Europa League Group K
(Virgil Van Dijk)
Hapoel Be’er Sheva 1
St Mary’s Stadium
Illness had hampered any chance of football for the week and having had time off work I couldn’t exactly go swanning around the grounds in my evenings. However a return to work and an already paid for ticket for the Saints game, I managed to pluck up the energy to go to the match, it had been five whole days since my FA Cup trip to Luton after all.
Another game and my 11th ever Europa League fixture, I was hopeful Southampton could do enough to get through, it was playing on my mind that 0-0 was enough for Claude Puel’s men to get through, but no team could surely rely on playing for a goalless draw.
It also brought to an end of the group stage and eventually Southampton’s European adventure, obviously playing for a 0-0 was not the way forward and they paid the price, not scoring in three Group K games prior to the home game versus Hapoel Be’er Sheva also had something to do with it.
So like the rest of the UK, Brexit has now hit Southampton Football Club, however their attempts to re-enter Europe maybe easier for Puel more so than if the government try to organise another vote.
This was my ninth trip to St Mary’s this season alone so flick through my blog to see my comments on the ‘Wembley of Hampshire’.
Saints missed out on the knockout stages of the Europa League following a 1-1 draw with last season’s Israeli Premier League champions Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
Barak Bakhar’s men struck in the 78th minute through Maor Buzaglo, leaving Southampton with a mountain to climb as a score draw wasn’t enough to see them through.
Captain on the night Virgil Van Dijk topped a solid display scoring in injury time but it was too late to mount a comeback, dumping the Premier League side out of Europe.
Saints looked in control for most of the game but taking their time on set pieces and throw ins, it was clear that Puel had set his side up to not concede rather than score more goals than the opposition.
Charlie Austin wasted a great opportunity inside two minutes when Nathan Redmond swung in a free kick but Austin, unmarked, could only send a soft header into the hands of David Goresh.
Saints were fairly comfortable despite Buzaglo firing high over the bar on 19 minutes, a chance which could have caused serious problems for the home side.
Puel was forced into an early substitution when Austin fell awkwardly after a wayward header from a corner on 39 minutes and after receiving attention from the Saints medical team he was replaced by Shane Long just before the break.
Southampton stayed solid and composed the in the second half and their plan seemed to be paying off as the game stayed goalless despite former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar going close but the shot was well blocked by Maya Yoshida.
Shane Long went close to putting the home side ahead on 54 minutes when he nipped in at the near post but could only steer Ryan Bertrand’s cross wide. His last Saints goal came back in May in a 4-2 win over Manchester City.
The hosts continued to create chances and looked in control, but a poor clearance from Oriol Romeu allowed substitute Yuval Shabtay to square the ball to Buzaglo who ploughed a first time low drive into the bottom corner through a crowed area sending the Israeli fans into pandemonium.
It was the visitors first shot on target in the game and they piled men behind the ball to protect the lead that will send them into the last 32 of the competition.
Saints were rushing through the motions and did manage to equalise in stoppage time when Van Dijk pounced on the loose ball in the box before coolly side footing the shot past Goresh after James Ward-Prowse had missed the original header.
It was game on and in the final seconds Ward-Prowse whipped in a cross which was perfect for Yoshida who rose highest but his header went a whisker wide to condemn Saints’ faith on their European adventure.
2016/17 Games: 66
2016/17 Grounds: 48
Total Grounds Visited: 141 (37)