Southampton vs Inter Milan
Europa League Group Stage
Under the lights at a rocking St.Mary’s stadium was where I found myself for the visit of the infamous powerhouses known as Inter Milan who had just sacked their manager Frank De Boer after an awful run of results.
A slight breeze blowing was halted by the 30,000 strong Saints fans who packed the terraces to see the biggest game of the group so far. However the Italian giants had only won a single game in the group which came in the reverse leg at the San Siro where they held on to a lucky 1-0 win.
Anything but a win for Inter would all but end their chances of progression whilst the Saints knew a much needed three points would push them inches from qualification.
As the teams emerged to a deafening roar of “come on you reds” from the stands we stood up with our match day flags and waved them furiously in support until Jev decided to break Alex’s flag. He was distraught to say the least.
I was disappointed to see that Charlie Austin was sitting on the bench after his amazing run of form but knew that Nathan Redmond would work his socks off up top in a Southampton team I thought was more than capable of getting the job done.
Inter had finally put together their strongest team in the Europa League competition which they appeared not to be taking seriously after defeats to both Sparta Prague and Hapoel Beer Sheva. Captain Mauro Icardi led the line with other class players in the forms of Ivan Perisic and Miranda also in the side.
The first half was relatively cagey with neither side creating too many clear cut chances but like Randy Orton’s RKO from out of know where Inter found themselves in-front after Mauro Icardi scored their first shot on target. St.Mary’s fell into stunned silence whilst the Milan ultra’s came to life in their corner of the ground.
One thing that you can always say about a Southampton side though is they will never give up and just before half time the ground erupted like a volcano that had laid dormant for centuries when the Polish referee Pawel Gil pointed to the penalty spot.
From where I was sitting I couldn’t see what it had been given for but later found out that Ivan Perisic had handled the ball. The drama wasn’t over there though. The Inter Milan players were fuming about the award and the referee lost all control of the game as scuffles broke out between the sides. The atmosphere around the ground had turned from joy to pure anger as Antonio Candreva struck Sam McQueen in the face but bottled it by only showing a yellow.
Dusan Tadic, with his name ringing around the stadium, was waiting to take the penalty for an eternity as the Inter players refused to give up on their protest. My heart was racing as Tadic ran up to the ball everyone in the ground was dead silent. He struck the ball and …… BLOODY MISSED. That was Handanovic’s seventh penalty save out of 16 meaning he has a 43.8% penalty save ratio for Inter. Not shabby.
The whilst went for half time and the boo’s come raining down from us to the referee who had totally lost his authority on the game and was allowed to be bullied by the Inter players. How Candreva stayed on the pitch know one knew as arguments continued between Nathan Redmond and some Inter players down the tunnel.
At half time me and the boys agreed that Saints had shown enough quality to be able to turn this one around as we checked our bets with the painfully slow 4G capabilities that every football ground in the country seems to have. We also found out from Dom’s Dad who was watching at home that it should never have been a penalty. I guess justice was served then.
The second half got underway and a pair of “die hard” shall we say Saints fans were getting restless next to us at the fact little was being created however they’re mood was about to change very quickly.
Corner after corner was being swung in by the Saints and a few penalty appeals were waved away by the referee who had a poor night in my opinion as Virgil Van Dijk was bundled to the ground on numerous occasions.
But you cant keep a good man down for long. The Dutch man finally got on the end of a brilliant delivery from James Ward-Prowse to slot home right in-front of us. The stand erupted and the chants were back in full voice. The wind was well and truly in the Saints sails.
After five minutes of constant support from the stands it was rewarded thanks to a little help from Inter Milan’s left back Yuto Nagatomo who put the ball into his own net to give our boys a 2-1 lead. My voice was now unusable after cheering my lungs out. The turn around had been completed.
Inter threw very little back at the Saints in the final 20 minutes as they held on comfortably in the end to a much deserved victory. At the final whistle my voice was physically unable to cheer but I tried my best as the Saints players gave us an applause for our twelfth man support in the terraces.
Inter Milan’s chances of getting out of the group are in tatters. Saints on the other hand are marching onward and upwards as they will look to secure escape from the group with either a victory in Praque or a home success against Hapoel in which I will be cheering them on.
Come on you Saints a fantastic night topped off with a special win.