SAINTS still have work to do after a 1-0 home defeat to Newcastle United in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final.
Nathan Jones’ men were on the wrong side in important moments of the game: the goal was not counted by both teams due to an accidental hand strike during the implementation and a decisive one-on-one miss by Che Adams.
Joelinton’s second-half finish was enough to give the visitors a competitive edge at St. James’ Park as the Saints were down to 10 in the final minutes after Dukhe Kaleta-Kar received two yellow cards.
Jones will travel with his team to Tyneside next Tuesday to fight for a spot in the final, but will have to miss out on Croatia by suspension.
The Saints were preparing for their fourth Cup semi-final in seven seasons and their first in the EFL Cup since they beat Liverpool in two legs to clinch the Wembley title.
They were unfairly beaten by Manchester United in the same 2017 draw after Manolo Gabbiadini erroneously ruled out a goal for offside.
This provided another chance to get one step closer to becoming a club legend; and for Jones to get more support after the lull in the loss to Aston Villa.
He made his full debut in front of Charlie Alcaraz and Mislav Orsic in January, with Sekou favored by Mare Adams and Romeo Lavia rested as his minutes were decided.
Mohammed Salis was ordered to play at left back and it was a tough start for the Saints as Joe Willock fired over the target after a clear chance and the aforementioned Ghana shootout.
Ibrahima Diallo, James Ward-Prowse and Alcaraz teamed up in a well-rehearsed trio, while Lianko and Moussa Genepo regularly received words from Jones on the sidelines.
Newcastle thought they opened the scoring near the end of the half when Jolinton conceded after Willock’s try was threatened, but this was controversially ruled out due to hands in scrimmage.
But while Jones was able to breathe a sigh of relief on this occasion, he was forced to make an early stoppage-time substitution as Genepo was eliminated at the main level by incoming Nick Pope.
The Saints conceded early in the second half when Joelinton shot from close range and the goal was in his power.
Miguel Almiron, the author of this chance, then shot the same brilliant ball over the Dan Burn goal and also missed, albeit with a more difficult chance.
Adams had a similar perfect opportunity on the other end as he raced one on one and the flag hung, the Scot’s shot hitting the target again.
Adams saw Pope save another snap as the pendulum swung in Jones’ favor, but the next chance would be taken.
Substitute Alexander Isak made it easy for Dukhe Kaleta-Karoo and Joelinton was there to interfere at the back post to give Jordie the lead.
Adam Armstrong thought he equalized minutes later with his hometown club, but after an emotional celebration at St. Mary’s, VAR shut him down over handball, much like the first-half incident.
Moods ran high after a skirmish with Ljanko which resulted in him receiving a yellow card and minutes before kick-off Caleta-Kar was ordered a second yellow card – given the reappearance of Jan Bednarek who defended a free kick.
consecrate: Bazun; Walker-Peters (Bednarek 88), Llanco, Caleta-Kar, Salisu; Diallo (Lavia, 81), Alcaraz, Ward Prowse; Genepo (E. Armstrong, 45), Orsic (Edosi, 57), Mara (Adams, 57).
unused subs: Perro, Maitland-Niles, Elyunussi, Caballero (hot-smoked).
booked: Caleta-Kar, Alcaraz, Walker-Peters, Lyanko, Salis.
sent: Caleta machine.
Newcastle: Pope; Trippier, Dub, Botman, Bern; Langstaff, Guimarães, Joelinton; Willock (Saint-Maximin, 67), Almiron, Wilson (Isac, 67).
unused subsCast: Lascelles, Lewis, Manquillo, Murphy, Anderson, Ritchie, Darlow (g/c)
booked: Trippier, Saint-Maximin.
refereeStory by: Stuart Atwell.
VARStory by: André Marriner.
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Author: Alfie’s house