Southampton beats Liverpool 1-0, through to League Cup final

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Posted: Jan 25, 2017 5:03 PM
Southampton beats Liverpool 1-0, through to League Cup final

LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — Southampton reached the English League Cup final for the second time after producing a robust defensive performance and scoring late on the break to beat Liverpool 1-0 in the semifinal second leg on Wednesday, advancing 2-0 on aggregate.

With Manchester United a strong favorite to progress from the other semifinal match, Liverpool was looking to set up the prospect of a final between English football's two most decorated clubs.

Instead, Southampton is heading to Wembley Stadium next month after substitute Shane Long's injury-time goal on the counterattack added to Nathan Redmond's strike in the first leg two weeks ago.

Before Long's goal, an impressive display from a makeshift defense stifled the Premier League's most prolific attack in bitterly cold conditions at Anfield.

Daniel Sturridge squandered two excellent chances in the second half for Liverpool, which otherwise failed to find a way past Southampton's central-defensive partnership of youngster Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida — only playing because of Jose Fonte's recent departure to West Ham and an injury to star player Virgil van Dijk. Stephens was particularly excellent on only his fourth start for the club.

While Liverpool missed out on the chance to win the League Cup for a record-extending ninth time, Southampton will attempt to capture only its second major trophy, after its FA Cup triumph in 1976. The Saints lost the 1979 League Cup final to Nottingham Forest.

Progress might be even more satisfying for the south-coast team because it has acted as a virtual feeder club to Liverpool in recent seasons with the likes of Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, Sadio Mane, Dejan Lovren and Rickie Lambert making the journey from St. Mary's Stadium to Anfield. Lovren and Lallana started on Wednesday.

Liverpool was only alive in the match because of Southampton's profligacy in the first leg, and the visitors continued that theme by spurning two great chances in the first half.

Redmond's pace and directness led to both opportunities, the winger breezing past the recalled Joel Matip and setting up Dusan Tadic and Steven Davis inside the box. Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius denied Tadic with a sprawling save, while Davis blazed over the crossbar.

Liverpool largely dictated play, but found Southampton's defense tough to crack until the second half when Sturridge twice volleyed over from close range and Philippe Coutinho — on the day he signed a new long-term contract — miskicked on the volley.

United leads Hull 2-0 after the first leg at Old Trafford. The second leg is on Thursday.

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Steve Douglas is at twitter.com/sdouglas80