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Saints cruise past Arsenal to set up Liverpool EFL Cup semi-final

SB Nation logoSB Nation 01-12-2016 Dan Vaughan
Arsenal v Southampton - EFL Cup Quarter-Final © Provided by SB Nation Arsenal v Southampton - EFL Cup Quarter-Final

Southampton will meet Liverpool in the semi-final of this year's EFL Cup, after dispatching of Arsenal by two goals to nil on Wednesday.

Goals from Jordy Clasie and Ryan Bertrand were enough to sink the Gunners, who were outperformed despite playing at home. Saints fielded a strong side blending youth with experience, and Arsenal could not match them despite themselves naming several first team players in their side.

The visitors executed their game plan expertly, stifling Arsenal and hitting them on the break in what was a very professional performance.

The opening goal came in the 12th minute as Bertrand's cut back forcing a save from Sofiane Boufal, with Clasie rifling the rebound into the roof of the net - his first goal for the club. Bertrand was found with a peach of a diagonal ball from none other than Maya Yoshida, who continued his impressive recent run in the side.

Southampton scored and then sat back, with an energetic midfield buzzing around the Arsenal men, disrupting the their flow. The visitors were comfortable, closing their opponents down and breaking through Boufal with Shane Long stretching the Gunners on the break. Maya Yoshida's header was the closest Arsenal went to scoring in the first half, with the Japanese defender heading a free kick behind for a corner, close to Fraser Forster's post.

Saints' second came from more good play down the left as Boufal nicked the ball off a dawdling Carl Jenkinson. The winger fed Bertrand, mirroring the first goal, only with the left back's tidy finish giving the goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez no chance to parry the shot.

Granit Xhaka replaced Elneny just before half time, but Southampton made it to the break without incident.

Arsenal improved in the second half, with Aaron Ramsey seeing much more of the ball; the Welshman and Lucas Perez had early shots easily saved by Fraser Forster.

Southampton continued to get chances throughout the second period though, with Long going close several times and Clasie and Boufal having shots deflected and Steven Davis smashing another over the bar.

Arsene Wenger cut a frustrated figure on the touchline and the home fans streamed out of the Emirates Stadium well before the final whistle. Arsenal made a late rally with ten minutes left in the tie, but could not break down an organised Southampton defence. Substitute Oxlade-Chamberlain blazed Xhaka's lovely cross over the bar before Gibbs' header was cleared off the line by Maya Yoshida, yet Saints were mostly comfortable.

The Arsenal shots kept coming, but Southampton dug in and defended resolutely. Josh Sims replaced Boufal and put in another impressive display alongside fellow academy graduates Sam McQueen, and Harrison Reed, with Claude Puel's rotation policy working a treat.

Southampton closed out the game well, with Hojbjerg forcing a late save from Martinez and Arsenal restricted to shots from distance.

Southampton now head to Crystal Palace this weekend before a crunch tie with Hapoel Beer Sheva in the Europa League next week. Should Southampton make it all the way to Wembley and win the EFL Cup, they will qualify for Europe for the second season in a row.

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