Back behind closed doors, every yelp from Ralph Hasenhüttl was loud and clear but when his team triumphed after a chaotic extra-time period in which there were three goals in eight minutes it was also possible to hear a collective sigh of relief from the Southampton dugout. They reached the FA Cup fourth round despite playing with 10 men for more than 90 minutes.
Victory should have capped a positive week after a welcome takeover that will likely give Southampton more clout but the good news stopped there for Hasenhüttl, who confirmed Tino Livramento, a revelation in the Premier League this season, may require surgery on a knee injury.
That news compounded with Yan Valery’s sending-off 29 minutes into this game and Kyle Walker-Peters being among the positive Covid cases in the Southampton squad means Hasenhüttl is without a recognised right-back for Tuesday’s rescheduled league game against Brentford.
Hasenhüttl said it was impossible to guarantee that game occurring. Premier League rules state games must go ahead if a club has 13 available outfield players plus a fit goalkeeper. “We never know at the moment,” the Southampton manager said. “It is all about the lottery. You wake up in the morning, go to the training ground, have breakfast and you wait. It is super-tough but it is how it is.”
The scenes at full time were muted compared with their last competitive visit here, when Southampton in effect secured their Premier League status at Swansea’s expense in May 2018. They were left with a sour taste in their mouths after their hotel booking was mysteriously cancelled 24 hours before they were due to check-in – the then manager, Mark Hughes, said there were some dark arts at play – but had the last laugh, leaving a one-star review on TripAdvisor. They prospered again this time, Shane Long stepping off the bench to tee up Mohamed Elyounoussi’s 95th-minute equaliser before scoring the winner, his first Southampton goal in almost two years.
The goals were painful from a Swansea perspective and even more galling given, four minutes into extra time, they took the lead when Jan Bednarek inadvertently diverted the substitute Olivier Ntcham’s cross into the far corner past Fraser Forster. But they switched off and conceded 58 seconds later before Long feasted on more slack defending to tap in a peach of a cross by James Ward-Prowse, who again took the step of cutting oval-shape holes into his socks to aid the circulation in his calves.
In truth, Swansea were fortunate to make it to extra time, Joel Piroe cancelling out Nathan Redmond’s early opener with the hosts’ first meaningful foray into the Southampton box with 13 minutes of normal time left to play.
Ntcham passed up a half-chance after Forster parried a shot to level once more but ultimately Swansea, who have not played since 11 December owing to Covid, squandered their lead and gifted Southampton, semi-finalists in this competition last season, passage into the next round.
“I’m really hurt by the way we lost that game,” said the Swansea head coach, Russell Martin. “It was not acceptable. Going so long without a game has not helped, but that’s not an excuse.
We shouldn’t be conceding goals like their last two – one long kick and we’re opened up. Our reaction to losing the ball was nowhere good enough. But there were also some good things I liked tonight, given the circumstances and the fact we were trying a new shape.”
Southampton were cruising until Valery was dismissed for picking up a silly second yellow card approaching the half hour. Valery, already booked for a crude challenge on Ryan Manning, was caught out and put his left hand on the right shoulder of Michael Obafemi as the former Southampton striker began to stretch his legs after latching on to a crossfield pass. The referee, Simon Hooper, was quick to show a red card. As for who will fill in at right-back, Hasenhüttl will broach the subject in the coming days. “Let’s ask my captain [and see] what he says,” he said, smiling.