27/08/2015: FC Midtjylland 1-0 Saints
Saints were dumped out of the Europa League, having performed dismally in the second-leg against FC Midtylland. Ronald Koeman's men never really looked like getting back into the game after going behind, playing poorly throughout.
Saints attempted to start the game with a quick tempo. Jose Fonte had a header cleared off the line on 4 from a James Ward-Prowse corner. Saints created a few more half-chances during the opening 15 minutes. Ward-Prowse had a shot blocked from Jay Rodriguez's knock-down. Steven Davis found himself in some space in the penalty area on 22, shooting straight at the keeper.
Midtylland weathered that early storm and managed the game effectively from about half-way through the first-half. The Danes disrupted Saints' flow in the middle and broke effectively with short crisp passing. The home side took the lead on 28. Morten Rasmussen turned Fonte before firing low into the corner of the net. Kristian Bak Nielsen provided the cross after Rodriguez had given the ball away in the corner. Saints had very little response going into half-time, with the game getting more and more scrappy.
Koeman made no changes to his team at half-time. Midtylland had a good chance to extend their lead early on, with a header from a free-kick flying just past the near post. Dusan Tadic made a positive run immediately after coming on, before shooting well over from distance. On 69 Ward-Prowse had a deflected free-kick go out for a corner.
Midtylland looked far more composed in the final third than Saints did. Pione Sisto made some tricky runs before coming off. On 81 they had another great chance, with Daniel Royer shooting over after some great build-up play. Shane Long had a half-chance on 89, but that was it. Even when the four minutes of injury time were announced, the Saints fans behind the goal didn't even offer the customary rally of support. They all knew we wouldn't be able to score if we continued playing all night.
Midtylland aren't a great side, but they displayed excellent unity and energy all over the pitch. Saints in contrast appeared to have no real plan. There were no inventive patterns of play in the opposition's half. The long ball football that was served up in the second-half smacked of desperation. We didn't really have the personnel to play 3-5-2 either, with Cuco Martina and Matt Targett reluctant to push on. Koeman seems averse to creative players at the moment, with Tadic and Juanmi on the bench, and Gaston Ramirez sat at home. Few did themselves justice on an individual basis either. Of course there are players to comeback, but the start we've made this season has still been unacceptable. We had to wait 12 years for a crack at European football and we made a complete pigs ear of it.
Stekelenburg:5. Didn't have that many saves to make
Caulker: 5. Awful distribution, far too much hoofing again
Fonte: 4. Looked shaky all evening, very awkward on the ball
Yoshida: 6. Did ok, a few decent bits of skill
Martina: 5. Got beaten too easily at the back and far too tentative going forward
Targett: 4. Often afforded plenty of space on the left-flank, but delivery was still poor. Could have been sent off
Romeu: 5. Passing all over the place. Unable to impose himself on the game
Davis: 5. Involved in a few good attacking breaks early on, but sloppy for much of the evening
Ward-Prowse: 6. A reasonable effort. Put in a few good passes, but not really strong enough in midfield
Rodriguez: 4. Contributed very little up front and made the mistake which led to the goal
Pelle: 6. Probably Saints' best player. Won plenty of balls in the air, but no help from his teammates
Tadic: 5. Quite positive immediately after coming on, but couldn't really maintain it
Long: Added very little
Juanmi: Not on long enough to make an impact
Midtjylland: Rasmussen (28)
Referee: Liran Liany
FC Midtylland line-up: Dahlin, Bak Nielsen (Romer 83), Hansen, Sviatchenko, Lauridsen, Sparv, Sisto (Hassan 68), Poulsen, Andersson (Pusic 80), Royer, Rasmussen
Subs not used: Andersen, Olsson, Bangaard, Onauchu
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Caulker (Tadic 56), Fonte, Yoshida, Martina, Targett, Romeu, S Davis (Juanmi 83), Ward-Prowse, Rodriguez (Long 76), Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Soares, Reed, Mane