Built on Saints
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of our much-loved home, Graham Hiley tells the tale of the stadium’s most memorable Southampton victories.
Saints 1-0 Liverpool
11th January 2017
Everyone remembers the magic moment when Shane Long sent Saints to Wembley with a last-gasp goal at Anfield. But what of Nathan Redmond?
It was Redmond who set up that unforgettable return match with the winner from the first leg on another special night at St Mary’s.
That contribution was every bit as vital – possibly more so – as it gave Southampton something to defend as they attempted to become the first team to inflict a semi-final defeat on Jürgen Klopp.
The Merseysiders’ manager famously described himself as the world record holder at winning semi-finals – apart from this one!
That record made it a daunting task for Claude Puel’s men who went into the tie on a run of three successive league defeats – and having lost 6-1 at home to the same opposition in the previous campaign’s competition.
By contrast Liverpool, having plundered Saints for players, had tasted defeat only twice all season – but they finished up thankful not to lose by more in an unusually one-sided game.
A capacity crowd created an electric atmosphere for Southampton’s first semi-final in 14 years with both sides feeling each out gently in the opening quarter of an hour.
The game burst into life on 17 minutes when Adam Lallana headed down for Roberto Firmino, whose blast was well kept out by a great reaction save from Fraser Forster. It was to be their only real chance.
From then on it was one-way traffic. A minute later a deep cross from Dušan Tadić picked out Redmond in space at the far post. He controlled well to set up the shot but Loris Karius was out quickly to block well with his feet.
It was only a temporary reprieve. Ragnar Klavan failed to clear and Jay Rodriguez threaded through to put Redmond in behind a static back line. The visitors appealed in vain for a flag. Even without VAR, the attacking midfielder was clearly onside as he took one touch to control and this time his precise shot found the bottom-left corner.
Saints almost doubled their lead three minutes before the break – and again it was Redmond who was at the heart of every attack. Ryan Bertrand cut in from the left and found Tadić who squared across goal.
Redmond’s fierce shot was well kept out by the much-maligned Karius who had been widely criticised in previous games but picked this night to produce probably his best performance in a Liverpool shirt to prevent the home side winning by more.
Puel’s men had another great chance to double their lead on 65 minutes when Cédric cleared a visitors’ corner to Redmond. The full-back then turned on the afterburners to overtake his teammate who timed the return pass to perfection, playing him in through the inside-right channel. With Rodriguez screaming for a pass, the Portuguese defender went for glory but found only the side-netting.
Another opportunity went begging six minutes from time when Long burst in from the left and selflessly squared for Redmond, who dinked his shot against the underside of the bar. Dejan Lovren cleared as referee Neil Swarbrick confirmed the ball had not crossed the line.
Amid all the full-time celebrations, there was a nagging fear that maybe Saints would come to rue those missed chances after dominating the game.
Few “experts” felt Saints had a big enough advantage to get through including Klopp. He began the mind games almost as soon as the final whistle brought to an end a wretched night for his side who barely managed an attempt on goal, such was the dominance of Virgil van Dijk at the back.
The Reds manager cranked up the pressure, suggesting Saints would be disappointed with the scoreline and their failure to turn their dominance into goals.
He said: “The best thing for us is the result. We know that we can play better at Anfield – nothing is decided.
“We cannot be happy with the performance, Southampton cannot be happy with the result. It could and should have been 2-0 or 3-0.”
But the German had reckoned without the defensive toughness instilled by Puel who was unbeaten in four managerial meetings with Liverpool – soon to become five (or six if you include the next league visit to Anfield).
Redmond’s lone goal had given Saints something to cling to in the return leg – and they did it with awesome discipline and determination.
The home fans grew increasingly frustrated as, against all odds, Southampton stood strong before snatching a dramatic winner a minute into stoppage time, as Josh Sims broke and set up Long to fire home against a backdrop of delirious Saints fans.
It was no more than they deserved over the two legs as Puel’s side reached Wembley without conceding a goal en route.
Saints: Forster, Cédric, Yoshida, van Dijk, Bertrand, Romeu, Davis (Ward-Prowse 82), Clasie (Hojbjerg 73), Tadić, Redmond, Rodriguez (Long 82). Unused subs: Lewis, Stephens, McQueen, Sims.
Liverpool: Karius, Clyne, Lovren, Klavan, Milner, Lucas, Can, Wijnaldum (Coutinho 61), Lallana, Firmino (Origi 83), Sturridge. Unused subs: Mignolet, Gomez, Moreno, Stewart, Woodburn.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick