Penalty heartbreak as Saints have the last laugh
Chris Lakey Southampton 2, Norwich City 2 (Southampton win 6-5 on penalties)City put their fans through all the emotions in the book last night as their latest tussle with Southampton went down to the wire - before they suffered the cruellest of knock-out blows.
Southampton 2, Norwich City 2
(Southampton win 6-5 on penalties)
City put their fans through all the emotions in the book last night as their latest tussle with Southampton went down to the wire - before they suffered the cruellest of knock-out blows.
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The Canaries came from a goal down to lead 2-1 through Gary Doherty and Chris Martin - only to see Saints level with a matter of seconds remaining.
It was then straight to penalties, and Saints edged it 6-5.
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City went first, Grant Holt on target, before Rickie Lambert levelled. Russell Martin made it 2-1, straight down the middle before Papa Waigo N'Diaye - who already had two goals to his name - levelled.
Chris Martin stepped up and scored, but Fraser Forster guessed right when Lloyd James stepped up. City had the initiative, but then Bartosz Bialkowski kept out Michael Nelson's effort and Adam Lallana levelled.
Darel Russell was next up, scoring, before sub Paul Wotton did the same.
It was nerve-wracking stuff, but Jon Ostemobor was equal to it, slotting into the left-hand corner before all eyes turned to Dean Hammond, who kept Saints in it.
Matt Gill stepped up for number seven, going down the middle - and then seeing the keeper palm it out.
It was all down to Michail Antonio - and Forster earned himself hero status by saving to his left.
But then Cody McDonald suffered the penalty shoot-out agony as his effort was saved, and this time there was no mistake from Wayne Thomas and the Wembley dream was over.
It was harsh on City, who had probably just edged the match.
City boss Paul Lambert had promised to field a side he felt could win the game - and that meant first appearances in this season's competition for left back Adam Drury, midfield maestro Wes Hoolahan and leading scorer Holt.
The only significant changes to the manager's preferred League One starting line-up saw Tom Adeyemi in midfield instead of his big pal Korey Smith, and Nelson replacing Jens Berthel Askou in central defence after the Dane limped out of the weekend draw at Yeovil.
Paul McVeigh was restored to the bench along with Gill, who is on his way back from a calf injury.
Saints made three changes to the team which beat Tranmere 3-0 at the weekend, with defender Radhi Jaidi, winger Antonio and striker David Connolly out, and Neal Trotman, Jacob Mellis and Waigo N'Diaye coming in.
It's less than a month since City came from 2-0 down to earn a point in a cracking game at St Mary's - it seems to be a habit.
City kicked off and within minutes Russell Martin had fired a shot over after being set up by Hoolahan, although N'Diaye stung Forster's hands with a near post shot moments later.
N'Diaye then teased a curling ball around the back of the City defence which Lambert screwed well over from a tight angle.
The early signs made it pretty clear that both teams meant business - a welcome initiative for fans on a cold night on the south coast. Even the managers joined in, Alan Pardew and Lambert enjoying an amiable exchange of impressive back-heels after the ball went out of play.
But Lambert was anything but jovial on 14 minutes when Saints went ahead, after an initial mistake by Drury, who gifted possession on the left wing to James. Saints worked it to N'Diaye who headed for goal, holding off Russell Martin before slipping the ball past Forster - and although the City keeper got something on it, it trickled over the line.
City struggled to react, and when they did make it into Saints' area, Hoolahan scuffed a shot after Chris Martin had laid back Russell Martin's low cross from the right into his path.
Saints were looking the livelier of the two sides as the match approached the half-hour mark, Jacob Mellis almost finishing off a flowing move, but shooting straight at Forster moments before City had their first decent effort on goal, Adeyemi firing left-footed and forcing Bialkowski into a good diving save to his left. Two minutes later Chris Martin should have done better than produce a weak right-footed effort after some neat and effective footwork on the edge of the box from Hoolahan - perhaps the best City fans had seen of their influential midfielder.
It was progress of sorts, but at that stage too few City players were imposing themselves on the game.
There's no better way to do that than score - which is precisely what Doherty did on 33 minutes when he blasted into the roof of the net from six yards after Chris Martin had laid the ball off as Saints failed to clear Simon Lappin's free-kick from the left.
It was an emphatic finish, and although Doherty blotted his copy book just moments later when he was booked for fouling Mellis, it spurred City into action and they finished the half on top.
Holt almost engineered another opening when he dummied Russell Martin's forward pass, giving Hoolahan a sight of a run before Southampton cleared - but when City committed men forward Saints were keen to catch them on the break.
Darel Russell got in an excellent block to deny Adam Lallana on the edge of the area before Holt saw a header drift wide after neat work between Russell Martin and Russell and then tried to engineer an opening for Chris Martin, only to see an offside flag raised.
The half could have ended on a high note for City, but Adeyemi fired wide from 20 yards after nice work down the left by Lappin and Holt - a sign of their growing influence as the game progressed.
Lappin's free-kick deep into enemy territory almost caught Saints napping as the second half opened and City carried on where they had left off - on top.
That dominance paid off when Russell emerged from a midfield tussle with the ball, Hoolahan took over and fed Holt, who had a one on one with the keeper. The City hot- shot tried to go round Bialkowski but fell to ground, and while Saints looked angrily towards the referee, Holt simply carried on, somehow getting a trailing leg to the ball to feed Chris Martin who, from two yards out of an unguarded goal, simple couldn't miss.
City's travelling army were in full voice now, and they had every right to be.
Lambert made his first changes just after the hour mark, Gill and Otsemobor coming on for Lappin and Adeyemi, with Russell Martin pushed into right midfield and Gill left.
Nelson headed a Lappin corner just over within a minute of the change as City pressed for a vital third goal, wary no doubt of the threat on the break.
Saints substitute Antonio looked long and hard and in vain at referee Kevin Wright as he went down in the area as he waited for Dan Harding's cross - the accused, Drury, was already clearing the ball by the time the Saints winger realised he'd lost the argument.
There was no doubting Nelson's guilt as he made little attempt to hide a foul on Antonio - fortunately he wasn't the last man so earned just a booking.
Saints were doing their best to get back into the game, and with only seconds of two injury time remaining N'Diaye struck again, sweeping home from close range after City failed to deal with a high ball into the area.
It was agony for City - and the fans - and worse was to come in the penalty shoot-out.
Southampton: Bialkowski, James, Perry (Thomas 77), Trotman, Harding, N'Diaye, Mellis (Antonio 60), Hammond, Schneiderlin (Wotton 46), Lallana, Lambert. Subs: Forecast, Holmes. Goals: N'Diaye 14, 90. Bookings: None.
Norwich City: Forster 7, R Martin 7, Doherty 7, Nelson 6, Drury 7, Adeyemi 6 (Otsemobor 63, 6), Russell 8, Lappin 6 (Gill 63, 6), Hoolahan 6 (McDonald 83), C Martin 7, Holt 7. Subs: Steer, McVeigh. Goals: Doherty 33, C Martin 55. Bookings: Doherty, 35, foul on Mellis; Nelson, 74, foul on Antonio; Martin, 75, foul on Perry; Holt, 87, dissent; R Martin, 89, foul on James.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambs)
EDP Man of the match: Darel Russell
Attendance: 15,453 (817 City)
Shots on: Saints 5 City 5. Shots off: Saints 1 City 6. Shots blocked: Saints 3 City 0. Fouls: Saints 13 City 17. Corners: Saints 5 City 6. Offsides: Saints 1 City 1.
Penalty shoot-out (saved shots in bold):
City: Holt, R Martin, C Martin, Nelson, Russell, Otsemobor, Gill, McDonald.
Saints: Lambert, N'Diaye, James, Lallana, Wotton, Hammond, Antonio, Thomas.