Nick Pope was hailed as the “best goalkeeper in the world” after his 10th successive clean sheet helped put Newcastle on the brink of Wembley.
The England international produced two superb second-half saves from Southampton forward Che Adams as the Magpies secured a vital 1-0 win from a breathless Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at St Mary’s.
Joelinton set aside a disallowed goal and a shocking miss to claim the visitors’ 73rd-minute winner, while Saints substitute Adam Armstrong had a leveller ruled out for handball following VAR intervention.
“One goal is important, we could score more but most important was to be one goal in front of Southampton,” the Brazilian midfielder told Sky Sports.
“I want to thank Nick Pope, I think he’s the best goalkeeper in the world. Let’s keep it going.”
“He stood up tall for us, as he has done all season.
“It (10 clean sheets in a row) is a brilliant thing for Nick. I think he deserves that accolade. He’s been excellent on and offer the pitch in every respect since he signed for the club.
“I can’t speak highly enough of him, I can’t praise him enough and I can’t rate him highly enough. He’s a brilliant shot stopper and I think he’s in a very good place currently.”
The Magpies midfielder somehow blazed over with the goal gaping before Pope quelled mounting Southampton momentum by denying Adams when clean through and expertly clawing away a later effort.
Alexander Isak then teed up Joelinton for the decisive goal before Newcastle academy graduate Armstrong was frustrated by a Stockley Park review having bundled home with the aid of an arm.
“I don’t think we were at our best today but I felt we did enough to deserve to win,” said Howe.
“There were lots of talking points, obviously VAR involved.
While Newcastle boosted their quest for a first major domestic trophy since 1955, Southampton were left frustrated and with work to do at St James’ Park.
Saints boss Nathan Jones, who also praised Pope, was pleased with his team’s display as he expressed further VAR disappointment on the back of having two goals ruled out during Saturday’s 1-0 Premier League loss to Aston Villa.
“You can’t celebrate a goal any more,” said the Welshman.
“We thought we scored two good goals on the weekend, both overruled by VAR. Tonight is exactly the same.
“The performance level is there, it’s just the edges that make or break good teams and seasons – we’re just coming out on the wrong end of it.”