The Saints made to walk on tight rope in Europa qualifying round.

rodriguez

Southampton might have themselves to blame in their European competition quest.

The Saints squandered several glaring opportunities as they were held 1-1 at home by FC Midtjylland in their Europa League third qualifying round first leg at St Mary’s.

In a calm first half, debutant Oriol Romeu came closest for the hosts from range before former Saints academy player Tim Sparv broke the deadlock on the stroke of half time.

Steven Caulker had a goal contentiously disallowed before Jay Rodriguez equalised from the penalty spot with his first goal in nearly 17 months.

Caulker and Maya Yoshida were both denied by miraculous saves as the Danish side held on to gain the advantage ahead of next week’s return leg.

Ronald Koeman handed full debuts to Romeu and Caulker after a resounding 3-0 defeat to Everton at the weekend, and the former fired narrowly over in a first half of few chances.

Martin Stekelenburg in the Saints’ goal then reacted well to palm away after some head tennis in the penalty area, before Sparv, who was in the same youth side as Gareth Bale and Theo Walcott, struck a brilliant sucker punch from 20 yards as the visitors went ahead with the last kick of the first half.

After the break, Caulker thought he’d equalised only to be penalised for supposedly fouling his marker, before Saints were handed a lifeline after James Ward-Prowse was felled in the box.

Rodriguez, who hadn’t scored since he netted a brace against Newcastle the game before he ruptured knee ligaments in March 2014, confidently sent the Midtjylland goalkeeper Johan Dahlin the wrong way from the subsequent spotkick.

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Dahlin may have been well beaten by the penalty, but he was equal to everything else thrown at him as Saints pushed for a winner, including two sublime reaction saves from Caulker and then Yoshida at the death to keep the scoreline intact at 1-1.

The Saints have a chance of redeeming their hope in a week time in far away Denmark,  a task which surely seem huge for Ronald Koeman’s squad to execute.

 

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