Huddersfield Town strolled to an easy victory over Sheffield Wednesday in a Yorkshire derby at the John Smith’s Stadium.
Carlos Corberan’s side excelled in a brilliant first half from their perspective, with Josh Koroma opening the scoring and Isaac Mbenza scoring a brilliant free kick shortly afterwards.
A second consecutive win for Huddersfield lifted them into the top half of the Championship table, while Wednesday remain rooted to the bottom having failed to win in six games under new manager Tony Pulis.
Story of the match
In the first half, Huddersfield hit a scintillating new high under Corberan. Their visitors were always going to sit back and challenge them to break down their defence, and they did that in style.
Misplaced passes prevented them in the first few minutes, but they found their mark for an 11th-minute opener. Keeping the ball for a spell of pressure, Pipa played ball across the box which Fraizer Campbell let run for Koroma, who took a great touch to create the angle from which to strike into the bottom corner.
In-form Koroma slotted again a couple of minutes later only for the assistant’s flag to spoil the fun after an exceptional passing move, and opposite winger Mbenza also thumped over after more delightful play.
Sheffield Wednesday’s defence was being pulled and contorted beyond recognition, and they weren’t helped by an injury to Julian Borner. Liam Palmer replaced him and soon gave away a free kick on the edge of the box, from which Mbenza produced a stunning strike to find the top corner and doubled the Terriers lead.
Goals aside, perhaps the first-half highlight was their greatest spell of possession, when they went from being closed into a corner inside their own box to threatening in the other with a series of perfectly crisp passes. If Koroma had applied the finishing touch instead of blasting over, it would have been remembered for years to come.
Instead Wednesday began to find a little rhythm at last, helped by Jonathan Hogg’s exit with injury. Tom Lees had their first effort, a header from a corner clawed off the line by goalkeeper Ben Hamer, while Josh Windass had an effort blocked before the break.
Juninho Baunca looked like becoming the game’s third casualty in added time when he required lengthy treatment, but he was able to continue and played a key role shortly after the interval.
His run into the box led Dominic Iorfa into drastic action, with the defender sliding and taking out Bacuna with his trailing leg. Having won the penalty he stepped up to take it too, but missed the chance to make the outcome certain by striking wide.
Huddersfield failed to hit their first-half heights again but Wednesday were so impotent in attack that it mattered little, and their biggest concerns regarded further injury problems as Mbenza limped off the field and straight down the tunnel.
Only in the 79th minute did Pulis’s side finally register a clear shot on target, a Windass effort from distance saved comfortably, and Hamer also had to deny Jordan Rhodes in added time, as the new man’s wait for a taste of success goes on.
Wingers have huge potential
For a couple of years, Huddersfield have been desperately searching for the firepower needed to become a potent attacking threat again.
The sale of Karlan Grant in the summer looked to have left the cupboard barer than ever, but two wingers have stepped up to show that they have what it takes to give the Terriers their bite back.
Koroma has delivered some huge performances of late, excelling in their previous win against Queens Park Rangers and doing so again here until being forced off having stretched a muscle.
But perhaps the greater standout this time was Mbenza on the opposite wing, a constant livewire who left the opposition defence dazed and scored a quite sumptuous free kick.
Pulis must settle on defence
Pulis held his hands up and admitted after the game that the Owls need to stick with the same defence for a run of games.
The opening half-hour was a perfect demonstration of what happens when a defence, quite simply, doesn’t know what it’s doing.
They started with a back five but within minutes had switched to a four, pulling Moses Odubajo from the right of it to the left. Iorfa – who played in midfield in their previous game against Norwich City – was moved from centre-back to the right and then back to the middle, all in the first 20 minutes or so.
As good as Huddersfield were, they were helped enormously by a defence that was all over the place. It was certainly not a display that would be associated with Pulis, and he needs to sort it fast.
Man of the match: Pipa (Huddersfield)
Huddersfield were going to need their full-backs on top form to overcome Wednesday’s defence, and while Harry Toffolo has often stood out this season, Pipa has excelled in many of their best performances.
So it was here, as the Spaniard caused untold damage in the first half-hour in particular. He was left unchecked time and again and used the space provided to devastating effect, whether through linking play, carrying the ball forward or delivering threatening crosses into the box.