Saints beat Reds to boost Wembley hopes

By Gordon Simpson Wed 11 Jan Saints vs Liverpool
Photo by Michael Jones | Nathan Redmond celebrates
Wed 11 Jan 7.45PM
EFL Cup
Southampton
1
Liverpool
0
Redmond [20']
Tadic (65') Rodriguez (81')
Referee: Neil Swarbrick | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 31,480

Southampton's hopes of ending a 14-year wait for a major final received a huge boost, as they beat Liverpool 1-0 in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Nathan Redmond's first-half goal was enough to earn Claude Puel's side a precious lead at the halfway stage of the tie, ahead of the deciding match, at Anfield, in a fortnight.

Saints were full value for the win, and they perhaps could even feel they should be heading to Merseyside with a greater advantage, having had by far the better of the opportunities.

Still, as valuable as the win is perhaps the clean sheet that it came with, which owed plenty to the immense performance of Oriol Romeu in midfield and the tenacity of Jordy Clasie, as well as the back line.

In a tie where the away goals rule would come into effect if extra time is required in the second leg, the importance of that aspect of the result should not be underestimated.

This was certainly the best display in recent weeks, and perhaps the season, from Southampton, who made seven changes from the side that drew 2-2 at Norwich City in the FA Cup last Saturday, with Virgil van Dijk, Maya Yoshida, Ryan Bertrand and Dušan Tadić the only players to retain starting spots.

There was a tremendous atmosphere at St Mary’s as the game got under way, but, in truth, there was little in the way of notable action during the opening 15 minutes or so.

The game did then spring to life, however, when Liverpool worked an opening, as Adam Lallana nodded the ball into the path of Roberto Firmino, whose strike from inside the area was pushed behind by Fraser Forster.

Saints cleared the resulting corner and went straight down the other end, as a clever move saw Cédric and Tadić exchange passes down the right, with the former’s low cross working its way to Redmond at the back post, only for Loris Karius to get out well and save his low shot.

Redmond was not to be denied in the 20th minute, though, as Liverpool made a mess of dealing with Tadić’s pass forward, allowing Jay Rodriguez to play in his teammate, who took a touch and coolly slotted the ball past Karius to give the hosts the lead.

Nathan Redmond celebrates giving Saints the lead

There could not have been a more poignant moment for the goal to arrive.

The tragic news a few days before the game of the sudden death of 20-year-old Saints fan Jack Dowding had prompted supporters to organise a round of applause for the 20th minute of the match, and that touching display duly followed immediately after the celebrations, as the crowd stood as one and clapped in his honour.

It was a goal for all Saints, but particularly for Jack and his family.

Redmond then had a great chance to double the lead two minutes before half-time, as superb work from Ryan Bertrand got the ball to Tadić in the area, with his low ball finding Redmond in space ten yards out, but Karius dived to his right to brilliantly tip away his low, left-footed shot.

Still, few would have turned down a 1-0 lead in at the break if they had been offered it ahead of kick-off.

Saints started the second half positively as well, with Tadić having a fierce shot well blocked, before seeing a corner of his flash across the face of goal.

The hosts still had to be wary, though, with Forster called into action on the hour mark, to gather Firmino’s low shot from 25 yards.

Jürgen Klopp was then prompted into introducing the ever-dangerous Philippe Coutinho, who was brought on for Georginio Wijnaldum, as the Brazilian ended a spell of almost seven weeks out injured.

Oriol Romeu was superb in midfield for Southampton

However, it was Saints who continued to still look the most threatening, as they continued to win the physical battle in midfield – led by the brilliant Romeu – allowing them to attack with real intent when they did go forward.

After Tadić was booked for dissent, the hosts launched an excellent counter, with Redmond slipping in Cédric, but he rattled a shot into the side netting at the near post, when squaring for Rodriguez might have been the better option.

Saints' first change arrived in the 74th minute, as Jordy Clasie picked up a knock and was replaced by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg.

Two more followed with nine minutes remaining, as Rodriguez was replaced by Shane Long, while James Ward-Prowse was introduced for Steven Davis.
 
Long had an instant impact, bursting away down the left and squaring brilliantly for Redmond at the back post, who produced a deft chip over Karius from a tight angle, but the ball hit the underside of the bar and was diverted off the line by Dejan Lovren.

In the end, it could well have been more, but this was a result that sparks genuine hope for Puel's men.

Will Wembley await for Southampton, whose last major final came in the 2003 FA Cup and who haven't been to the League Cup showpiece in 38 years? In two weeks we'll find out.

Southampton

Head to Head Stats

Liverpool
  • Possession (%)
    32
    68
  • Shots
    11
    9
  • Shots on target
    5
    2
  • Corners
    2
    5
  • Passes Complete
    226
    583

Southampton

1
Fraser Forster (GK)
21
Ryan Bertrand
2
Cédric Soares
3
Maya Yoshida
17
Virgil van Dijk (C)
8
Steven Davis
James Ward-Prowse (82′)
14
Oriol Romeu
4
Jordy Clasie
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (73′)
9
Jay Rodriguez
Shane Long (82′)
11
Dusan Tadic
22
Nathan Redmond
23
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
38
Sam McQueen
39
Josh Sims
7
Shane Long
41
Harry Lewis
24
Jack Stephens
16
James Ward-Prowse

Liverpool

1
Loris Karius (GK)
7
James Milner (C)
17
Ragnar Klavan
6
Dejan Lovren
2
Nathaniel Clyne
23
Emre Can
5
Georginio Wijnaldum
Philippe Coutinho (61′)
21
Lucas Leiva
20
Adam Lallana
15
Daniel Sturridge
11
Roberto Firmino
Divock Origi (83′)
27
Divock Origi
12
Joseph Gomez
58
Ben Woodburn
22
Simon Mignolet
10
Philippe Coutinho
18
Alberto Moreno
35
Kevin Stewart
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