Joy for Mark Hughes on debut as Saints reach final four

Date published: Sunday 18th March 2018 3:20

Southampton are through to the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time in 15 years after a 2-0 victory over Wigan in Mark Hughes’ first game in charge.

Wigan were looking to reach the last four for the third time in six seasons and the 2013 winners dominated the first half but paid for not taking their chances.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg hooked in a 62nd-minute corner for his first Saints goal and Manolo Gabbiadini then had a 73rd-minute penalty brilliantly saved by Christian Walton before Cedric Soares added a second in stoppage time.

Paul Cook’s men can now focus on their League One promotion push after another memorable cup run, including the scalp of Manchester City in the last round, while Hughes will hope this result can be the catalyst for a push towards Premier League safety.

For all Wigan’s dominance, summed up by 10 corners to Southampton’s zero, the first half was desperately short of clear-cut chances.

It was the visitors who had the first opening when Walton dropped an 11th-minute free-kick at the feet of Guido Carrillo but the striker’s lack of confidence showed as he poked the ball weakly back into the goalkeeper’s arms.

Nathan Byrne gave Southampton a torrid time down the right and he sparked chaos in the Saints’ defence five minutes later but his shot took a deflection and, with Chey Dunkley just unable to apply the finishing touch, the ball rolled past a post.

Mario Lemina, Sofiane Boufal and Gabbiadini offered moments of danger but the consistent pressure was coming from Wigan and Gary Roberts was the next to go close, choosing an attempted lob after Jack Stephens met a long ball with a weak header when he might have been better going for power.

Alex McCarthy was finally tested in the 42nd minute when a Max Power corner moved viciously in the wind and would have dipped under the bar but for a strong hand from the keeper.

Hughes was far from pleased as he walked off for half-time but it did not take long in the second period for Southampton to start to look like the higher-division side.

After Michael Jacobs went close for Wigan, Boufal produced Southampton’s best effort in the 57th minute with a free-kick that landed on the roof of the Wigan net and a careless back pass from Byrne left Gabbiadini with only Walton to beat but the keeper produced a fine save to bail out his team-mate.

And, unlike Wigan, Saints capitalised on their superiority. Walton pushed over Hojbjerg’s bullet header but the keeper was unable to prevent the same player hooking in the resulting corner.

Cook responded by sending on Nick Powell, who he ruled out on Friday because of a hamstring problem, and Ryan Colclough for Roberts and Gavin Massey while Nathan Redmond came on for Southampton.

But Saints were a different proposition now and Latics defender Dan Burn had his head in his hands when his desperate lunge to stop Gabbiadini after he had been played clean through by Ryan Bertrand resulted in a penalty. Gabbiadini struck the ball towards the corner but Walton flung himself to his left and pushed it away.

Wigan pushed increasingly desperately for one final chance and Noel Hunt should have tested McCarthy but could not get enough on his header. Moments later Cedric broke away before finishing confidently past Walton to book Southampton’s place at Wembley.

 

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