Southampton 2 Imps 1

City bowed out of the Carabao Cup despite a battling performance against Premier League Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.

The Imps started positively and won an early corner after Max Sanders’ free-kick from midway inside Southampton’s was headed behind. 

Sanders took the set-piece which caused issues for the hosts as Ainsley Maitland-Niles could only slice the ball up into the air leaving Paudie O’Connor to rise above Gavin Bazunu to head home from close range.

City had a chance to double their lead in the sixth minute after Armel Bella-Kotchap lost the ball inside his half which allowed Danny Mandroiu to drive at goal and see his low drive deflected just wide of the post.

Southampton almost levelled in the 17th minute when Mohamed Elyounoussi reacted first to Adam Jackson’s defensive header towards the edge of the box, which he dragged just past the post.

The Saints grew into the first half and created another opening as Adam Armstrong found space in behind City’s backline before cutting it back for Che Adams who was denied by a smart stop from Carl Rushworth.

The pressure paid off as Southampton equalised in the 25th minute through some neat build up play which saw Elyounoussi deliver a delicately lofted ball over to Che Adams who nodded it past the City keeper.

The Imps could have retaken the lead following a good counter as Matty Virtue picked the ball up from Ben House on the right before cutting it back to Charles Vernam just inside the box whose sweeping effort was comfortably saved by Bazunu.

Straight after the break Lyanco had Rushworth worried when his ambitious half-volley from 25 yards out dipped narrowly high and wide of the top right corner.

Elyounoussi almost took full advantage of a misplaced pass from Rushworth in the 52nd minute but Virtue closed him down quickly which allowed the forward to only bend a shot into the goalie’s grasp.

City enjoyed slightly larger spells of the ball at the beginning of the second period and Vernam looked to make it count when he picked up the ball from just inside the Saints’ half before beating a few defenders and curling a left-footed shot past the top left corner.

The Saints regained control at the midpoint of the second half. Some more clever build up play saw Maitland-Niles cross in from the right towards Elyounoussi who rose above O’Connor to send his header over the crossbar.

Minutes later Southampton had another good chance to go ahead for the first time as substitute Adam Armstrong found a yard of space on the edge of the box to let fly just over the bar.

Nathan Jones’ side eventually took the lead in the 74th minute after Walcott’s dinked cross fell to Elyounoussi whose acrobatic effort was cleared off the line into the path of Adams who made no mistake from two-yards out.

Sanders forced a diving save from Bazunu with minutes remaining after he rifled an effort from distance, but City failed to get to the rebound first.

The home side were unable to extend their lead in stoppage time, with Rushworth pulling off a late save to deny Adams shortly after Samuel Edozie had sent an effort wide for the Saints from close range.

Southampton: Gavin Bazunu, Kyle Walker-Peters (Samuel Edozie 63’), Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Lyanco, James Ward-Prowse ©, Adam Armstrong (Theo Walcott 62’ (Moussa Djenepo 76’)), Che Adams, Mohammed Salisu (Stuart Armstrong 63’), Romain Perraud, Mohammed Elyounoussi, Armel Bella-Kotchap (Duje Caleta-Car 46’). Subs (not used): Alex McCarthy, Joe Aribo, Sekou Mara, Ibrahima Diallo.

Goals: Adams (25’, 74’).

City: Carl Rushworth, Regan Poole ©, Adam Jackson, Max Sanders, Charles Vernam, Paudie O’Connor, Joe Walsh (Jordon Garrick 86’), Ben House (Tom Hopper 71’), Danny Mandroiu (Ted Bishop 76’), Sean Roughan, Matty Virtue. Subs (not used): Jordan Wright, Tashan Oakley-Boothe, Jamie Robson, Lasse Sorensen, TJ Eyoma.

Goals: O’Connor (2’).

Attendance: 17,385 (1,460 away).

Referee: Jarred Gillett.