In the first game since Ralph Hasenhüttl’s departure, First Team Lead Coach Rubén Sellés praised Southampton’s character and spirit to claim a dramatic penalty shootout victory over Sheffield Wednesday to reach the last 16 of the Carabao Cup.
Falling behind to Josh Windass’s opener, Saints levelled on the stroke of half-time through James Ward-Prowse’s penalty, before the match itself was decided from the spot after a goalless second half.
With Saints flawless from 12 yards with their six penalties, Alex McCarthy saved Dominic Iorfa’s spot kick to see off the spirited League One outfit, leaving Sellés to credit the squad after a difficult start to the week.
“I expected to win the match earlier in the game,” he began. “We struggled a little bit in the beginning of the game, but we built it up and second half, I think we dominated after the 60th minute and we had the best chances and could have closed the game before.
“When we arrived to the penalty shootout they were confident, they knew the strategy. It was a beautiful sensation for me because they showed character and team spirit and that was one thing we needed to show today.
“There was more togetherness, more commitment to the task and they took control of the dressing room and they want to be together and did an amazing job coming back and the technical staff supporting them.
“It was a good experience for them as now Ralph is not here with us, he gave the opportunity for all of us to be here and now it’s time for us all to step up.”
With Ward-Prowse, Moi Elyounoussi, Ibrahima Diallo, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Adam Armstrong and Theo Walcott all clinical with their penalties, Sélles highlighted his fellow backroom staff members’ pre-match preparation as they key to shootout victory.
“We have an amazing technical staff, so we had a strategy prepared. We didn’t practise penalties, but we had a strategy and knew all of their players, their stats, how they shoot penalties in pressure moments and we had a strategy for when we wanted our best taker, our second best taker, so when the round finished in the number five, we still had players like Theo Walcott and stu Armstrong to do it and that makes a difference.
"We trust our players and they were committed and they are high quality players."