SAINTS saw their Carabao Cup run end with a penalty shootout defeat in the round of 16 at Stamford Bridge, following an entertaining 1-1 draw.

Che Adams equalised right after half-time as Kai Havertz had headed the home side into the lead on the stroke of the break. But returning Will Smallbone and Theo Walcott missed penalties meant Chelsea progressed 4-3 despite a Forster stop.

Saints travelled to Stamford Bridge for the second time in October, with the Premier League meeting producing a few headlines of its own. A red card via a VAR recommendation ended James Ward-Prowse’s exceptional run of 102 games in the league.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s comments on Mike Dean, the VAR official, after the game landed him in hot water with the FA and he accepted a Rule E3 charge and a £20,000 fine, as well as suffering a 3-1 defeat on the day.

And the manger rung the changes this time around, with no fewer than nine changes to the starting XI that faced Burnley on the weekend. Only Mohammed Salisu and Ibrahima Diallo kept their place from the 2-2 draw.

Adam Armstrong and Adams – what was thought to be the starting pair going forward at the beginning of the season – came in with Armando Broja ineligible to face his parent side, while Lyanco made his second appearance in Saints colours after a difficult time at Sheffield United.

Some positive news saw Will Smallbone was named on the bench for a first appearance in a Saints squad since his ACL injury in January.

A surprise five-at-the-back with Yan Valery in central-defence came under immediate pressure and Fraser Forster was required for a strong save to deny a Saul headed opener within the first five minutes, before Havertz went close with a swinging effort that nearly shaved the outside post.

Saints’ best opportunity of the half came through Stuart Armstrong, when his deflected effort from inside the area was stopped by a scrambling Kepa after Kyle Walker-Peters was bundled over around the penalty box with nothing awarded.

Ibrahima Diallo, who was booked for preventing a Blues counter-attack from developing earlier in the half, was given a stern talking to by referee Kevin Friend for an incensed reaction to a Chelsea foul and had to watch his step.

But it was Havertz who provided the nightmare end to a first period where Saints’ defence had actually battled hard and well to shut out the hosts, heading home a Hakim Ziyech corner right on the stroke of half-time – it seemed like only he and Trevoh Chalobah were up challenging for it.

That was undone immediately in the second period when Kepa could only see Walker-Peters’ powerful strike squirm under him for Adams to power home from point-blank range and draw Saints level.

The goal saw the game kick into life with chances for A. Armstrong and saves from Forster at the other end keeping the atmosphere electric.

But as quick as the spark had lit, it fizzled out. Hasenhuttl turned to Shane Long and Theo Walcott from the bench with 25 minutes to play while his Chelsea counterpart Thomas Tuchel introduced Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell to the fray.

Saints survived two long-shots from Saul that just evaded the post and then required saving by Forster, before Smallbone made a long awaited return to first-team action with 15 to go.

As tension built towards a shootout, Kepa denied Saints last-gasp winners from Lyanco and Salisu headers in injury time – but no breakthrough was found.

The hosts were victorious in the shootout after Walcott was denied and Smallbone skied his effort – although the youngster was superb on his reintroduction – meaning Forster’s denial of Mount wasn’t enough.

Saints: Forster; Walker-Peters, Valery, Lyanco, Salisu, Djenepo (Livramento 82’); Diallo (Romeu 76’), S. Armstrong (C) (Smallbone 76’); Tella (Walcott 66’), Adams (Long 66’), A. Armstrong

Unused subs: Bednarek, Perraud, Redmond, Lewis (g/k)

Booked: Diallo, Forster

Chelsea: Kepa; James, Chalobah, Sarr, Hudson-Odoi, Barkley (Mount 66’), Kovacic, Saul, Alonso, Ziyech (Chilwell 66’), Havertz

Unused subs: Bettinelli, Sharman-Lowe, Rudiger, Silva, Jorginho, Vale

Booked: N/A

Referee: Kevin Friend