Europa League Be’er Sheva Home Drew 1 – 1
By placing Southampton in pot 3 for the Europa League draw, UEFA at least didn’t expect them to qualify from Group K, but Inter’s poor form upset all the seedings – as we all know, Saints had a great chance to go through by keeping a home clean sheet against Hapoel Be’er Sheva, the only side that could catch them. Of course a win of any sorts would have sufficed, as well and this was surely the way they planned the evening, but with a touch of common sense caution. That balance isn’t easy to achieve, and the cautious approach was winning out as Hapoel made a spirited start that produced a chance wasted by Buzaglo. With hindsight it might have been better for us had the visitors taken an early (or at least earlier) lead, but Saints did establish a better level of control before half time, even if the only memorable moment was a shot by Redmond beaten away by Goresh. A corner resulted from the move, but that was bad news as Austin fell heavily and had to be replaced – Austin seems to be the only player allowed to score these days and substitute Long has yet to open his season’s account. Sims started the game but even more so than the luckless Hesketh in Israel, he looked out of his depth and was replaced by Tadić whose broken nose was being protected by a mask. The change had some immediate effect but it was all too one-paced from Saints, although at this stage the clock was on their side. With it approaching 80 minutes and fans readying themselves for the visitors to throw the kitchen sink at Forster’s goal in the closing stages the hitherto exemplary Romeu gave the ball to them on the edge of the box; even then the goal seemed well protected but Hapoel swiftly switched play to Buzaglo on the right and this time his finish was impressive. It took a while for Saints to resort to the direct approach but by the time we entered added time, Yoshida and Van Dijk were operating up front – and with some better effect than what had gone before. Yoshida had had a chance with a header before Van Dijk‘s luck in front of goal finally changed with a deflected shot that found the net with around 120 seconds playing time left. That was almost enough, but Yoshida’s header from Ward-Prowse’s cross went agonisingly wide… and with it, hopes of a place in the last 32 went west (or rather east, to Prague and Be’er Sheva).
LSSC Man of the Match: Maya Yoshida. It may be that a commitment to the Japanese defender is what has denied Fonte a Euro start, to the captain’s obvious disgust. I suspect it’s not a happy dressing room at the moment, and this defeat, and the manner of it, will have fuelled any discontent.