REPORT: SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 2 ALBION 0
- Goals from Ross Wallace and Kieran Lee give Wednesday a 2-0 win
- Fernando Forestieri has a goal ruled out for offside
- Connor Goldson, Tomer Hemed, Steve Sidwell and Anthony Knockaert are all forced off injured
- Albion’s 14-match unbeaten run comes to an end
Brighton & Hove Albion left themselves with plenty work to do after a 2-0 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, in the Championship play-off semi-final first leg at Hillsborough.
Goals from Ross Wallace and Kieran Lee put the Owls in control of the tie, on a thoroughly disappointing night for Albion, who had Connor Goldson, Tomer Hemed, Steve Sidwell and Anthony Knockaert all forced off injured.
Albion made three changes to the line-up that drew 1-1 with Middlesbrough on the final day of the season; Sidwell replaced the suspended Dale Stephens, while Jiri Skalak and Gaetan Bong came in for Jamie Murphy and Liam Rosenior.
Ross Wallace had a chance to break the deadlock for Wednesday, but his effort went high and wide of David Stockdale’s goal.
Sam Baldock came close to opening the scoring in Albion’s favour after latching onto Bruno’s cross but saw his shot deflected wide.
Chris Hughton’s men came even closer to drawing first blood in the tie from the subsequent corner, as Tomer Hemed's header clipped the outside of the post from Skalak’s delivery.
The frenetic start to the game continued as David Stockdale had to be alert to push Wallace’s low driven effort around the post.
Knockaert’s in-swinging corner from the left was then met by Hemed in the box, but he saw another header deflect wide of the target.
The Owls thought they had broken the deadlock when goalkeeper Keiren Westwood launched a long ball towards Forestieri and the striker clinically fired home past Stockdale.
But much to Albion’s relief, the effort was retrospectively ruled out for offside as no other player had touched the ball.
The Seagulls were dealt a blow when Goldson and Hemed were both forced off injured and were replaced by Rosenior and James Wilson.
The two injuries forced Hughton to reshuffle his pack, as Bruno partnered Gordon Greer in central defence and Rosenior moved to right-back.
Wednesday did find the net in the 44th minute, though as Wallace drove into space from the right flank and saw his low strike beat an outstretched Stockdale.
The Owls had another chance within the opening minute of the second half, after Daniel Pudil’s rasping drive went just past Stockdale’s near post.
It got worse for the Seagulls, as Sidwell was the third player to be forced off injured and had to be replaced by Richie Towell - making his first league start since joining the club in January.
Albion’s injury woes increased further after Knockaert became the fourth player to leave the pitch following an awkward landing on an ankle and with all three substitutes used, the Seagulls played the final 30 minutes with ten men.
Skalak still had a chance to bring Brighton level from a set-piece and his curling strike beat the wall, but sailed over the bar.
However, it was Wednesday who struck the next goal in the 73rd minute, after Forestieri played in Lee and he fired the ball into the bottom left-hand corner.
Skalak attempted to bring Albion back into the tie with a ferocious left-footed volley that flew just over the target.
Rosenior then floated a ball into Baldock, who got his head onto the cross, but Westwood made a comfortable save which summed up a frustrating evening.