Hapoel Be’er Sheva Away Europa League drew 0 – 0
In the Europa League you don’t have to play in Europe and Saints’ first away trip of the campaign was to far-off Israel. By no means everybody’s ideal choice, but plenty of opportunities for the intrepid to make the most of the occasion. For the senior citizens party, after a swim or two in the Med, being Tango’d in Jaffa, wooed by the ‘wow’ factor (and accompanying ‘why’ factor) of the holiest sights of the Holy City and then a train to the desert, we eventually arrived in Be’er Shiva. Again not a great venue – cosmopolitan Tel Aviv or ancient Jerusalem it ain’t: the Milton Keynes of the Negev maybe? Hapoel Be’er Shiva boast an impressive home record, but it has never been tested by Premier League standard opponents before, even if manager Puel thought it best to leave players of the calibre of Bertrand, Fonte, Davis and Austin back in the UK. That still looked a safe decision when Van Dijk got on the end of an early free kick, but his wayward header was to be Saints’ best effort of the night. Hesketh got a start as a late replacement for Tadić, and the introduction of the Serb off the bench after just half an hour gave visiting fans hope of a more fruitful second half. It was not to be, though, with a succession of crosses failing through lack of alertness on the pitch or lack of adventurous tactics off it. Hapoel forced their only save of note in the entire 90 minutes (Ward-Prowse drew another at the other end) and they also sent a presentable opportunity past Forster’s post, but this was a forgettable draw as part of an unforgettable away trip. Shalom!
LSSC Man of the Match: Virgil Van Dijk. Never under any pressure himself and always available to ‘rescue’ colleagues. Shame about the missed goal, though.