Hasenhuttl hails 'brave' Saints performance
Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

Whilst their Carabao Cup run came to an end at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night, there are plenty of positives for Southampton supporters to take.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side took Chelsea to penalties after a brave performance in West London, drawing 1-1 after 90 minutes before the Premier League leaders prevailed 4-3 in the shoot-out.

A Saints side with nine changes from the starting XI that drew with Burnley fielded a new formation, with five at the back, and it paid off.

Kai Havertz’s header just before half time was cancelled out by Che Adams after the break, but despite good chances with Mohammed Salisu and Lyanco both going close, Saints couldn’t find a winner.

'We have done everything'

And after the frustration of being pegged back by Burnley last time out, Saints boss Hasenhuttl was pleased with what he saw from his side.

“We have done everything what we could today,” he told BBC Radio Solent after the last-16 tie.

“It was a fantastic game for everyone to watch here in the stadium today, it was a thriller, a big cup fight, we wanted to give them a tough evening and we did I think.

'We are brave'

“It’s a pity that we couldn’t in the end take the win but I am very proud, this is what I can say today about my team, everyone did a fantastic job.

“This is what we want to do, we want to have a game where we are active, where we show our supporters that we are brave. Very often you get the reward for it, today we didn’t.

“Fantastic ball wins in their half, we could sometimes have played even better but against such a top team it’s not easy to create chances, we had a few ones, good ones, yes it’s a pity but as I said I’m very proud of my team.”

Smallbone returns

The cup tie also saw the reintroduction of Will Smallbone into first team action, and he almost became the hero for Saints.

The 21-year old had been out for ten months with an ACL injury, and came on with 15 minutes to go at Stamford Bridge.

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And he almost made the dream impact, with Kepa denying him a goal just moments having come on.

Smallbone had been out since January when he picked up the injury – which came in his first game back from another injury, unrelated to the one he suffered with.

Although he didn’t take his chance to win the match in 90 minutes and then fired his penalty over in the shoot-out, Smallbone put in an impressive showing, and Hasenhuttl praised the Saints academy graduate.

“The most important thing is that he is back fit again,” the Austrian said. “This is great for him, he should take the positive things.

“Absolutely immediately he had a good chance, immediately he was there on the six, aggressive.

“After this long, long injury the positive thing here is that he is back on the pitch and shouldn’t be too worried about the penalty today, other players missed penalties.”

It is the first few yards on the road to match fitness for the midfielder, but the signs on his return to the squad are more than promising.

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