Southampton find themselves 90 minutes from their first major Cup final since 2003 (FA Cup — lost to Arsenal) after edging Liverpool, 1-0 at St. Mary’s Stadium, in the first leg of the EFL Cup semifinals on Wednesday.
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Fraser Forster made the game’s first save (his only save for 60 minutes) in the 18th minute, denying a criminally unmarked Roberto Firmino from 12 yards out, at which point it turned into the Nathan Redmond versus Loris Karius show.
Liverpool’s oft-criticized, 23-year-old ‘keeper made a pair of spectacular saves to thwart Redmond, denying him from close range in the 19th and 43rd minutes, to limit Saints’ halftime advantage to 1-0.
Redmond would get the better of Karious, though, in the 20th minute, timing his run perfectly to remain onside until the moment Jay Rodriguez slipped the ball into acres of space for the speedy winger. Karius rushed off his line to close down the angle, but the finish was low and to the far post. 1-0, Saints.
Saints nearly made it 2-0 in the 65th minute, when Redmond played Cedric through down the right side of the penalty area. With Jay Rodriguez looming large in front of goal, the Portuguese full back opted to shoot from a tight angle rather than cross for Rodriguez, and his shot skewed wide of Karius’ near post.
Redmond went even closer to doubling Saints’ lead in the 82nd minute, but his deftly chipped effort clanged off the crossbar after Shane Long won the ball on the left wing and crossed for Redmond. Karius again came rushing out, but Redmond’s shot eluded his outstretched hand before coming back off the underside of the crossbar. So nearly a two-goal lead.
Liverpool will host the second leg at Anfield in two weeks’ time, Wednesday, Jan. 25, with the winner advancing to the final at Wembley Stadium, where they’ll face the winner of Manchester United versus Hull City in the other semifinal (Man United won the first leg at home, 2-0 on Tuesday).