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Five things we learned from the Carabao Cup semi-finals

Following the first legs of the Carabao Cup semi-finals we look at five things we learned from the last-four fixtures.

Pope proves his worth once again

Newcastle’s Saudi-backed takeover was expected to usher in a new deal of star signings at St James’ Park, but the club’s business has been properly planned and sensible.

The Magpies were the eighth-highest spenders in the Premier League last summer despite their well-documented resources. The club’s recruitment has been impressive, none more so than the capture of Nick Pope from Burnley. A £10m addition from a relegated side might not create huge headlines, but Pope has proven a brilliant acquisition for Eddie Howe and his staff.

The England goalkeeper has been a fantastic last line of defence for the Premier League’s best backline and came to the fore once again at Southampton. Newcastle will have a 1-0 lead to protect ahead of the second leg after recording a tenth consecutive clean sheet at St Mary’s.

Pope’s performances contributed to another shut-out for the Magpies, as he twice denied Che Adams with big saves. He now has 16 clean sheets for the campaign, more than any goalkeeper across Europe’s top five leagues.

Weghorst off the mark

Wout Weghorst is off the mark in a Manchester United shirt after the forward opened his account for the club at Nottingham Forest.

The Dutch international struck his side’s second after reacting to Antony’s parried effort, a poacher’s effort from the towering loanee who will take confidence from his first in the club’s colours.

Weghorst was brought in as a short-term loan option to boost the club’s centre-forward stocks and showed signs that he can be a useful addition over the second half of the campaign. His link-up play was again good at Forest and the 30-year-old provides a presence in both boxes for Ten Hag’s team.

Ten Hag was full of praise for his compatriot after the 3-0 win at the City Ground and hopes Weghorst’s maiden goal can help settle the new recruit.

“It’s important for him and for his confidence that he scored that goal,” Ten Hag BBC Five Live.

“He did a great job at Crystal Palace and Arsenal with his pressing, targets and movements. He was part of Bruno’s [Fernandes’] goal at Palace because he makes the right movement to the front post. He was part of [Marcus) Rashford’s] goal at Arsenal because he dragged the centre-half away.

“But strikers are there to score goals and when they don’t score they’re not happy.”

Murphy mocks Caleta-Car at stormy St Mary’s

Tempers had threatened to spill over at Southampton long before Duje Caleta-Car was given his marching orders late in the club’s contest with Newcastle.

A bad-tempered semi-final saw nine cards shown and the Croatian centre-back was sent off in the closing stages after receiving his second yellow for a cynical foul on Allan Saint-Maximin.

Jacob Murphy chose to see off the defender with some semi-final shithousery, waving Caleta-Car from the pitch after some handbags between the two teams.

Murphy’s moment of mockery could increase the tension as the two teams renew rivalries in a bid to reach a Wembley final. It’s all to play for in the return.

Rashford the main man for Ten Hag

Marcus Rashford is in the form of his career right now and continued his stunning streak since the season’s restart with another goal at Nottingham Forest.

Rashford has been electric in recent weeks and has now scored ten goals in all competitions since returning from the World Cup, having opened the scoring at the City Ground with a superb solo goal as he ran from inside his own half before firing inside the near post.

It was a goal that demonstrated the confidence of the England forward, who has responded from a challenging period at Manchester United to assume main man status. Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit has paved the path for Rashford to become the leading light of the club’s frontline and he has responded in fine fashion with a brilliant run of goalscoring form.

The 25-year-old has now scored 18 goals for the season – 12 more than any other teammate – and is playing with a swagger that is leaving opposition defenders terrified.

Newcastle can end long wait

Whisper it quietly, but Newcastle have a real chance of ending the club’s long wait for silverware this season.

Newcastle have not won silverware since 1969 and have not lifted a major domestic trophy since 1955. It’s been a long wait, but one the club are capable of ending.

Eddie Howe’s side have lost just twice in 27 games across all competitions and are 90 minutes from a Wembley final after a 1-0 win at Southampton. Even when below their best, the Magpies are finding a way to win and an incredible defensive record – the club have more clean sheets than goals conceded in the Premier League this season – has been the foundation of their success.

The travelling supporters chanted with glee after watching Newcastle win at St Mary’s, with choruses of “Tell me Ma, me Ma. I won’t be home for tea. We’re going to Wembley” ringing around the ground.

Newcastle had not featured in a League Cup semi-final for 47 years, but navigated the first leg in fine fashion. A raucous St James’ Park awaits in the return as the club look to finalise a place at Wembley.

Manchester United appear the probable opponent, in what would represent a rematch of Newcastle’s last domestic cup final. United were the 2-0 victors in the 1999 FA Cup decider, but confidence is increasing that a new-look Newcastle can give their long-suffering supporters reason to celebrate.

Read – Eight Premier League managers doing impressive jobs this season

Read Also – Rating the six permanent Everton managers appointed by Farhad Moshiri

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