Maya Yoshida and Graziano Pelle fired Southampton to a 2-1 win over managerless Aston Villa and into the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
Villa, who parted company with former boss Tim Sherwood on Sunday, dominated proceedings in the opening 45 minutes at St Mary’s Stadium on Wednesday, yet Rudy Gestede and Leandro Bacuna were both guilty of spurning chances.
And Premier League rivals Southampton made Villa pay for their profligacy six minutes after the break when Yoshida beat Brad Guzan with a low shot from the edge of the area.
To their credit, Villa kept pushing for an equaliser, but Pelle doubled the home team’s advantage in the 77th minute with a sublime finish. Scott Sinclair converted a stoppage-time penalty, but Southampton were not to be denied their place in the last eight.
Villa made the brighter start of the two sides and threatened early on via Gestede. Ashley Westwood sent in a dangerous cross to the back post, only for the striker to head just wide.
Bacuna was next to try his luck with a header, yet his attempt after Carlos Sanchez’s cross was straight at Maarten Stekelenburg.
Gestede saw another opportunity go begging in the 14th minute after a cross from Alan Hutton, but the Frenchman aimed a yard wide from close range.
The best chance of the first half fell to the visitors after 35 minutes. Bacuna played a good one-two with Westwood before firing in a right-footed shot, but Stekelenburg parried it behind for a corner.
Southampton failed to really worry Guzan until Gaston Ramirez’s 41st-minute free-kick from 25 yards out, yet the creative forward aimed just too high.
The hosts significantly improved after the interval and Pelle was unfortunate to see his 49th-minute shot deflected wide for a corner.
Ronald Koeman’s men did grab the lead shortly after, though. Yoshida charged forward from midfield, before playing a one-two with Ramirez and then beating Guzan with a low left-footed shot from the edge of the area.
Villa refused to give up after falling behind and Westwood could have levelled at the hour mark after being set up by Gestede, only to see Stekelenburg keep his shot out.
Gabriel Agbonlahor also went close, but the Dutch goalkeeper again showed his class with a fine save.
Pelle then put Southampton in firm control of the tie with a superb volley after a cross from Dusan Tadic that left Guzan no chance.
Sinclair tucked away his 94th-minute penalty after Virgil van Dijk had brought down Jordan Ayew inside the area, but it was too little, too late.