All goals, Full Match, Full Highlights, Highlights Extended, score and goals: Southampton 1-1 Hapoel Beer Sheva – Highlights & Full Match (Europa League)
Southampton’s European adventure came to an end on a bitterly disappointing night at St Mary’s, as they drew 1-1 with Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
Maor Buzaglo’s late strike ensured that it would be the Israeli side that advanced into the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League, joining Group K winners Sparta Praha in the last 32.
Virgil van Dijk set alive hopes of a dramatic late turnaround with an equaliser in added time, but Saints could not force the second goal they needed at that point.
Puel had named a strong side for the winner-takes-all clash, making just three changes from his last Premier League team, with 19-year-old Josh Sims being handed a European debut.
There was an interesting dynamic to the match, with a clean sheet enough to see Saints through, yet it was they who were the more willing to commit men forward in the early stages, while Be’er Sheva looked to break on the counter.
The hosts carved out an opportunity within the first two minutes, as Nathan Redmond swung in a corner, with Charlie Austin out-jumping his man, but heading straight at keeper David Goresh, who also showed a safe pair of hands when Cédric’s cross flicked off the head of captain Shir Tzedek and diverted goalwards.
When Be’er Sheva did break, they looked a threat, only for their final ball to let them down on occasions.
There was a confidence about the visitors, though, and they did create an excellent chance in the 19th minute, as a neat move ended with the ball falling to Buzaglo in space at the far post, but he fired his angled effort over when he should have done better.
Back at the other end, Redmond went close when he checked onto his right foot 20 yards out in the 36th minute, but his curling effort towards the far corner was palmed away by a diving Goresh.
From the resulting corner, Austin headed just wide at the back post, but Saints’ top scorer landed heavily on his shoulder and was unable to continue, with Shane Long being sent on in his place.
The half ended with a pair of bookings for Be’er Sheva, as John Ogu was cautioned for pulling back Oriol Romeu, before Miguel Vitor was shown a yellow for a late tackle on Long.
There was no breakthrough, though, as the sides went into the interval with the game delicately poised at 0-0.
Ryan Bertrand saw yellow shortly after the restart, for a foul on Buzaglo, before Maya Yoshida blocked well from Ben Sahar, after the ball spun favourably to the Be’er Sheva striker in the area.
Saints came close to the breakthrough in the 52nd minute, as Ryan Bertrand’s deep free-kick was flicked on by Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, into the path of Virgil van Dijk, but Ogu was able to stick a leg out and divert his strike behind.
Puel made his first change shortly before the hour mark, as Dušan Tadić, fitted with a sleek mask to protect the nose he broke on international duty last month, replaced Sims.
Within minutes of his arrival, Tadić cut onto his left foot in the area and sent a shot towards the far corner that took a deflection before being headed away from inside the six-yard box by Ben Bitton.
It looked like the deadlock had been broken in the 68th minute, as van Dijk rose to meet Bertrand’s corner from close range, but his excellent leap could only get him high enough to be able to flick the ball just past the far post.
Saints appeared to be edging closer to a goalless draw that would see them through, but disaster struck in the 79th minute, as the ball broke to Buzaglo on the edge of the area and he fired a low, precise strike into the far bottom corner to put Be’er Sheva in front and send the 1,522 visiting fans wild.
The goal left Saints needing to score twice in the closing stages, and Puel quickly made a change, sending James Ward-Prowse on in place of Højbjerg.
They got one back in the early stages of added time, as the ball fell to van Dijk in the area, and his low shot deflected past Goresh.
Moments later, they came so close to completing an incredible comeback, but Maya Yoshida’s header from Ward-Prowse’s cross just wide of the post.
A few inches the other side, and Saints would have been celebrating the most wonderful of wins, but it was sadly not to be the case.