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Saints still alive despite Sparta's triumph

Sparta Prague 1 Southampton 0

By Declan Warrington

Published 25/11/2016

Long stretch: Maya Yoshida challenges David Lafata
Long stretch: Maya Yoshida challenges David Lafata

Claude Puel has told his Southampton players to stay positive after their 1-0 Europa League defeat at Sparta Prague.

Costa Nhamoinesu's early goal was enough to book Sparta's place in the last 32 as group winners but Saints now face a winner-takes-all clash with Hapoel Be'er Sheva at St Mary's in a fortnight.

Hapoel moved level on points with Puel's men after coming from two goals down to beat Inter Milan, who can no longer qualify for the knock-out stages.

A goalless draw against the Israeli side would be enough to send Southampton through and Puel quickly turned his attention to that game.

"This goal is not a good thing just at the beginning of the game," Puel said.

"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.

"It's frustrating of course but nothing is finished. We have to keep the idea clear because we have our future in our hands.

"The last game is the final of the group. It's at home in front of our fans and this is very important."

He continued: "The pitch was difficult to play on and find a solution.

"Now it's important to recover after this game on this difficult pitch and think of Everton (on Sunday)."

Saints threatened in only the third minute when Shane Long and Jordie Clasie combined with some one-touch football to put Jay Rodriguez into space in the penalty area.

Yet when the forward should have shot first time, he took the heaviest of touches and wasted a fine early chance.

And just eight minutes later the hosts grabbed the winner, Borek Dockal crossing towards Costa, who sent a side-footed finish beyond Fraser Forster.

Belfast Telegraph

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