Saints facing uphill climb after defeat


Southampton will head to St James’ Park for the second part of this Carabao Cup semi-final facing an uphill challenge to realise their Wembley dreams, after falling to a 1-0 defeat in the first leg at St Mary’s.

An absorbing encounter on a freezing cold night looked to be heading for a draw, before Joelinton struck a winner in the 73rd minute to put Newcastle in command at the halfway point of the tie.

It was perhaps a harsh result for Nathan Jones’s team, who also ended the night with ten men after a late Duje Ćaleta-Car sending off. Saints gave as good as they got for much of the evening, and indeed missed their own golden opportunity to take the lead in the second half, but it does not change the fact they must now find a way to win against a high-flying Magpies team on Tyneside next Tuesday if they are to reach the final.

Jones made four changes from the team that had faced Aston Villa at the weekend, as Roméo Lavia, Sam Edozie, Adam Armstrong and Ché Adams dropped to the bench. In came Moussa Djenepo and Sékou Mara, as well as January signings Mislav Oršić and Charly Alcaraz, who were both making their full debuts.

Jan Bednarek was also included in the squad, with the centre-back named among the substitutes following his return this week from a loan spell at Aston Villa.

For Newcastle, Eddie Howe named the same side from the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace over the weekend in the Premier League – a game in which they earned their ninth clean sheet in their past ten matches.

Sitting in third place in the Premier League, the visitors came into the tie as favourites, and they started as such, creating a big opening within two minutes. A cleverly-worked throw-in from inside their own half resulted in Miguel Almirón being set free into space down the right, allowing him to break forward, draw the defence towards him and slip a pass across the pitch for the run of Joe Willock. However, with a clear sight of goal from 18 yards, he ballooned his shot high into the Chapel Stand.

There was further danger for Saints shortly after, when Newcastle worked it to Sean Longstaff inside the right edge of the area and he flashed a low ball across the six-yard box, but fortunately no Magpies players were able to get on the end of it.

Saints’ first real sniff of goal came on 15 minutes, when James Ward-Prowse curled a low ball from a deep position on the right towards the edge of the area, but, although Alcaraz had made a good run across his defender, he couldn’t get the right contact on his shot and the chance went begging.

Jones’s side were defending well against their opponents, although Newcastle continued to have moments of threat, and they came close to cutting through Saints in the 28th minute, only for Ćaleta-Car to end their dangerous break when his slide tackle wiped out Almirón deep inside the hosts’ half – a challenge for which he unsurprisingly earned the first yellow card of the night.

Newcastle then wasted a decent opportunity ten minutes from half-time, when Kieran Trippier’s cross to the back post dropped to Willock, only for him to again smash the ball way over, this time from just outside the six-yard box.

Another caution followed for Saints, when Alcaraz blatantly pulled back Bruno Guimarães midway inside the visitors’ half, in what felt like an unnecessarily over-zealous intervention.

For a moment, Newcastle thought they had made a crucial breakthrough in the 39th minute, as Joelinton smashed home from close range after Gavin Bazunu had made an excellent save to deny Willock, but referee Stuart Attwell judged that he had used his arm to control the ball before finishing and ruled the strike out.

Straight back up the other end, Alcaraz fired in a stinging low shot from distance that almost got the better of Nick Pope, but the Newcastle keeper managed to rather unconvincingly divert it behind for a corner that came to nothing.

There was then a blow for Saints as the game rolled into added time, when they were forced into a change. It was Moussa Djenepo whose night was cut short, as Newcastle keeper Pope clattered him just outside the corner of the box after rushing out to head clear a ball over the top. There was no foul given, but Djenepo was clearly hurt and dazed after the hefty collision, and he was helped off the pitch before being replaced by Adam Armstrong.

The half-time break brought no further changes, although the second half began the same way as the first, with Newcastle creating an opening on the edge of the Saints box within two minutes. As with Willock at the start of the game, though, Sean Longstaff got well under his strike and sent it over.

After Mara then saw an audacious scissor kick from the edge of the box spin wide of the far post, Saints were back under pressure, and they were incredibly fortunate not to fall behind on 54 minutes when Joelinton wasted a glorious opportunity. The Newcastle forward was only six yards out when Almirón’s deflected low ball across the face of goal fell to him, but, with the goal gaping, he somehow blazed over.

Shortly after, Sven Botman was also off target from a decent position, finding the side netting after a cross had reached him, but it wasn’t entirely Newcastle, as Armstrong drove at the visiting defence on 57 minutes and sent a left-footed shot whistling just over the near top corner from the edge of the area.

Jones then made a double substitution, with Mara and Oršić coming off to be replaced by Edozie and Adams, as he sent some fresh legs on for the final half-hour.

It almost had an immediate impact, as Saints created a golden opportunity. Adams was played through brilliantly by Alcaraz’s deep ball in the 65th minute, but he couldn’t finish one-on-one with Pope, as the Newcastle keeper stuck out his left leg to divert the striker’s low shot away from goal.

Only a minute later, Pope again denied Adams, this time as the forward spun and shot from about eight yards, after a Ward-Prowse free-kick fell to him, while Lyanco smashed a shot in the aftermath of that chance a yard over from the edge of the box.

Saints were really starting to press now and were causing Newcastle some significant problems, with Trippier being booked 20 minutes from time after bringing down Edozie out near the left touchline.

Typically, though, just when it looked like Jones’s team might be about to find an all-important breakthrough, Newcastle delivered a sucker punch.

Alexander Isak, not long on as a sub, burst into the right side of the area and delivered a low cross that was perfectly weighted for the run of Joelinton into the six-yard box, and this time he made no mistake, smashing it home to give the visitors the lead.

Less than two minutes later, it looked as though Saints had levelled, as Sam Edozie flicked a loose ball in the box into a central position, from where Armstrong bundled it in, but in the process of doing so the ball hit his hand and the goal was ruled out after a VAR check.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, Lavia was sent on in place of Diallo, before Saints then lost a man, as Ćaleta-Car was shown a second yellow for bringing down substitute Allan Saint-Maximin outside the box in the closing stages.

Saints at least did not allow the damage to get any worse in the final minutes, ensuring all hope is not lost, but it is undoubtedly advantage Newcastle heading into next week's deciding match.