Newcastle 2 Southampton 1
Residents of Wembley can look forward to some rousing renditions of the Blaydon Races when Newcastle make their first appearance in a major final this century.
Perhaps appropriately it was a local lad, Sean Longstaff, who scored the two second-leg goals which sparked frenzied celebrations on Tyneside. Almost 24 years after losing the 1999 FA Cup final to Manchester United. Newcastle finally have an opportunity to win their first trophy since the Fairs Cup in 1969.
Bruno Guimarães will almost certainly start the final but the midfield catalyst will miss the next three Premier League games after being red carded for stamping on the ankle of Sam Edozie in the second half.
While Southampton’s manager, Nathan Jones, had optimistically warned Newcastle that their 1-0 advantage from the first leg represented a “tricky lead”, Eddie Howe cautioned his players against dropping deep and going into “protection mode”. It did not take long to determine that they had been listening.
Newcastle’s manager named the same starting XI that had won 1-0 on the south coast last week but Jones made four changes. In came the former Newcastle striker Adam Armstrong, along with Ché Adams, Jan Bednarek and new recruit, James Bree. After running out to be greeted by an extraordinary wall of noise, the former Bristol City defender will surely not forget his debut at right wing-back for Jones’s slide in a hurry.
Within five minutes the soundtrack switched to “We’re going to Wembley” after Longstaff’s perfectly angled shot flew across Gavin Bazunu and into the bottom corner. It is no exaggeration to say that opening goal sent St James’ Park wild.
Fortunately for Bree’s self-esteem Southampton’s left wing-back, Kyle Walker-Peters, was the defender powerless to prevent Kieran Trippier sashaying past him before cueing up Longstaff. It was a superbly created goal initiated when Guimarães’s dancing feet swept him beyond a couple of thoroughly confounded midfield minders.
Southampton had paid the price for failing to pick up Longstaff’s late, blindside run into the box. Jones’s cause was not helped by the reality that Walker-Peters is far better at attacking than defending and looked in deep trouble whenever Trippier pushed forward from right-back.
Bazunu had reason for relief when Guimarães’s gorgeous reverse pass found Longstaff but, this time, the midfielder’s left-foot shot swerved off target from six yards.
It proved a strictly temporary respite. When Lyanco failed to check Joe Willock’s advance as he played the cleverest of one-twos with Joelinton, Willock slipped the ball to Miguel Almirón. He crossed low and at pace, straight into the path of the onrushing Longstaff who atoned for that earlier miss by shooting low, and unerringly, into the bottom corner.
At that point it was all too easy to appreciate why the visitors are bottom of the Premier League and Newcastle third but when Willock momentarily lost concentration, Southampton reminded everyone of the team who had turned the first leg into a tight contest.
Armstrong and Adams had been tasked with ending Nick Pope’s extraordinary run of clean sheets. He had kept 10 in a row at kick-off but Adams ensured that sequence concluded when, having intercepted Willock’s slapdash pass, he took a steadying touch and drove the ball crisply past the goalkeeper from 25 yards.
Southampton had created next to nothing up to that point, although in mitigation, Newcastle had proved a near-irresistible force. Small wonder Howe’s newly signing Anthony Gordon watched with a smile from the main stand, while the Nottingham Forest-bound midfielder Jonjo Shelvey looked to be holding back tears as he toured the pitch at half-time waving farewell.
Indeed it was all sufficiently traumatic for the visitors that Walker-Peters may not have been entirely heartbroken when he limped off nursing a suspected hamstring pull
Jones changed to a back four at the outset of the second half. By then Jones no longer had Alan Sheehan by his side, the first-team coach having been red carded in the wake of an exchange between the two benches.
Galvanised by the introduction of Roméo Lavia and Romain Perraud Southampton improved. Armstrong should have equalised on the night after Trippier, untypically lost focus but, in attempting an elaborate chip he permitted Pope to block when he should have been beaten.
All that remained was for a VAR review to prompt the upgrading of Guimarães’s card from yellow to red following a challenge which could have fractured Edozie’s ankle. – Guardian