Gianluca Vialli's dream of renewing acquaintance with Chelsea in the final of the Worthington Cup next year was spectacularly exploded at Hillsborough last night as a patched-up Sheffield Wednesday booked an unlikely place in the last four with a momentous effort capped by a stunning individual goal.
Clinging to a one-goal advantage until the final 17 minutes, Wednesday's passage to a semi-final against Blackburn was then clinched by a goal which the 19-year-old Matthew Hamshaw will want to relive over and again, the teenager racing the best part of 70 yards from deep inside his own half before breaking Watford's hearts with a brilliant finish.
The Wednesday manager, Terry Yorath, admitted afterwards that Hamshaw would probably not have played had so many others not been ruled out, either through injury or ineligibility. "We knew he had ability but he does not produce it consistently enough and he has had a couple of rollickings lately," Yorath said. "But he surprised us all tonight, not least because one thing we did not think he had was pace."
Hamshaw's cross had made the opening goal for Gerald Sibon towards the end of the first half and the magnificence of his own strike left Vialli's team so shattered they conceded two more goals in the closing minutes.
Last night's outcome made nonsense of recent form. While Wednesday have struggled to keep out of the bottom three, Watford had enjoyed a run of five games unbeaten.
Indeed, Vialli's side were guilty of missing two clear chances before Wednesday went ahead, Gary Fisken lofting a bobbling ball high over the top after Marcus Gayle had found him unmarked and Gifton Noel-Williams stumbling over a squared pass from Paolo Vernazza, with the home defence badly exposed each time.
Wednesday had posed only fleeting threats and the goal that put them in front might have been ruled out, goalkeeper Alec Chamberlain appearing to be impeded as Dutch striker Sibon outjumped him to head home Hamshaw's deep cross.
Wednesday, who tended to play themselves into trouble at the back, looked vulnerable despite chances falling their way on the counter-attack.
Derek Geary wasted one excellent opening made by his own run along the left by trying to shoot when Hamshaw was unmarked to his right. If he had known what was coming he would surely have trusted his team-mate to score.
Hamshaw took possession deep inside home territory and sprinted away, skipping past the last Watford defender inside the centre circle and still having the legs to outpace Paolo Vernazza before slotting the ball left-footed past Chamberlain.
Wednesday's elation was matched by Watford's despair. Resigned to defeat, they allowed substitute Phil O'Donnell time and space to leave Chamberlain beaten for a third time before Trond Soltvedt rounded off the home side's night with a cleverly worked fourth.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Pressman; Haslam, Westwood, Maddix, Geary; Hamshaw (O'Donnell, 84), McLaren, Soltvedt, Donnelly (Crane, 62); Ekoku (Bonvin, 90), Sibon. Substitutes not used: Stringer (gk), Quinn.
Watford (4-4-2): Chamberlain; Cox, Issa, Vega, Robinson; Fisken (Helguson, 71), Hyde, Vernazza, Gayle; Noel-Williams, Noble. Substitutes not used: Baardsen (gk), Neilsen, Smith, Helguson, Doyley.
Referee: A Butler (Notts).Reuse content