Football Features

Newcastle reach EFL Cup final after “unbelievable midfielder” Sean Longstaff bags brace against Southampton

By Ben Green

Published: 22:14, 31 January 2023

Newcastle United have reached the final of the EFL Cup after beating Southampton 3-1 on aggregate in the penultimate round.

The Magpies secured a 1-0 victory against 10-man Southampton last week in the first leg at St Mary’s thanks to Joelinton’s 73rd-minute strike. And Eddie Howe’s men followed up in the return leg on Tyneside with an assured 2-1 triumph, despite Bruno Guimaraes’ late sending off.

There was a cacophonous atmosphere at St. James’ Park as the home fans produced decibel-defying renditions of ‘Que sera, sera’ — and that energy was channeled through to the players from the off, who came flying out of the traps with the bit between their teeth.

It took academy star Sean Longstaff just five minutes to break the deadlock in the second leg and double the Tynesiders’ overall advantage, slotting emphatically past Gavin Bazunu after being carefully set up by Kieran Trippier. The finish proved Longstaff’s first at St. James’ Park since February 2019, nearly four years ago.

And the unlikely goal-getter would be at it again moments later, determined to grab the tie by the scruff of the neck and book Newcastle a first EFL Cup final appearance since 1976. He duly nabbed a rare brace 20 minutes into the contest after converting Miguel Almiron’s low drive into the box.

The finish sparked bedlam on the terraces and all but confirmed Newcastle’s place at Wembley with the hosts 3-0 up on aggregate. Not renowned for his scoring qualities, it was only a fortnight ago that Newcastle legend Alan Shearer was suggesting that Longstaff would be a game-changing midfield presence if only he added goals to his game.

Tonight, he heeded the words of a Newcastle immortal, who was watching on from the terraces. “The one thing he can work on is his finishing. If he does that he’ll be an unbelievable midfielder,” Shearer commented in his Premier League Team of the Week column after Newcastle’s 1-0 win over Fulham.

Longstaff heard the Geordie legend. And delivered.

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Che Adams sought to bring his side back into the contest with a wonder strike from out of the blue half-an-hour in, capitalising on some wayward passing from Newcastle on the edge of their box, before unleashing from range. The pinpoint thwack was actually the first to breach Nick Pope since November 2022.

Nathan Jones rang the changes throughout the showdown, tweaking personnel and modifying his system as the game went on. But he was unable to formulate a set-up that put Newcastle under consistent pressure. They had their moments, notably from Adam Armstrong, but only three shots in total. It wasn’t enough.

In what was a triumphant night for the Toon Army, one sour note perhaps took some of the gloss off of their triumph, with star midfielder Bruno Guimaraes picking up a straight red card for a nasty-looking challenge on Samuel Edozie. Paul Tierney initially brandished yellow in Guimaraes’ direction, but reversed his decision upon consultation with the video assistant referee and a viewing on the pitch side monitor.

It was a dampener, but the mood on the terraces certainly didn’t reflect the late indiscretion, with Howe’s side serenaded by liturgical chants and swirling black-and-white scarves.

Newcastle are heading to the capital.