Saints march into quarter-finals


Southampton went marching into the quarter-finals of the Emirates FA Cup and moved one win away from a date at Wembley Stadium after a well-deserved victory away to Wolves in the fifth round.

Danny Ings’s goal early in the second half and Stuart Armstrong's late strike separated the sides at Molineux, and even then it was arguably a far more convincing success than the scoreline suggested, as Ralph Hasenhüttl’s team dominated proceedings in the Midlands.

The performance, as well as the result, was a fine response to a run of four consecutive defeats for Saints, who showed no signs of a lack of confidence here.

Having now beaten Shrewsbury, Arsenal and Wolves on their way to the last eight of England’s premier cup competition, they will be hoping to book a place in the semi-finals at Wembley and earn an opportunity to compete for a place in their first FA Cup final since 2003.

There were five changes for the visitors from the side that lost away to Newcastle at the weekend, with the most notable being the appearance of Mohammed Salisu on the teamsheet for the first time, as the centre-back was fit enough to finally make his debut, following his summer signing from Real Valladolid.

Elsewhere, Hasenhüttl was boosted by the return of Kyle Walker-Peters at right-back, following his short injury absence, while Armstrong and Moussa Djenepo were also restored to the side. In goal, Fraser Forster continued his run as first-choice in the cup.

For Wolves, there were also a number of changes, as Nuno Espírito Santo made six from the team he fielded in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Leicester.

It was Saints who certainly started with the better rhythm, and on six minutes they had the first big opening of the night. James Ward-Prowse’s low, in-swinging corner was the catalyst, with the ball ricocheting into the path of Ryan Bertrand 12 yards out, but he took an air-shot as her attempted to lash the spinning ball goalwards, before Armstrong’s subsequent strike from 20 yards deflected behind for another corner.

From that, Saints worked a lovely move, as Redmond – starting up front alongside Ings – played a one-two with Ward-Prowse and then cut the ball back to Armstrong in space. His first-time strike was parried down by John Ruddy, with Ings managing to flick the ball back through the keeper’s legs, but he couldn’t generate enough power on it, and Ruddy was able to turn and fall on the ball.

A sublime piece of Ings skill then crafted another chance two minutes later, as he produced a beautiful flick over the head of Leander Dendoncker on the edge of the box, only for Romain Saïss to get across and make a last-ditch block as Ings volleyed the dropping ball towards goal.

Saints continued to look the more threatening as the half wore on, and another nice move between Armstrong and Redmond, this time down the inside-left, resulted in the latter’s return pass finding the Scot in space inside the box, but Max Kilman did well to throw himself in the way of his low, left-footed strike.

On 21 minutes they worked another good chance, as Ward-Prowse’s angled ball found Walker-Peters in space down the right. His first-time, volleyed cross then fell into the path of Djenepo 18 yards out, but his strike wasn’t the cleanest and Ruddy was able to save the bouncing shot.

The only moment of any concern for Saints in the opening half an hour came when a VAR check took a look at a Salisu tackle on Morgan Gibbs-White in the box, but deemed there to be nothing wrong with the challenge.

In fact, it was 44 minutes before Wolves’s first effort of the night arrived, as João Moutinho’s free-kick from deep found Saïss in behind, but he blazed over. Regardless, it wouldn’t have counted, as replays showed the defender was one of a number of Wolves players offside.

For all of Saints’ dominance, though, the reality was the scores remained deadlocked as referee Jonathan Moss signalled for half-time.

There was one change at the break, from Wolves, as Rayan Ait-Nouri replaced Jonny, with Hasenhüttl unsurprisingly sticking with the same eleven that had controlled the opening 45 minutes.

They continued to dominate as the second half got under way too, and they should have taken the lead on 48 minutes. Bertrand got to the byline and delivered a brilliant low cross that rolled straight into the path of Armstrong, who was making a run from deep into a central position, but with the goal at his mercy he skewed his right-footed shot wide.

It didn’t matter, though, as seconds later Saints did finally take the lead.

Again, it was Bertrand who created it, sliding a pass from the left through for the run of Ings, who had broken in behind. He advanced and, although his shot was saved by Ruddy, he managed to quickly poke the rebound home. Initially, it looked as though it wouldn’t count, as the offside flag went up, but a VAR check showed Ings had timed his run to perfection and the goal was duly awarded to the striker.

After Walker-Peters went into the book for a foul on Fábio Silva, Saints almost saw their lead evaporate, as Salisu was too casual with the ball in defence, giving possession away to Ki-Jana Hoever, who burst in behind and crossed for Silva, but his side-footed volley went over.

There was a better moment for Salisu on 55 minutes, as Wolves, perhaps sparked into greater urgency by falling behind, created another opening, this time when Gibbs-White was slid in down the inside-right, but the centre-back raced across well and got a foot to the ball first before the Wolves player could get his shot off.

Gibbs-White was the next man to be booked, as Moss judged him to have dived while going past Ward-Prowse in midfield, with that proving to be the last of his action, as Adama Traore replaced him, while Willian José was also brought on for Silva in the 64th minute for the home side.

Saints then had a glorious opportunity to double their lead three minutes later, as Armstrong broke through the lines deep in midfield before playing a beautiful through-pass for Redmond. He raced forward into the area and then cut back inside past Kilman, putting him face-to-face with Ruddy, only for the Wolves keeper to then divert his low, left-footed strike behind.

Wolves then made their fourth change, as Moutinho was replaced by Pedro Neto with 20 minutes left on the clock.

Soon after, Saints had a penalty appeal turned down, as a Ward-Prowse corner was flicked goalwards by Oriol Romeu, with the ball hitting Kilman’s out-stretched hand, but Moss was not convinced.

There was a scare for the visitors with a little more than ten minutes remaining, as Neto got into space down the left and sent in a low cross that found its way to Traore at the back post, but Forster was well-positioned to save his strike with his feet, diverting it behind.

Saints’ first change of the night came with eight minutes left, as Ings was withdrawn for Ché Adams, before Nathan Tella was sent on for Djenepo shortly after. The youngster made an instant impact, taking advantage of a poor touch from Ruddy as the ball was played back to him in the final minute and laying it back to Armstrong who looked up and stroked a shot in off the far post to ease any late nerves and ensure Saints' safe passage to the quarter-finals.