SOUTHAMPTON — Six years ago this week Southampton were in England’s third-tier beating Dagenham & Redbridge
How far they’ve come.
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On Thursday they beat Inter Milan (who were UEFA Champions League winners six years ago) 2-1 at St Mary’s in the Europa League to significantly boost their chances of reaching the knockout stages of the competition and secure one of the greatest victories in club history.
After falling behind to Mauro Icardi’s first half strike Claude Puel‘s much-changed side had a penalty kick saved by the superb Samir Handanovic right on half time but they came surging back in the second half, scoring twice in just over four minutes through Virgil Van Dijk and an own goal from Yuto Nagatomo. Saints never looked back after going ahead.
The win leaves Southampton second in Group K on seven points, two points behind leaders Sparta Prague who they face in two weeks in the Czech Republic. Managerless Inter has now lost three of its four Europa League games and sit bottom of the group on three points.
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Saints started brightly with Dusan Tadic cutting in from the right and floating a cross to the back post which Jay Rodriguez headed wide. At the other end Icardi and Ever Banega combined and the latter tried to wriggled past Maya Yoshida‘s tackle but went down claiming a penalty kick. Nothing from the ref.
Rodriguez cut inside and curled an effort just over the bar as Saints tried to settle into their rhythm as the first half wore on but Inter were quite content to sit back, soak up pressure and try and hit the home side on the counter.
In the 33rd minute that’s how Inter went ahead as the usually dependable Van Dijk was caught out of position and Saints failed to clear Antonio Candreva’s cross which fell to Icardi to sweep home. 1-0 to Inter.
Right on half time Saints squandered a glorious chance to equalize. A run into the box by Pierre Hojbjerg saw Ivan Perisic handle and a enalty kick was awarded by referee Pawel Gil. Tadic stepped up but his spot kick down the middle was kept out by Handanovic’s legs with a tremendous save. Inter were let off the hook.
At the start of the second half Saints came flying out of the traps and James Ward-Prowse had a volley from the edge of the box well saved by Handanovic. Moments later Ward-Prowse’s had another powerful effort saved superbly by Handanovic as the Slovenian goalkeeper continued to be the standout player.
Saints continued to knock on the door. First Hojbjerg surged through but his shot was brilliantly blocked and then from the resulting corner Van Dijk had his header brilliantly tipped over by Handanovic. From the next corner Saints were level as the Romeu’s lob came back off the bar and Van Dijk tapped home. 1-1. Game on.
The home side went ahead soon after as a cross from Dusan Tadic on the left took one deflection to the back post and then bounced of the unsuspecting Yuto Nagatomo and in. 2-1. St Mary’s was bouncing.
Southampton continued to push forward to try and kill the game off with Redmond just missing a flicked header at the near post.
Inter had a half chance when Icardi latched onto a loose ball from Romeu but the Argentina striker saw his shot smothered by Fraser Forster and Saints cleared. Substitute Eder chipped an effort to the back post which just evaded his teammates and then on the break Redmond lashed a shot just wide of the far post as the game opened up late on.
Saints held on for a famous win as St Mary’s erupted at the final whistle on a memorable night.