Southampton defeated Watford in an easy FA Cup replay, setting up a matchup with Liverpool at Anfield thanks to two goals from Sekou Mara.
The French striker, who had been linked to a loan move throughout the transfer window, scored twice in the second half within five minutes following a dull first half.
Che Adams added a third to ensure Saints’ victory in a match when both managers made seven changes, with their top objective being promotion from the Championship.
Saints have advanced to the FA Cup semifinals and second position in the Championship thanks to their club record-breaking 24-game undefeated streak across all competitions.
Due to several adjustments that upset both teams’ rhythm, it appeared as though this match would conclude in a tie, as the previous three games between these two teams had.
Ismael Kone nearly broke the deadlock as Watford launched a rapid counterattack with a five-on-four, but his shot struck the bar after deflecting off a defender’s leg.
Mara, who is aiming to make the French Olympic team next summer, set up Saints’ finest chance of the first forty-five minutes when he found Adams in space, but Daniel Bachmann of Watford blocked the striker’s attempt with his foot.
In the 53rd minute, after Southampton executed a characteristically deft move, Mara took matters into his own hands.
Joe Rothwell, who is now on loan from Bournemouth, found Adams on the edge of the box. His touch around the corner released Mara, who finished the game with a perfect finish in the far corner.
After Saints launched a counterattack, spearheaded by 17-year-old Tyler Dibling from his own half, he improved that finish three minutes later.
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His powerful run dispersed the Watford defence, and after Adams passed the ball to Mara, he unleashed an incredible 20-yard strike that beat Bachmann.
Following his two assists, Adams secured the trip to Anfield with his own goal of the year, racing to the near post to meet a whipped free kick by Rothwell and putting the ball into the Watford goal.
Southampton manager Russell Martin said;
“We have a lot of games left before (the trip to Anfield), so it won’t be our main focus for a while, but I’m happy for the boys because they deserve the chance after putting on a really strong second half performance.
“Going there and playing like the team we want to be will be our biggest challenge. Nothing will change on our end. It’s an incredible task.
“The first half wasn’t fun for me; I think it was because I’ve been with them for a while. They’ve been excellent, so I won’t apologize, but we didn’t play with the same energy and ferocity, which wasn’t like us.
“They were incredible in the second half, and everything we asked of them had nothing to do with technique or strategy—it was all mentality.