Saints comeback stuns Inter

By Gordon Simpson Thu 03 Nov Saints vs Inter
Thu 03 Nov 8.05PM
UEFA Europa League
van Dijk [64'] Nagatomo (og) [69']
Icardi [33']
Ward-Prowse (90')
Candreva (45+3') Medel (52') Miranda (90')
Referee: Pawel Gil | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 30,389

This was the sort of night Southampton fans could once only have dreamed of – an evening so special that it will be cherished by all those fortunate enough to be there, and also by those who watched from afar.

As the final whistle approached, a deafening chorus of ‘Oh when the Saints go marching in’ rang round St Mary’s, as the home supporters began to come to terms with the fact that they were watching their side vanquish Internazionale, a true giant of the European game, 2-1.

That it took an electrifying second-half comeback to achieve the treasured result only made it all the more special.

For more than an hour, it had looked as if this night, which began with such a sense of anticipation, would end simply in bitter frustration.

But Mauro Icardi’s first-half goal was rendered completely null and void in a wonderful five-minute spell, as Virgil van Dijk and a Yuto Nagatomo own-goal gave Saints a famous result that puts them in a fantastic position to qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Europa League.

St Mary’s, no doubt like the eyes of many of Southampton’s supporters, was sparkling ahead of kick-off.

Inter might not be the continental powerhouse they once were, but the sight of such a storied European club arriving at the stadium for a competitive fixture was still a magical one.

There may have been more important games played at St Mary’s in its 15-year history, but it is doubtful there have been any as prestigious. And it is doubtful any result here has ever been so famous.

Claude Puel made five changes from Sunday’s 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea, bringing in Maya Yoshida, Sam McQueen, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, James Ward-Prowse and Jay Rodriguez.

Out went José Fonte, Ryan Bertrand, Jordy Clasie, Steven Davis and Charlie Austin, who all dropped to the bench.

The line-up saw only one alteration from the side that lost 1-0 in San Siro two weeks previously, with Nathan Redmond in for the injured Shane Long.

There was a tremendous atmosphere inside St Mary’s as the match got under way, and the energy in the crowd was shared on the pitch, as the hosts started positively.

Indeed, they carved out a chance inside the opening minute, as Dušan Tadić teased a cross in from the right, with Rodriguez outjumping Andrea Ranocchia at the back post, only to head wide.

Virgil van Dijk makes an early claim for a penalty

While the initial signs were bright, there was also an early warning of the threat Inter posed on the counter, as they robbed Saints of the ball deep in their own half, before Icardi slipped in Éver Banega. He quickly danced past the back-tracking Oriol Romeu, before going down under Yoshida’s challenge, but referee Pawel Gil waved away the visitors’ penalty claims, to the relief of the home crowd.

After van Dijk claimed he was hauled down while attempting to get on the end of a Ward-Prowse corner, Saints then took firm aim at the visitors’ goal.

Rodriguez curled a shot over from the edge of the area in the tenth minute, before having a low strike from a similar position saved by Inter keeper Samir Handanovič shortly afterwards.

In the 14th minute, Redmond cut into space in the area, only to fire his right-footed shot wide of the far post.

Southampton were well in control of the game, but Inter continued to look dangerous on the occasions they were able to break, and they struck gold in the 33rd minute, as a neat move freed Antonio Candreva down the right.

His ball from the byline caused a scramble at the back post, with Cuco Martina blocking Ivan Perišić’s shot on the line, but Icardi reacted quickest to the rebound and turned to fire in at the near post.

Saints pressed again, though, and were given a golden chance to level in added time, as Højbjerg barreled into the area with the ball, which flicked off the elbow of Perišić, leading Gil to award a spot kick.

A lengthy delay followed, as Candreva raised an arm into the face of Sam McQueen, sparking a heated exchange between several players, and the Inter star was very fortunate to escape only with a yellow card for the offence.

Eventually, Tadić was given the all-clear to take the spot kick, but his effort, which was hit slightly right of centre, was kept out by Handanovič, in what proved to be the last action of the half.

Dušan Tadić sees his first half penalty saved

The miss at least did not appear to affect Saints after the interval, as Ward-Prowse twice went close in the opening minutes with fierce efforts from just outside the area, the second of which was arrowing for the top corner, only to be kept out by a stunning Handanovič save.

Seeking the breakthrough, Puel made his first change of the night shortly before the hour mark, as top scorer Austin replaced Rodriguez.

Within five minutes, Saints were indeed level, but, rather than Austin, it was van Dijk who sent St Mary’s wild.

The Dutchman had already twice threatened from Tadić corners in the second half, first being manhandled to the ground again, before Handanovič superbly tipped over his close-range header.

But the Inter keeper, who was the scourge of Saints at San Siro a fortnight earlier, could do nothing to deny him in the 64th minute from another Tadić delivery.

Van Dijk celebrates his equaliser

Redmond kept the ball alive in the area, after it was initially cleared. Romeu then looped a shot goalwards, which drifted over Handanovič and hit the bar, before falling kindly for van Dijk to smash home.

Five minutes later, it got even better for Saints, as Tadić sent in a dangerous low ball from the left that took a deflection off one Inter defender, before hitting the unfortunate Nagatomo at the back post, with the ball looping off the defender and drifting past a helpless Handanovič to put the hosts 2-1 up and complete a remarkable turnaround.

Puel would soon replace Tadić with Steven Davis, while Fraser Forster had to make a good low stop to deny Icardi’s well-struck effort from distance.

Redmond nearly put the match beyond doubt with ten minutes left, but he fired a yard or two wide after cutting onto his right foot 18 yards out.

It didn’t matter, though, as Saints comfortably held on to secure the most wonderful of results.

What a night!


Head to Head Stats

  • Possession (%)
  • Shots
  • Shots on target
  • Corners
  • Passes Complete


Fraser Forster (GK)
Cuco Martina
Maya Yoshida
Virgil van Dijk (C)
Sam McQueen
Oriol Romeu
James Ward-Prowse
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
Dusan Tadic
Steven Davis (77′)
Nathan Redmond
Jay Rodriguez
Charlie Austin (59′)
Charlie Austin
Jordy Clasie
Sofiane Boufal
Steven Davis
Harry Lewis
José Fonte
Ryan Bertrand


Samir Handanovic (GK)
Yuto Nagatomo
Andrea Ranocchia
Danilo D'Ambrosio
Gary Medel
Éder (74′)
Assane Demoya Gnoukouri
Felipe Melo (82′)
Ivan Perisic
Antonio Candreva
Jonathan Biabiany (89′)
Éver Banega
Mauro Icardi (C)
Cristian Ansaldi
Davide Santon
Jeison Murillo
Felipe Melo
Jonathan Biabiany
Juan Pablo Carrizo
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