Southampton progressed to the quarter-finals of the EFL Cup for the second season in succession courtesy of a wonder-strike from Sofiane Boufal against Premier League strugglers Sunderland.
Boufal, who marked his first start for the Saints since his £16 million pound move from French side Lille with a curling finish from 25 yards, was arguably the star of the show in an otherwise uneventful game at St. Mary’s.
Saints made a total of nine changes from the side that impressively held Manchester City to a draw at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, including a first start for Jack Stephens. Alex McCarthy replaced Fraser Forster in goal following his good showing in the previous round of the competition against Crystal Palace, whilst Lloyd Isgrove, Harrison Reed and Pierre-Emile Hojberg all took the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of a 21,000 plus crowd.
The first half passed with little of note as both teams tried – and failed – to find a breakthrough. The second, however, proved a little less disappointing.
The ball fell to Boufal in the box on 66 minutes, before he duly turned his marker and sent a rasping effort past a helpless Jordan Pickford and into the top right corner of the net, before wheeling away to celebrate his first goal for the club in front of the Chapel Stand.
There was late drama as Alex McCarthy saved at close range from Sunderland’s Jermaine Defoe despite some suggestion of handball in the build up, before the Black Cats’ manager David Moyes was sent to the stands in the closing moments.
Moyes, who was enraged by referee Graham Kavanagh’s decision to not award the away side a penalty after a strong challenge on Victor Anichebe in the area, subsequently swore at fourth official James Adcock and was dismissed from his technical area.
“I was sent off for leaving my box and swearing at the fourth official.” explained Moyes to BBC Sport.
“The problem was he chased me down the touchline. I swore at him and I shouldn’t have done so I deserved to be sent off.”
“When you see the penalty decision again it’s a stonewaller, no question. Inside the box Maya Yoshida fouls Victor, he comes across him, and it should have been a definite penalty awarded.”
The result means the Scot has now suffered defeat on eight occasions since taking the reins at the Stadium of Light, with his only two victories coming in the previous two rounds of the EFL Cup.
Saints’ manager Claude Puel was decidedly happier than his counterpart, and paid tribute to Sunderland for the way they set up defensively against his charges.
“You can see Boufal’s qualities, you can see he is a fantastic player.”
“It was difficult for us against a strong team. I enjoyed the result, of course, for all my players, the experienced and the young ones.”
Southampton’s reward for progressing to the last eight is an away journey to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal. The tie is set to be played in the week commencing 28th November 2016.