Southampton stunned Manchester City to book a place in the semifinals of the English League Cup on Wednesday.
The bottom team in the Premier League produced a major upset by beating defending champion City 2-0 at St. Mary’s and will now face Newcastle over two legs in a bid to reach the final.
Nottingham Forest beat Wolves 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw and will take on Manchester United in the other semifinal.
It was Southampton, however, that produced the shock of the round against City.
First-half goals from Sekou Mara and Moussa Djenepo allowed the hosts to aside worries about their relegation battle and provide its fans with a reason for celebrating.
Eight-time winner City was the overwhelming favorite to progress to the semifinals after dominating the competition in recent times, lifting the trophy on six occasions in the last nine years.
Manager Pep Guardiola has won it four times since taking charge of City in 2016.
However, Southampton moved a step closer to the final at Wembley with the most impressive win yet since manager Nathan Jones was appointed in November.
“I’m really proud of the players, of myself and the coaches. We’ve gone through a lot recently, people questioning a lot of things. That goes a little way to justifying why we’re here and what team we’re trying to create,” Jones said.
In the night’s other match, Wily Boly’s first-half goal put Forest ahead in the game between two more teams who are battling against relegation from the Premier League. Raul Jimenez evened the score after the break.
Dean Henderson made the decisive save to deny Wolves’ Joseph Hodge in the shootout and send Forest through.
Guardiola pays the price
Perhaps Guardiola had one eye on Saturday’s league derby against Manchester United, but his much-changed team couldn’t handle Southampton’s flying start.
Erling Haaland, Kevin de Bruyne, Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Ederson were among the big names left out of his starting XI.
Not that there was any shortage of stellar talent in his lineup, including Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Argentina’s World Cup winner Julian Alvarez, but Southampton was a worthy winner, with both goals coming inside 28 minutes.
It is far from ideal preparation ahead of City’s trip to Old Trafford in a game that could see United move to within a point of its Manchester rival.
“The better team won. We didn’t play good, we didn’t play well in the beginning. There are many games you can start not good and overcome and we didn’t do it,” Guardiola said. “Today was a bad night, the opponent was better so we have to congratulate them. To win games you have to deserve it and tonight we didn’t deserve it.”
Man United vs Forest; Southampton vs Newcastle
Forest’s reward for victory against Wolves is a two-legged semifinal against in-form United.
The two teams met over Christmas, with United winning 3-0 at Old Trafford.
Despite victory and progression to the semis, Forest manager Steve Cooper was still critical of his team.
“The objective of the tie was to get through. I can’t say I loved our performance, I shouldn’t be too negative and won’t be. But we have to play a lot better than we did over large spells of the game,” he said.