If at first you don’t succeed. Or even at the second attempt. It had looked like being one of those nights for the Newcastle forward, Joelinton, who saw a first-half goal ruled out for handball and then advanced his contender for miss of the season at the beginning of the second period.
The quicksilver Miguel Almirón had crossed and, after a double deflection, the ball sat up for the onrushing Joelinton inside the six yard box, the goal gaping. When he lifted high, he could have been forgiven for wanting to be a very long way away – say, back in Newcastle.
Joelinton refused to hide. He continued to push. And when the substitute, Alexander Isak, blasted away from Duje Calata-Car, Joelinton made another run. This time, he really could not miss from close-range and Newcastle were in control of his Carabao Cup semi-final, first-leg – one step closer to a first cup final since 1999.
Southampton, the Premier League’s bottom club, tried to fight back. They thought that they had equalised when the substitute, Adam Armstrong, bundled home only for the VAR to spot he had used a hand to do so. Caleta-Car would pick up a second yellow card late on for a foul on the Newcastle substitute, Allan Saint-Maximin, and the evening would be characterised by frustration for his team.
The number for the Newcastle fans to take in was 644 – the miles by road to complete the round trip, a mission of about 11 hours. It was never going to get in the way of them attending a first semi-final since 2005.
The travelling support proclaimed at kick-off time that they were going to Wembley – they were plainly in the mood to make the most of the occasion – and their team were the brighter in the first half.
The hosts were initially loose with their passing and, when Nathan Jones was caught in animated conversation with Moussa Djenepo on 17 minutes, it seemed to catch the mood at that stage.
Newcastle might have led early on when Miguel Almirón burst clear up the right and squared into the path of Joe Willock, who had sprinted up the inside left. Willock’s finish was wild, lifted high over the crossbar, but it was a worry from a Southampton point of view how Almirón was able to eat up so much open space.
Carlos Alcaraz, on his full debut, had a few good moments on the ball in midfield while he was Southampton’s most likely scorer before the interval. He almost got onto a James Ward-Prowse pass – Fabian Schär crowded him out – while he hit a low cracker from distance that swerved and nearly caught out Pope.
Newcastle were balanced and threatening with Bruno Guimarães sharp in possession; Almirón and Willock getting into dangerous areas up the sides. Willock banged high again following a Kieran Trippier cross before the controversy flared in the 39th minute.
It was Willock up the left, cutting inside and forcing Gavin Bazunu to parry and from there it always felt that Newcastle would get the ball in the net. Callum Wilson was thwarted by Mohammed Salisu and, when the ball broke to Joelinton, he lashed home. And yet the referee, Stuart Attwell, whistled immediately – for handball against Joelinton. It felt harsh in the moment and a difficult one to unpick on the replays.
There were some tasty challenges, Caleta-Car going into the book for a late one on Almirón, who had touched the ball past him and was away, while Pope was fortunate to escape censure for cleaning out Djenepo at the end of the first-half. A dazed Djenepo was forced off.
It was all about the transitions, with Newcastle punching particularly hard through Almirón; Southampton could not handle his pace and directness. Three times he got clear at the start of the second half to cross and three times Southampton were reprieved, most obviously when Joelinton suffered his horror moment from point-blank range.
Back came Southampton, with the substitute Adam Armstrong and Ward-Prowse having half-chances. It was another substitute, Ché Adams, who had to score. Sent clean through by the outstanding Alcaraz, he could not beat Pope. As was the case moments later when he spun inside the area. Pope was too sharp.