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Saints rally, claim prized Europa scalp

AAP logoAAP 3/11/2016 Declan Warrington

Southampton have beaten Inter Milan 2-1 to secure a famous victory that takes them to the brink of the Europa League's knockout stages.

A fortnight after a defeat at the San Siro had threatened to undermine their chances, Saints recovered from going a goal behind and missing a first-half penalty to climb to second in Group K and establish a three-point lead over Hapoel Be'er Sheva in third.

Yuto Nagatomo's 69th-minute own goal decided the game, after Southampton defender Virgil van Dijk had cancelled out Mauro Icardi's first-half opener for the Italian visitors. Dusan Tadic missed from the spot on the stroke of half-time, but it did not prove decisive.

Respective home-and-away fixtures with Hapoel and group leaders Sparta Prague are now to come for Southampton. Draws in each would suffice, but first place is yet possible for Claude Puel's team, and would provide significant satisfaction for the manager after he again gambled with his team selection.

Two weeks ago in Milan, Southampton had lost 1-0 on an evening when his weakened XI rarely looked like scoring.

It therefore surprised when he again selected a near-identical side at St Mary's, particularly after that defeat in Italy had threatened their hopes of progressing and with struggling Hull next in the Premier League.

Two days after Inter had sacked manager Frank de Boer their visitors appeared in a vulnerable position, but even then, starting without Charlie Austin, Sofiane Boufal, Ryan Bertrand and Steven Davis represented a risk.

Upon the final whistle, however, Puel had been vindicated, and had ensured faith remained in the rotation system which otherwise may have come under threat.ence, Southampton's winning goal came just four minutes later.

After a run down the left wing, Tadic sent a cross into the penalty area that deflected off Danilo D'Ambrosio to his team-mate Nagatomo, who then clumsily sent the ball looping into the back of the net.

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