A club reborn after its Saudi-backed takeover, Newcastle is headed to a first cup final this century in a season that could also end with Champions League qualification.
Newcastle beat Southampton 2-1 on Tuesday — despite a late red card for star midfielder Bruno Guimaraes — to seal a 3-1 aggregate victory in the English League Cup semifinals, thrilling the northeast team’s success-starved fans who waved black-and-white scarves while singing about going to Wembley Stadium.
The final at English soccer’s national stadium is on Feb. 26 and Newcastle is likely to be facing Manchester United, which leads 3-0 from last week’s first leg at Nottingham Forest. Their return game is played Wednesday.
Newcastle can expect more heady days over the next few years now that it has the richest owners in world soccer, having been bought by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund 18 months ago.
High-profile signings are sure to come, especially if Newcastle finishes in the top four of the Premier League — it is currently in third place — to get into the lucrative Champions League.
Before that comes its first League Cup final since 1976, and a first trip to Wembley since the FA Cup final against Man United in 1999.
“You want to be in finals of competitions to increase your status and make yourself more desirable for people to join,” Newcastle manager Eddie Howe said. “This is a club on the up.”
The player pushing Newcastle into the final Tuesday was a local lad.
Sean Longstaff, a 25-year-old midfielder from nearby North Shields, scored in the fifth and 21st minutes at a vibrant St. James’ Park to put Newcastle 3-0 ahead on aggregate, building on Joelinton’s winner in the first leg in Southampton last week.
Longstaff drove home an angled shot for the first goal and then finished off a flowing team move — involving Joelinton, Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron — for an excellent second.
“The place was bouncing and the energy they gave off was unbelievable,” Longstaff said of Newcastle’s fans. “They stuck with us through thick and thin and when times were not great and it was pretty bleak. I am so happy for them.”
Che Adams pulled one back for the visitors from the south coast in the 29th, only the second goal Newcastle has conceded in all competitions since Nov. 6.
But second-half pressure failed to yield another goal for Southampton, which eliminated Manchester City in the quarterfinals.
Guimaraes was sent off in the 82nd minute for stamping on the lower leg of Southampton substitute Samuel Edozie. The initial awarding of a yellow card to the Brazil international was changed to a red after the referee viewed the incident on the pitchside monitor.
Guimaraes will miss Newcastle’s next three games — all of which are in the Premier League — but will be available for the final.
Newcastle will head into next month’s final looking to win its first major trophy since the FA Cup in 1955.
In the FA Cup, Blackburn beat fellow second-tier team Birmingham 1-0 in a fourth-round replay to set up a match against Leicester in the last 16.
Birmingham defender Auston Trusty scored an own-goal in the first half of extra time.