Newcastle lead Southampton 1-0 at the halfway stage of their EFL Cup semi-final clash, winning 1-0 in the first leg at Saint Mary’s courtesy of Joelinton’s 73rd-minute strike.
It was an entertaining battle on the South Coast between the two Premier League clubs, with both sides having chances aplenty to get their noses in front. The travelling Tynesiders ultimately walked away from the first leg with a one-goal cushion heading into next week’s return fixture.
It was a long old drive for the journeying Toon Army, who face the prospect of a 700-mile round trip, but Joelinton’s second-half strike would certainly have softened the blow. Eddie Howe’s side are now just one game away from Wembley and a potential tie against either Man Utd or Nottingham Forest in the final.
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Howe would have been somewhat frustrated by the half-time scoreline after Joelinton had, what he thought was a deadlock-breaker chalked off for an apparent handball. Referee Stuart Attwell disallowed the initial strike in real time, and upon examination from Stockley Park, the original decision was upheld.
It looked dubious and encouraged plenty of debate at the interval, but the Magpies were not discouraged. They once again came out in the second half with the bit between their teeth. However, with their attacking drive, the game became stretched, and Southampton started to have some joy going forward.
In the end, the match hinged on a brilliant piece of individual skill from substitute Alexander Isak. The 23-year-old drifted wide to collect the ball, before turning Duje Caleta-Car with liquid ease, breezing past him on the right flank and then picking out a precision low drive for Joelinton to smash home into an empty net.
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Renowned for his scoring prowess in the Basque Country, Isak demonstrated tonight that he is more than just goal-getting machine. The shimmy and quick turn of pace served well to illuminate his close control and athleticism, two traits that will serve him well in Howe’s fluid attacking system.
Former academy graduate Adam Armstrong then thought he restored parity mere minutes later, coming back to bite the hand that once fed him. But, once again, intervention from VAR cancelled out his strike for another handball, much to the delight of the travelling contingent.
The good news for Southampton is that there is still only one goal in this game — they are very much still kicking. For Newcastle, they will be buoyed by the result and the return to form of Isak following a protracted lay-off on the sidelines. His re-emergence will be crucial to their second-half-of-the-season aspirations.
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