A decade after reaching a League Cup semi-final in Neil Warnock's Sheffield United side, Michael Tonge scored the goal that set Warnock's Leeds on a path into the last eight as Southampton became the second Premier League opponent eliminated by Leeds in this season's competition.
Tonge's first-half strike was the difference between the sides until El-Hadji Diouf effectively settled the tie after 87 minutes, following up after the goalkeeper Kelvin Davis could only parry a shot by Rodolph Austin and adding to the pressure on Southampton manager Nigel Adkins. The substitute Luciano Becchio added a third goal from the penalty spot in stoppage time.
Adkins has also lost seven out of his first nine Premier League matches with his twice-promoted team yet any unease he may be feeling about his job security was not reflected in his team selection. He rested all 11 starters from Sunday's home defeat to Tottenham. Adkins confirmed that one of them – goalkeeper Artur Boruc – is the subject of an internal club investigation into allegations that he threw a water bottle at fans during the game against Tottenham Hotspur.
Against a Leeds side including nine of the players that knocked out Everton in the third round, Southampton were always second best and Leeds should have put the outcome beyond doubt long before the two late goals.
Luke Varney's energy was a key element in most of their best moves but his miss after 14 minutes, when he screwed the ball wide of the left-hand post when it looked impossible to miss, set an unwelcome trend for much of their finishing.
Varney hit the woodwork and missed with a header as well as having two other shots saved. There were chances too for Austin and Diouf.
Tonge put Leeds in front 11 minutes before half-time. Varney set up the chance with a run from the left, followed by a cut-back only half cleared, and Tonge beat Davis – recalled for the first time since he let in six against Arsenal in September -- with a low drive from just inside the box.
Southampton brought on 17-year-old Luke Shaw and gave a debut to 19-year-old Lloyd Isgrove in the second half, yet looked more of a threat and the Leeds lead looked fragile until Diouf pounced and then Becchio, on the field only moments, converted from the spot following a foul on Tonge.
"I take full responsibility for the team selection, although we would have liked to have played on Wednesday," Adkins said. "But regardless of that the performance was not up to the high standards we expect of Southampton players."
Man of the match Varney (Leeds).
Match rating 6/10.
Referee C. Foy (St Helens).
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