A club reborn after its Saudi-backed takeover, Newcastle is headed to a first cup final this century in a season that could also end with Champions League qualification.
Newcastle beat Southampton 2-1 on Tuesday – despite a late red card for star midfielder Bruno Guimaraes – to seal a 3-1 aggregate victory in the English League Cup semi-finals, thrilling the northeast team’s success-starved fans who waved black-and-white scarves while singing about going to Wembley Stadium.
The final at English soccer’s national stadium is on Feb. 26 and Newcastle is likely to be facing Manchester United, which leads 3-0 from last week’s first leg at Nottingham Forest. Their return game is played Wednesday.
Newcastle can expect more heady days over the next few years now that it has the richest owners in world soccer, having been bought by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund 18 months ago.
High-profile signings are sure to come, especially if Newcastle finishes in the top four of the Premier League – it is currently in third place – to get into the lucrative Champions League.
Before that comes its first League Cup final since 1976, and a first trip to Wembley since the FA Cup final against Man United in 1999. And the player pushing Newcastle there Tuesday was a local lad.
Sean Longstaff, a 25-year-old midfielder from nearby North Shields, scored in the fifth and 21st minutes at a vibrant St. James’ Park to put Newcastle 3-0 ahead on aggregate, building on Joelinton’s winner in the first leg in Southampton last week.
Longstaff drove home an angled shot for the first goal and then finished off a flowing team move – involving Joelinton, Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron – for an excellent second.
Che Adams pulled one back for the visitors from the south coast in the 29th, only the second goal Newcastle has conceded in all competitions since Nov. 6.
But second-half pressure failed to yield another goal for Southampton, which eliminated Manchester City in the quarter-finals.
Guimaraes was sent off in the 82nd minute for stamping on the lower leg of Southampton substitute Samuel Edozie. The initial awarding of a yellow card to the Brazil international was changed to a red after the referee viewed the incident on the pitchside monitor.
Newcastle will head into next month’s final looking to win its first major trophy since the FA Cup in 1955.