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Southampton miss chance to secure last-32 spot

Sparta Prague v Southampton

Southampton have scored in only one of their last nine games on the road in Europe

Southampton’s Europa League fate will go down to the final group game after losing away to Sparta Prague.

Costa Nhamoinesu’s early close range volley from a tight angle after Borek Dockal’s free-kick sealed a deserved win for the hosts.

Southampton, who made seven changes to the side that started the goalless draw with Liverpool last weekend, were lacklustre throughout and it required two fine saves from Fraser Forster to deny Dockal.

Saints skipper Virgil van Dijk headed a great chance to equalise over the bar in the closing stages as group leaders Sparta advanced to the last 32 with one game to spare.

Southampton will join Sparta if they manage a goalless draw or a win against Hapoel Be’er Sheva in their final group game at St Mary’s Stadium on 8 December.

  • Relive the action from Prague plus reaction

Saints pay the price for toothless display

Southampton have not scored a goal in any of their three away games in the group and rarely looked like doing so in the Czech Republic.

Despite the changes, Saints manager Claude Puel named an attacking line up with Jay Rodriguez, Nathan Redmond and Shane Long all starting.

Though their presence provided plenty of pace, there was little cutting edge and the Premier League club’s build-up play was too slow.

Southampton enjoyed 71% possession – their highest figure in a game in any competition this season – and had 12 attempts on goal but had nothing to show for it.

There will also be questions asked after defender Costa scored Sparta’s winner unchallenged.

It came after a well worked set-piece but Saints players Cuco Martina and Jordy Clasie both failed to react when the ball was delivered into the area.

What Southampton need to advance

Southampton’s final group game is against Israeli side Hapoel Be’er-Sheva, who came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Inter Milan, a result which sends the three-time European champions out.

The Saints and Hapoel are tied on seven points.

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Head-to-head is used to decide which side advances when teams are on the same number of points.

Southampton managed a goalless draw when the teams met in Israel on 29 September so goal difference will be used if there is a repeat of that result in two weeks.

Puel’s side have a superior goal difference over Hapoel so will advance if it ends 0-0.

However, if Hapoel manage a score draw at St Mary’s then they will progress due to the fact they managed to score against their opponents.

A win for either side will take them through.

What’s next?

Southampton entertain former boss Ronald Koeman and his Everton team at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday (16:30 GMT).

Live Text

Match ends, Sparta Prague 1, Southampton 0.

Second Half ends, Sparta Prague 1, Southampton 0.

Foul by Shane Long (Southampton).

Michal Kadlec (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Attempt blocked. Charlie Austin (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Shane Long with a headed pass.

Sam McQueen (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Filip Havelka (Sparta Prague).

Foul by Cuco Martina (Southampton).

Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Substitution, Sparta Prague. Daniel Köstl replaces Lukas Julis.

Offside, Southampton. James Ward-Prowse tries a through ball, but Maya Yoshida is caught offside.

Charlie Austin (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Filip Havelka (Sparta Prague).

Substitution, Sparta Prague. Vaclav Dudl replaces Daniel Holzer.

Foul by Sofiane Boufal (Southampton).

Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution, Sparta Prague. Filip Havelka replaces David Lafata.

James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by David Lafata (Sparta Prague).

Foul by Maya Yoshida (Southampton).

David Lafata (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Shane Long (Southampton).

Michal Kadlec (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Cuco Martina (Southampton).

Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Offside, Southampton. Maya Yoshida tries a through ball, but Charlie Austin is caught offside.

Attempt missed. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton) header from the right side of the six yard box is too high. Assisted by James Ward-Prowse with a cross following a corner.

Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Ondrej Mazuch.

Attempt missed. Shane Long (Southampton) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Virgil van Dijk.

Hand ball by Charlie Austin (Southampton).

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Delay in match Tomas Koubek (Sparta Prague) because of an injury.

Foul by Shane Long (Southampton).

Tomas Koubek (Sparta Prague) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Shane Long (Southampton) wins a free kick on the left wing.

Foul by Ondrej Mazuch (Sparta Prague).

Substitution, Southampton. Charlie Austin replaces Jordy Clasie.

Corner, Southampton. Conceded by Mario Holek.

Shane Long (Southampton) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Borek Dockal (Sparta Prague).

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/38071203