minute shot blocked by Michael Hefele.
Carlos Carvalhal’s side could not sustain a press with only two men in the opposing half, so Huddersfield centre-backs Hefele and Christopher Schindler had time on the ball with Jonathan Hogg dropping in. The visitors created the best chance on 25 minutes when the energetic Nahki Wells ran into the left channel and crossed for Izzy Brown, who fired wide of the near-post from close-range. The Terriers had more of the ball in a tight first half with no clear favourite.
Fletcher’s big moment
The Sheffield Wednesday striker faced criticism at half-time due to his lack of mobility, with many fans suggesting the head coach should replace him with Jordan Rhodes. He went some way to answering his doubters six minutes after the interval, when he jumped above Schindler at the back-post to head an excellent Barry Bannan cross into the far corner.
Huddersfield responded well with Wells and Elias Kachunga coming close within seven minutes of Fletcher’s opener. Their equalizer though was down to the arrival of Collin Quaner, who cut inside with pace and power and his pull-back for Wells was accidently diverted in by Tom Lees on 73 minutes. Quaner continued to cause problems down the right for Daniel Pudil, who lacked the positional awareness to handle the ex-Union Berlin man. His runs often forced Glenn Loovens across into uncomfortable areas, once again leaving Wells free before the striker hit the side-netting.
Fans once calling for Rhodes’ introduction got their wish in the second half but it was not until extra time that he got the service he requires. The Scot had a tight-angled effort deflected onto the roof of the net before having a snapshot saved by Danny Ward in the first half of extra-time, which was dominated by the Owls.
Ward the hero
Both sides tired in the closing stages meaning the game would be decided on penalties. Ward has had some difficult spells this season, but he saved from Sam Hutchinson and Forestieri then, taking a moment to realize what it meant, sprinted joyfully to the other end of the pitch to celebrate with Huddersfield fans. The Terriers are through to the final.
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