Southampton boss Claude Puel has urged his side to make history and seal the club’s first piece of major silverware for 41 years after stunning Liverpool to reach the EFL Cup final.
Half-time substitute Shane Long settled matters with a breakaway goal in stoppage-time as Southampton stood firm and became the first ever side to reach a League Cup final without conceding a goal in the competition.
Their victory created the possibility of a repeat of the 1976 FA Cup final when unfancied Southampton shocked Manchester United. Jose Mourinho’s modern-day United play Hull tonight for a place in the final at Wembley on 26 February.
“The principle now is to go together to Wembley and not just to participate but to win this Cup,” said Puel. “It’s fantastic for all the squad and great reward because they work very hard. Over the two legs we deserved it.
“Getting to Wembley is a good thing but it’s better to win. It will be important to stay focused about our play and not just think about the possibility of winning this Cup.”
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, who was bidding to guide the Reds to a third successive League Cup final, lamented his side’s profligacy in front of goal and the failure of referee Martin Atkinson to award a penalty after the ball struck the upper arm of Long.
“We had seven good chances,” said Klopp. “You have to score and we didn’t, so we lost. If we could hear a referee’s whistle it would be nice. I don’t know how many times that has happened this season. Tonight a penalty [for handball], nobody says anything.”
Liverpool had won their previous two League Cup semi-finals when heading into the second leg with a deficit but Southampton were composed. The hosts, meanwhile, were indebted to goalkeeper Loris Karius shortly after the half hour mark as he repelled a point-blank effort from Dusan Tadic following a slaloming Nathan Redmond run.
The Saints, who last reached a major final in 2003, were dominating. Pivotal to that was former Norwich flyer Redmond and another scything run caused havoc, ending with midfielder Steven Davis blazing high over the crossbar.
Despite a nervy start to the second period, Liverpool threatened on 54 minutes as Emre Can’s stinging shot fizzed through Fraser Forster, but the former Celtic stopper managed to claw away the ball from the goalline.
Sturridge failed to covert a close-range acrobatic volley and then prodded over, while Liverpool’s frustration was capped in stoppage-time as Long fired beyond Karius after a searing 70-yard run from fellow replacement Josh Sims.