Post by Football News on Nov 25, 2016 12:34:48 GMT
Europa League : Sparta Prague 1 - 0 Southampton
Southampton on the edge after Costa Nhamoinesu hits Sparta Prague winner
Home team scorers Costa Nhamoinesu 11
Southampton’s hopes of reaching the Europa League’s knockout stages are in the balance after defeat at Sparta Prague. A familiarly ineffective performance means they must at least draw at home to Hapoel Be’er Sheva next month if they are to qualify.
They went to Prague in the knowledge victory against a team they beat 3-0 in their first Group K fixture would likely mean a first-placed finish. Costa Nhamoinesu’s early goal instead proved enough to ensure Sparta will finish top, and Southampton have lost their chance of being seeded.
Claude Puel remained upbeat about their chances of reaching the knockout stages but lamented Saints’ lack of a cutting edge.
“This goal is not a good thing just at the beginning of the game,” Puel told BT Sport. “The first half we had some good chances but weren’t clinical enough and this was a problem for us in this game. In the second half it was difficult.”
The first of those chances came in the third minute when Shane Long and Jordie Clasie combined with one-touch football to put Jay Rodriguez into space in the penalty area. The forward should have followed their lead and shot first time, but he took the heaviest of touches and as in last month’s 1-0 defeat at Internazionale wasted a fine opportunity.
Eight minutes later Sparta took the lead. From a routine free-kick Borek Dockal crossed towards Nhamoinesu who, after a well-timed run, sent a side-foot finish beyond Fraser Forster.
Southampton’s dominance of possession led to little and they could have gone further behind during a shaky spell in the second half. The impressive Dockal’s 58th-minute free-kick eluded everyone before forcing Forster into a reaction save, before a mix-up between the usually reliable Virgil van Dijk and Maya Yoshida presented Dockal with another shooting opportunity that the diving Forster palmed away.
Puel brought on Charlie Austin in the 72nd minute but it was too late for Southampton’s top scorer to have much of an impact.
“We have our future in our hands,” Puel said. “The last game is the final of the group. It’s in front of our fans and this is very important.”