After 15 consecutive wins in Cup quarterfinals as manager of Manchester City, Southampton handed Pep Guardiola his first-ever quarterfinal defeat on Wednesday to qualify for a first semi-final spot in 31 years.
Two first-half goals from Sekou Mara and Moussa Djenepo gave the Saints a deserved but surprising win over the serial Cup champions.
Southampton, under new manager, Nathan Jones, have been under immense pressure, especially in the Premier League where they are languishing in 20th position. They have now made it two consecutive victories and will be buoyed for their visit to Goodison Park on Sunday when they face 18th-placed Everton.
Guardiola rested a raft of his first 11, including Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri, and Riyad Mahrez, but within 28 minutes, his team was down by two goals, from which they never recovered. Mara scored his first goal for the Saints after he got ahead of Kyle Walker in the 23rd minute to volley home a cross from Lyanco.
Five minutes later, Djenepo spotted City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega off his line and executed a well-placed lob to send the scanty crowd at St. Mary’s into raptures.
After the encounter, Guardiola berated his players for not being “ready.’
“The best team won,” Guardiola revealed in the post-match press conference. “They were better. We didn’t play well. We had a bad start, and we didn’t perform good.
“Today was not even close to what we are. We were not prepared to play in this competition to get to the semi-finals. We were not ready.
“You have to be prepared for every single game when you play for Manchester City and today we were not.”
For Jones, it was a big triumph that could be the season’s turning point. “I am really pleased with the performance. I thought we were excellent. We were aggressive, organised and went after the game. We scored two good goals and could have scored more, we were hardly defending for our life.
“I am really proud—of my players, myself and my coaching staff. I hope tonight goes a way to justifying why we’re here.”
In the other quarterfinal encounter on Wednesday, Nottingham Forest beat Wolves 4-3 on penalties after their match ended 1-1. Once again, goalkeeper Dean Henderson saved from Ruben Neves and Joe Hodge.
The Saints will host high-flying Newcastle, while Forest will welcome Manchester United in the semifinal matchups.
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