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Newcastle United reached their first cup final since 1999 by overcoming Southampton in the EFL Cup at an ecstatic St James’ Park.
Eddie Howe’s resurgent side will face either Manchester United or Nottingham Forest at Wembley as the Magpies attempt to win their first major trophy since the Inter Cities’ Fairs Cup in 1969.
Newcastle, who last played in a Wembley showpiece when they were beaten by Manchester United in the 1999 FA Cup final, had a 1-0 advantage from this semi-final first leg, and Sean Longstaff settled any nerves among an expectant Toon Army with two early goals.
The only cloud over Newcastle’s celebrations was a late red card for influential Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes for a challenge on Samuel Edozie, given by referee Paul Tierney after the intervention of VAR.
The hosts had gone in front just four minutes in as Longstaff took advantage of good work from Kieran Trippier to beat Saints keeper Gavin Bazunu, and the goalscorer then crowned a sweeping move with a confident finish in the 21st minute.
Che Adams gave Southampton hope with a fine 25-yard strike on the half-hour that ended Newcastle goalkeeper Nick Pope’s attempt to keep an 11th clean sheet in succession, but their slow start cost them dearly to leave Howe and his players contemplating that Wembley date on 26 February.
Newcastle’s dream season goes on
When Howe succeeded Steve Bruce in November 2021, Newcastle’s new Saudi Arabian owners were reshaping the club after their takeover.
Newcastle’s fanatical support hoped the new riches would end years of under-achievement and no silverware, but even they must be struggling to take in the scale of the transformation.
As well as a Wembley appearance, Howe’s men are third in the Premier League after a superb start and have lost just once in 20 games – and that only as a result of a goal conceded deep into injury time at Liverpool.
Howe has based Newcastle’s revival on strong defence, with new signings Pope, Trippier, Dan Burn and Sven Botman making outstanding contributions.
Guimaraes, despite his dismissal against Southampton, has provided world-class flourishes in midfield, while £60m striker Alexander Isak has shown his quality despite injury problems.
And watching it all from the stands on Tyneside, wearing a black-and-white scarf, was Newcastle’s latest acquisition – Anthony Gordon, who has signed from Everton in a deal that could eventually be worth £45m.
Gordon must have relished his first experience of match night at St James’ Park as a Newcastle player, able to watch fans who have been starved of success look forward to their first final in this competition since they lost to Manchester City in 1976.
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live after the game, Howe said: “It feels really good tonight. I am delighted for everyone connected with the club. It really was a tense night. It was a great atmosphere and brilliant environment for the players to play in.”
Southampton suffer for slow start
Southampton’s ploy would surely have been to stay in this tie as long as possible and turn the weight of expectation back on Newcastle, playing on any tension that might have created.
Instead, the concession of two early goals – the first particularly cheap and the result of two pieces of carelessness in possession – left them struggling from the start.
Southampton actually created some nerves, especially when Pope had to save at the feet of Adam Armstrong in the second half, but they simply had too much to do.
Manager Nathan Jones will now return to the task of moving Saints up the league after the disappointment of missing out on a Wembley appearance.
Southampton striker Che Adams told Sky Sports after the match: “It’s not nice to lose like we did but we let the game slip early with two cheap goals. We had a go in the second half but that’s something we have to do from minute one.
“We dust ourselves down now for the weekend.
He added: “All our focus now is on the Premier League and getting away from relegation. Everyone is on board and raring to go.
“We’ve always had enough but we haven’t done it consistently.”