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 leveler ruled out for handball following VAR intervention.
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe, who warned there is still a long way to go in the tie ahead of next week’s return meeting, saluted the impact of his in-form keeper, while Magpies midfielder Bruno Guimaraes went a step further.
“One goal is important, we could score more but the most important thing 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.”
Speaking of a player he signed from Burnley in the summer, Howe said: “Nick made some big saves today, especially the first one from Adams (which) I thought was a big moment in the match.
“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 offered 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.”
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.
“You can’t show any emotion because you know it’s going to VAR one way or another, unless someone picks the ball up from the goalkeeper, runs through 11 players and slots it past the keeper without anything else happening.
“We thought we scored two good goals on the weekend, both overruled by VAR. Tonight is exactly the same.
“I’m frustrated but it’s really difficult because these are one-off games.
“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.”