Sheffield Wednesday stunned Cardiff City with a sublime performance, as the Owls beat the Bluebirds 5-0 to keep their survival hopes alive.
Wednesday started emphatically, netting three excellent goals in the opening 22 minutes of the game through Julian Börner, Callum Paterson and Adam Reach.
The home side remained resolute to survive immense pressure from Cardiff before capping off a great afternoon with a goal from Jordan Rhodes and a second from Reach.
Story of the match
With Coventry City and Wycombe Wanderers beating Bristol City and Rotherham United respectively in the 3pm kick-offs – which put Wednesday bottom of the Championship – the Owls needed to start well, and they did just that, taking a fourth-minute lead as Börner peeled away from Aden Flint to connect with Barry Bannan’s corner.
Moments later, Tom Lees forced Dillon Phillips into a routine save, holding onto the defender’s header from Paterson’s long throw.
Cardiff’s first opportunity came through a distanced effort from former Rotherham midfielder Will Vaulks, who saw his deflected strike towards goal held down low by Joe Wildsmith.
A quarter into the fixture, Flint, who made four appearances on loan for the Owls in the first half of the campaign, tested Wildsmith on the turn from the edge of the area. But the 25-year-old made the save and then gathered the ball at the second attempt.
The Owls doubled their lead on the 20th-minute mark. Liam Palmer took a cross-field delivery into his stride before drilling the ball towards the edge, where Paterson volleyed past Phillips for his seventh goal since joining the club from Cardiff.
Things got even better for Wednesday, who added a third just two minutes later. Wednesday won a free-kick on the edge of the area. Bannan stood over the set-piece and rolled the ball to Josh Windass, who then stopped the ball for Reach to curl into the top corner.
The host’s dominance continued, going close just after the goal with Rhodes and Windass linking up but they were thwarted by the late challenge of Ciaron Brown before Reach volleyed wide on the half-hour mark.
The period between then and half-time saw both sides scuttling for possession and, with the Bluebirds desperate for a way back into the game, the Owls defended confidently to lead at the break.
If Cardiff were to get anything from Hillsborough after a somnolent first period, they had to score early. Three minutes after the restart, Joe Ralls picked out the run of Flint from a free-kick on the left, but the centre-half could only head across goal and narrowly wide of Wildsmith’s far post.
Wednesday did well to frustrate their visitors, conceding needless fouls on halfway before seeing several City set-pieces be claimed by Wildsmith, who commanded his area well.
On the hour, Vaulks again forced Wildsmith into a save, receiving his initial throw back at his feet. But the 27-year-old’s hack towards goal was held by the ‘keeper.
The Owls, however, broke away from a Bluebirds spell of possession to put the game beyond doubt on 65 minutes. Bannan spearheaded the attack, showing composure to slalom past a challenge before playing Paterson through on goal with the reverse pass. The forward then picked out Rhodes on the edge, who stroked home his fourth goal in as many games.
Wednesday’s sublime performance was partnered with luck at times, with the Owls almost conceding from a goalmouth scramble, surviving stabs from Curtis Nelson and Jonny Williams before the ball was turned wide.
Reach then netted his second of the game after beginning his run in his own half before playing a give-and-go with Rhodes to smash home his fifth goal of the season and cap off a tremendous afternoon.
Owls show they still have fight left in them!
With good wins for both Coventry and Wycombe, it was vital that Sheffield Wednesday got a win to stay within touching difference of safety.
The Owls’ win was unexpected, but they were value for their large victory on Easter Monday. They were magnificent and fluid going forward and resolute at the back; something that Darren Moore has instilled into the side in his short tenure so far.
Windass and Bannan linked well in the centre, with Rhodes and Paterson dismantling the Cardiff back-three due to their runs, which allowed Palmer and Reach to race into the box from the flanks.
With Moore returning a positive covid test last week, he would have fully enjoyed his side’s performance and will hope that they can implement the confidence built into Saturday’s fixture against Queens Park Rangers.
They are now six points from safety and will need to maintain that fight going into the final seven games to have a chance of keeping their Championship status.
Man of the match
The Owls captain ran the show at Hillsborough, proving to be a catalyst when rushing forward before keeping things flowing when in possession.
Bannan was heavily involved in three of the five goals. It was the Scotsman’s perfect corner which was headed home by Börner in the fourth minute. He then started the free-kick routine for Reach’s first before providing the assist for the assist by sliding Paterson through on goal for Rhodes' finish.
The 31-year-old made three key passes, completed three dribbles and made the most completed passes on the pitch with 66.