The belatedly awarded goal of Danny Ings helped Southampton on their way into the sixth round of the FA Cup as the side of Ralph Hasenhuttl reacted in the best possible fashion to four consecutive league defeats.
Stuart Armstrong added a late second as Southampton deservedly beat Wolves, who paid the penalty for playing a weakened side. It was Wolves’ first goal attempt in 238 minutes of Molineux action as Fraser Forster’s substitute Adama Traoré fired a shot to save late on as their last hope of glory slipped away this season.
Southampton dominated the start of both halves and could have been more in charge of the game before Danny Ings had the benefit of both VAR and a rebound off goalkeeper John Ruddy. Stuart Armstrong had just sidefooted wide of a gaping target from no more than five yards out, after Ryan Bertrand’s cross, when Ings scored his eighth goal of the season.
Bertrand again was the provider, playing a neat pass through the inside-left channel. Ings displayed good control as he charged through, and although Ruddy parried his first shot well, the rebound hit the striker and bounced over the goal, just as the offside flag went up.
Ruddy was asked to delay taking the free-kick, as VAR was called to adjudicate and Southampton looked almost surprised as they were invited to start cheering. Yet there was nothing else that they deserved for this. For a moment, they didn’t look like a team that had just lost four games in a row since winning this competition in the previous two rounds last month in the space of five days.
Although both managers have changed half of their teams since their last Premier League matches, from the start, Southampton looked much sharper. In the ninth minute, Ings could have given them the lead when he showed an exquisite touch to raise the ball above Leander Dendoncker’s head, having obtained the deftly volleyed pass of James Ward-Prowse, and looking clear to score before Romain Saïss blocked his attempt.
By comparison, Wolves, making six changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Leicester on Sunday, found themselves constantly under pressure as nothing was trapped in front of them. They played out neatly enough, but Fabio Silva, Morgan Gibbs-White, and Vitinha’s callow front three lacked the power or the knowledge to connect the action.
When the attacking changes were made by Nuno Espírito Santo, the Wolves boss, calling for Traore, Willian José, and then Pedro Neto in the middle of the second half, the game was extended and cohesion was missing for Wolves.
Indeed, when the excellent Armstrong weaved his way through midfield before playing a through ball that sent Nathan Redmond off, Southampton should have made the game secure. However, his left-footed shot was well saved by Ruddy after he cut back inside.
The Wolves goalkeeper was at fault, however, when Southampton scored their second goal in the 89th minute. Ruddy attempted to play a return pass to Dendoncker after having a rough ball back but was finally passed to Nathan Tella. The Southampton replacement intelligently pulled a pass out for Armstrong, who aimed a right-footed shot in from the far post.
VAR could have saved Wolves from conceding a third goal in stoppage time when a penalty call for João Moutinho’s foul on Tella was deemed late to be outside the box, but it had already helped Southampton into the quarter-finals.