Southampton’s FA Cup campaign came to a cruel end on Wednesday night as two late goals from Lucas Moura and Son Heung-Min booked Tottenham a place in the fifth round, after a pulsating encounter in North London.
Both managers named strong lineups in the hope of securing a place in the last 16 with Ralph Hasenhuttl making two changes from the side that fell to defeat at Anfield a few days earlier. Moussa Djenepo was unavailable through illness, resulting in a start for Sofiane Boufal, whilst Angus Gunn replaced the rested Alex McCarthy in goal.
The Saints had the best of the first-half chances, but it was goalkeeper Gunn who was first called into action in the fourth minute, diving low to deny Ryan Sessegnon after Son’s pull-back inside the area.
This prompted a good spell of pressure for the away side who came close to scoring the opener less than a minute later. Nathan Redmond broke forward down the wing, before spotting the run of Ings on the other side and angling a pass into his path from 18 yards out. Ings’s first touch saw him cut inside Jan Vertonghen, but his left-footed shot was comfortably saved by Hugo Lloris. Southampton continued to ask questions of the Tottenham defence as Redmond’s angled shot was saved by the feet of Lloris after picking up a pass from Shane Long and driving into the box.
Despite making an encouraging start and forcing several saves from the Spurs keeper, Southampton found themselves behind in the 12th minute after a deeply unfortunate own goal from Jack Stephens. A long ball from Harry Winks allowed Sessegnon to burst into the box, only to be denied by Stephens’s perfectly timed slide tackle. However, the defender wouldn’t be rewarded for his efforts as the ball fell into the path of Tanguy Ndombele on the edge of the area; his first-time shot deflected off Stephens into the bottom corner.
It was extremely harsh on Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men, yet the goal failed to deter them as they continued to create regular chances and threaten their opponent’s backline. They fashioned a wonderful opportunity to level proceedings in the 19th minute as James Ward-Prowse produced a stunning pass from the right-side to pick out the smart run of Ings. The striker did well to get to the corner of the box, but the subsequent shot was hit high past Lloris and against the crossbar.
The equalizer eventually came in the 34th minute as the Saints once again sliced open the home side’s defence. A good run and pass from Boufal set up an elegant Cruyff turn by Redmond, whose first-time shot across goal was palmed by Lloris, setting up the grateful Shane Long from 6 yards out. The Irishman made no mistake in pouncing on the loose ball as he celebrated only his second goal of the season.
However four minutes later, Southampton suffered a significant blow as Ward-Prowse left the field on a stretcher after going in on a challenge with Sessegnon near the touchline. After the game, Hasenhuttl commented that he hopes the injury is nothing more than ‘a cut on the knee’ but nevertheless he was replaced by Jannik Vestergaard, with Stephens moving into right back.
Spurs threatened to take the lead on three different occasions as half-time beckoned, but Jan Bedbarek was there to deny a trio of counter-attacks and keep the score level at 1-1 at the break.
Southampton continued to pose the bigger threat in the second half and should have taken the lead in the 50th minute. The move started with Ings who demonstrated excellent footwork to create space for a shooting opportunity, with his strike being blocked by Eric Dier. The ball subsequently ball spun into the path of the unmarked Boufal, but he side-footed his shot well past the far post. Tottenham then responded with a clear-cut opportunity of their own, despite offering very little in the way of attacking threat up to that point. Son’s right-sided cross was begging to be headed home by Moura, but somehow the Brazilian headed wide from six yards out.
That would be a fleeting moment for Jose Mourinho’s side as Southampton continued to dominate and push for a second goal. After a handful of decent chances from Long and Vestergaard, the away side finally took the lead on 72 minutes after an exceptional counter-attack initiated by Redmond. The winger began the move on the corner of his own box with his run beating three Spurs players, before releasing Ings who drove to the edge of the area. Ings ended the move in emphatic fashion as he cut onto his right foot, fooling the hapless Tanganga, and curled a shot into the bottom corner for his 16th goal of the season.
The situation had turned desperate for Tottenham but Dele Alli was on hand to inspire his teammates to victory in the closing stages. Southampton’s lead would last for only six minutes as Alli played a one-two with Moura who cut past Vestergaard and rifled a low shot inside the far post, leaving no chance for Gunn.
With momentum firmly with the home side, Spurs scored the decisive goal with only two minutes of normal time left to play. It came from a spot kick as Son was judged to have been brought down by Gunn after receiving a pass from Alli. The Southampton players protested but to no avail as VAR chose not to overturn referee David Coote’s call. Son fired the penalty low into the corner – his fourth goal in as many games – which was enough to send Tottenham into the fifth round, despite Mourinho himself later admitting in his press conference that ‘the best side lost’.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl gave his thoughts to BBC Sport after the disappointing defeat:
In the last 15 minutes, we didn’t defend like we had to. It doesn’t count that we had 30 minutes [of the]second half perfect. We were not defending like we wanted to for the second goal and the third goal was too easy, they ran through our midfield like there was nobody. In the FA Cup it is not about being the better team, it is a game of results and he [Jose Mourinho] got the result and we didn’t. After a very busy period we now have time to recover.”
Southampton now enjoy a mid-season winter break, before facing Burnley in the lunchtime kickoff at St Mary’s on February 15.