Shane Long’s 90th-minute winner sealed the deal for Southampton as they dumped Liverpool out of the EFL Cup 2-0 on aggregate after weathering a second-half storm to beat the Reds at Anfield in a dramatic semifinal.
Trailing 1-0 on aggregate after Nathan Redmond had scored the solitary goal in the first leg at St Mary’s, Liverpool needed a win to keep their hopes of a second consecutive League Cup final alive and manager Jurgen Klopp named a very strong line up on Wednesday.
From their last six games, the Reds had won just one, against second-tier side Plymouth Argyle in the FA Cup, but with a fit-again Philippe Coutinho starting alongside Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge in attack, it seemed only a matter of time before the floodgates would open.
The visiting side knew a 1-0 lead was not enough and their gameplay was to hit Liverpool on the counter and twice in the first half, they came close to adding to their lead.
Redmond had tormented Liverpool in the first leg, was again the chief architect, twice skipping away on the left wing and setting up first Dusan Tadic and then later, Steve Davies with a simple tap-in. While Tadic’s attempt was smothered by Loris Karius, Davies effort was extremely disappointing as the Saints skipper skied his shot into the crowd, not even testing the Reds keeper.
Twice inside a span of minutes, the home side had been close to going behind on the night but somehow escaped to the interval with the scores deadlocked at 0-0.
After the break, Liverpool were positive in attack, as Emre Can’s thundering shot almost trickled into goal after Fraser Forster let the ball slip underneath him before somehow recovering and clearing the ball off the line.
Coutinho, who recently signed a long-term contract with Liverpool, making him the highest-paid player at the club, was invisible for most-parts of the game but it was Sturridge who disappointed on Wednesday.
Twice a Liverpool cross found him in a good space but with his final touch letting him down, he failed to score
And with Liverpool literally putting every body up in attack, Southampton took advantage in stunning fashion, launching a rapid counter-attack from their own box after defending a corner. Young Joshua Sims sprinted close to 70 yards before releasing substitute Shane Long, who finished cooly past Karius to leave Liverpool’s hopes of winning a trophy in tatters.
After falling behind in the Premier League title race, this was not a result Klopp would have wanted and the pressure is slowly, but surely mounting on the German tactician to deliver on the promise his side showed earlier in the season.
For Southampton and manager Claude Puel, the result is nothing short of wondrous, but one they fully deserve after outperforming their high-profile opponents over the course of two legs.
The second semifinal is scheduled for Thursday night. Manchester United will travel to Hull City with a 2-0 lead.