Southampton – Newcastle United made it to the Carabao Cup final after a goal by Joelinton saw them emerge victorious in the first leg of the quarter-finals at Southampton.
The Brazilian emerged as the winner in the second half after a VAR-influenced encounter saw two goals ruled out for handball.
The win means United will only have to avoid defeat in the second leg at home in seven days in order to reach their first Wembley final since 1999.
Speaking after the match, coach Eddie Howe said: “It was a tough game, both teams had moments and had chances to win the game, but we know the break is only the first half and there is a long way to go.
“We created chances today, we weren’t clinical until the goal.
“It was a good day but there’s still a long way to go in the equaliser. I can’t be critical in any way. We defended well and Nick made some saves again.
“The two shots they made were two big moments. (Che) Adams was head-to-head for a big time in the game when they were growing into it and the crowd was getting up but Nick stepped up and kept us in it.
“He’s been great for us this year, the defense played well against him but when he was called on he gave it to us.
“Happy to win, that was our goal but we know 1-0 is delicate, nothing is decided.
“We go back to St James’s with our fans behind us.”
Howe resisted the temptation to change his kit after scoring only once in his last four matches. He kept Alexandre Isak and Alain Saint-Maximin in the reserves as he remained with the same starting line-up at Sainte-Marie.
Having drawn three of their last four Premier League matches, the Magpies started this game in the mood to see that run continue. Finding space down the flanks, United caused all sorts of problems for the opposition. Sean Longstaff came close to finding the middle man with a low geared cross. Soon after, Joe Willock somehow misjudged a Kieran Trippier cross when scoring appeared to be easier.
Same source, same end product on the half hour when Willock fired in a volley from Trippier’s cross. He had an age to adjust, a flabby, poor finish from a player who’s been struggling in the final third this season.
Carlos Alcaraz tested the relief of Nick Pope from distance in what was the Saints’ only real challenge to United’s dominance in the first half.
At the end of the first half, the Magpies were awarded a seemingly legitimate goal for handball as Joelinton converted from close range after Willock’s left foot was broken, but referee Stuart Atwell deemed the ball hit the Brazilian’s hand. Replays – and it took several angles to figure it out – showed the slightest touch on the arm.
After the break it was all back to United again but, frustratingly, the wasted finishing continued as Joelinton slotted in a cross with an open goal at his mercy, then Sven Putman did the same as a corner kick was only half cleared.
Dominant up to that point, the balance of play began to shift after the Saints had an inevitable spell.
Then, and only then, the Magpies had to call upon their always reliable last line of defense, the Pope.
Che Adams broke down the defensive line and looked like he was going to move into the bottom corner, but the outstretched end of the England keeper. Then again, Adams quickly turned around and Pope stopped a shot.
Needing inspiration, Howe turned to the bench for winners – and found it in the form of Saint-Maximin and Isak.
While the former published the play and gave the Saints trouble in the back, Isak’s move proved a stark contrast to the static and largely anonymous Callum Wilson.
It was Issac’s run, completely wrong and then outrunning Lyanco, that provided Joelinton with the chance to make up for his earlier move and smash home straight in front of 3,200 Geordie travellers.
However, those celebrations were somewhat muted when former United striker Adam Armstrong volleyed home a cross from the right. However, as had happened with Jolinton earlier, the goal was disallowed by VAR for a handball by the eventual top scorer.
Then, Saint-Maximin’s deceptive pace and energy saw the hosts drop to 10, as Doi Caleta Carre received his second booking for a foul on the Frenchman.
It could and should have put the equalizer to bed in the closing stages when Gavin Bazuno was edged by Isaacs, but a deft touch from the keeper pushed him just wide enough to make the finish almost impossible. Again, the side nets were crowded.
One down, one to go. And those two will do it all again on move-in deadline day in January, right as the buy-in window closes.
“I didn’t lose it when I saw the match go down that day,” Howe said.
“I was thinking, ‘This is probably going to be interesting. I tend to think that the manager’s role in this has diminished in the sense that you’re not necessarily in control of the transfers. Well, you’re not in control of the transfers, you hear what’s going on from a second and third hand.
“In terms of meeting and greeting the players, that can be done by other people. My focus that day will be just on the game, making sure we are as prepared as possible.”
It is understood United are exploring the possibility of signing Anthony Gordon from Everton. Talks are ongoing between the two sides, with a fee yet to be agreed upon.
When asked about the deal, Howe said: No. I don’t know. We’re pushing hard, but I didn’t check my phone.”