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A toothless Southampton are forced to pay the price

Southampton 1 Hapoel Be'er Sheva 1

By Nick Purewall

Toothless Southampton bungled the chance for their best continental run since 1977 after Israeli minnows Hapoel Be'er Sheva forced a 1-1 Europa League draw at St Mary's. The limp hosts only needed a goalless draw to progress to the last 32 of Europe's second-tier competition, but Oriol Romeu's mistake let Hapoel progress instead.

Forward Maor Buzaglo angled home the vital goal that guided Hapoel to the knockout stages in their very first Europa League campaign.

Virgil van Dijk scrambled Saints an equaliser in added time - but Hapoel claimed second place in Group K, owing to the away goal that secured a superior head-to-head with Saints.

Southampton paid the price for botching a host of half-chances, crashing out of the competition to a team with an annual estimated wage bill of just £10million.

Hapoel landed Israel's league title for the first time in 40 years last season, and carried their own fairytale story to another level on England's south coast.

Just when Saints expected to close out the tie and progress to the next round, disaster struck.

Romeu gifted Yuval Shabtai the ball on the edge of Saints' area and the Hapoel replacement provided the pivotal assist with his first touch of the ball.

Buzaglo steadied himself on the edge of the area and drove his low shot past Fraser Forster's despairing grasp.

The hosts finally rallied, with Van Dijk prodding home a scrambled equaliser in added time. Maya Yoshida even had time to waste another glorious chance, heading wide from James Ward-Prowe's teasing delivery.

Even so, and despite the last-gasp rally, Saints still exited Europe with little more than a whimper.

Belfast Telegraph


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