Saints were eliminated from the Capital One Cup after suffering a 2-1 defeat to Sunderland in their fourth-round clash.
Maya Yoshida’s first goal for the Club late on wasn’t enough to force a comeback for a valiant Southampton side who were unfortunate to fall behind at the Stadium of Light after having the better of proceedings throughout large portions of the match.
A scrappy goal from Phil Bardsley that Saints failed to clear before it floated just over the line sent Sunderland into the lead, before the Black Cats caught Saints on the break to increase the deficit to two through Seb Larsson.
The result ensures that it is Sunderland who will entertain Chelsea at home in the quarter-finals, while Saints unfortunately bow out after a commendable run in the competition.
On a more positive note, Harrison Reed made a thoroughly encouraging full Saints debut after playing 90 minutes in the centre of midfield, while young striker Sam Gallagher also joined play for his First Team bow late into the encounter.
Saints refused to allow Sunderland’s home advantage to faze them as they dominated possession in the opening stages, although it was the Black Cats who had the clearest opportunities early on.
Jozy Altidore managed to skip past Jos Hooiveld to latch onto a pass before turning the defender and unleashing a tame effort from the corner of the 18-yard box that Kelvin Davis had no trouble smothering.
Emanuele Giaccherini found himself in an even greater position when the Italian surged into the area unmarked but he met Ondrej Celustka’s cross with a poor connection, scuffing a weak effort well wide.
Both attempts appeared to be the catalyst for the home side growing in confidence, which saw more chances forged for Sunderland.
Craig Gardner knocked the ball into the path of Altidore, who was afforded a glimpse of goal but dragged a low effort from 25 yards way off-target.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, Saints cleared a corner only as far as Jack Colback on the edge of the area, who looked to drive the ball towards the net but dragged it across the face of goal and drew no contact from any Black Cats lurking just outside the six-yard box.
Southampton were not overawed by increasing pressure from their opponents as they created arguably the finest opportunity of the half as the break approached.
Jack Cork displayed excellent composure while surrounded by multiple Sunderland players as excellent vision from the midfielder saw him lay the ball into acres of space for Gastón Ramírez to unfortunately lift a side-footed shot narrowly over the crossbar from just inside the right side of the box.
That proved to be the last meaningful action in the first 45 minutes where Saints provided energy in abundance but were unlucky not to transform that into goalmouth action.
HALF-TIME: SUNDERLAND 0-0 SOUTHAMPTON
A flash of brilliance three minutes into the second period from Altidore saw Sunderland nearly break into the lead in rapid and stunning circumstances.
The American extravagantly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Craig Gardner whose low drive was prevented by the body of Davis who swiftly threw himself to the ground to block.
The home side atoned for their wayward aiming when they broke the deadlock just before the hour mark, though – in rather scrappy fashion.
Wes Brown’s initial nod back across goal from Sunderland’s free-kick was met by a header on target from Altidore. Despite preventing the forward’s header from finding the net, Davis was powerless to stop PHIL BARDSLEY from immediately nudging the ball just over the line after a short goalmouth scramble ensued.
The hosts’ opener prompted a backlash from an energetic Southampton side that could have considered themselves unfortunate not to be awarded two penalties in quick succession with just over 20 minutes remaining.
A clever flick from Davis directed substitute James Ward Prowse’s pass into the path of Calum Chambers who was charging into the area. Just as the defender attempted to turn away from Colback, Chambers seemed to be hauled down to the ground by the 24-year-old.
The Northern Irishman then improvised with an eccentric backheel reminiscent of the one that preceded it; on this occasion it freed Ramirez down the left who pulled it back towards Davis before the midfielder appeared to be clipped from behind by Brown when controlling the cross. Similarly to the first incident, any claims for a spot-kick to be given were ignored.
Saints continued to press and nearly levelled the scoring through a freak accident, courtesy of Vito Mannone. The Sunderland custodian attempted a clearance that was smacked very low and ricocheted off Jay Rodriguez before looping back over the Black Cats ‘keeper, but it bounced agonisingly wide.
The visitors’ unlucky streak was compounded in the dying stages of the game when Southampton were stung on the break.
After intensely pushing for an equaliser, Saints found themselves countered as Altidore had plenty of space to slide the ball across for substitute SEB LARSSON to side-foot across Davis and into the far corner.
That did not deter Saints who continued to battle in the face of adversity and pulled a goal back with two minutes of normal time left.
Hooiveld headed a typically accurate cross from Ward-Prowse for MAYA YOSHIDA to dramatically nod past Mannone from close range to cast the tie into doubt.
Despite a late push from the visitors, Saints couldn’t find the goal they craved as Ward-Prowse fired a bouncing ball well over the crossbar from 20 yards in the final moments of the match.
FULL-TIME: SUNDERLAND 2-1 SOUTHAMPTON
Sunderland team: Vito Mannone, Ondrej Celustka (Sebastian Larsson 70), Phil Bardsley, Wes Brown, John O'Shea (c), Ki Sung-Yueng, Craig Gardner, Jack Colback, Adam Johnson, Emanuele Giaccherini (Steven Fletcher 90+2), Jozy Altidore. Unused substitutes: Joel Dixon (GK), Cabral, Carlos Cuellar, Fabio Borini, Charis Mavrias.
Goals: Bardsley (59), Larsson (86)
Booking: Ki (45+1)
Southampton team: Kelvin Davis (c) Calum Chambers, Maya Yoshida, Jos Hooiveld, Danny Fox, Jack Cork, Harrison Reed, Steven Davis (Adam Lallana 70), Gastón Ramírez (Sam Gallagher 80), Tadanari Lee (James Ward-Prowse 57), Jay Rodriguez. Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga (GK), Nathaniel Clyne, Lloyd Isgrove, Jack Stephens.
Goal: Yoshida (88)
Bookings: Cork (59), Hooiveld (75)
Referee: Lee Mason
Attendance: 15,966 (301 away fans)