Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes described teammate Nick Pope as “the best goalkeeper in the world” after his role in helping the team secure a 1-0 win at Southampton in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
Joelinton's 73rd-minute finish earned Newcastle the advantage at St Mary's Stadium ahead of next Tuesday's reverse fixture at St James' Park, after the Brazilian had earlier missed a sitter to put his side in front.
The Magpies created the better chances, but the visitors will also be grateful to Pope, who made two crucial saves on Southampton forward Che Adams when the score was still goalless. It was Pope's 10th successive clean sheet in all competitions.
“I want to thank Nick Pope, I think he's the best goalkeeper in the world,” said Brazilian midfielder Guimaraes, who added that Newcastle must now refocus for the second leg.
“We controlled the game but we missed big chances. It's just the first game now we need to think about the next one. I'm proud of the team today.
“One goal is important, we could score more but most important was to be one-goal in front of Southampton. Let's keep it going.”
Newcastle manager Eddie Howe echoed Guimaraes' praise for former Burnley stopper Pope, telling Sky Sports: “We defended well, Nick made some big saves again.
“The two saves he made were big moments. Adams' one-on-one was at a huge time in the game when they were growing into it and the crowd were getting up but Nick stepped up and kept us in it.
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“He's been outstanding for us this year, the defence has played very well in front of him but when called upon he's delivered for us.”
Howe was also keen to stress to his players that the tie is far from over as Newcastle aim to take a step closer to their first major domestic trophy since winning the FA Cup in 1955.
“Tough game, both sides had their moments and had chances to win the game, but we know it's only half time and there's a long way to go,” he said. “Pleased to win, that was our aim but we know 1-0 is delicate — nothing is decided. We go back to St James' with our fans behind us.”
Despite the defeat, Southampton manager Nathan Jones said he was “proud” of his players and believes that whatever the outcome of the tie, the team can carry their performance forward to help drag them out of relegation danger. Southampton are currently bottom of the Premier League table, two points from safety.
“I am really proud of the level of performance,” Jones said. “They are a top side; big, physical and athletic. They have had time to recruit and they are a real tough side to play against.
“I thought we were excellent. They had a couple of big chances and we had a couple of big chances. For us to compete and be like we were, it shows we have come a long way and in the second half we went after the game. We really stepped it up.
“We just lacked a little bit of quality in terms of wide areas, once we get that confidence and get one or two in we will be a different threat.”