Southampton were deservedly knocked out of the Europa League this evening following a gutless draw at home to Israel's Hapoel Be'er Sheva.
After a record breaking Premier League campaign last term under Ronald Koeman, Claude Puel's side will wake up tomorrow knowing that it was all for nothing, as will the fans. As in their woeful display in the defeat to Crystal Palace at the weekend, Saints lacked cutting edge and deserved nothing from the game.
With a scoreless draw enough for Saints to qualify, they never looked like breaking the deadlock and were punished in the 78th minute by Bar Buzagio's low strike. In one of few attacks from the away side, Oriol Romeu tried to play the ball out from the back, which proved a very costly error, and Buzaglio's low strike beat Fraser Forster down to his right.
Virgil van Dijk, who again missed gilt-edged chances to score from close range, got one back in extra time, and Maya Yoshida should have won it in the dying moments, but it wasn't to be; Southampton fans will no doubt be looking at the various ways it went wrong for their team.
Claude Puel's rotation policy and the failure to replace upgrade Southampton's attack following the loss of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane's goals will no doubt be discussed at length in the days to come, but the team were pedestrian, and paid the price for not being clinical in poor performances away from St Mary's.
The first half was a ponderous, nervous affair, epitomised by Forster's first minute scuffed clearance, but a poor Be'er Sheva failed to capitalise. Saints sat deep, working the ball into the wide areas but failing to move the ball quick enough to trouble the visitors.
An early Charlie Austin header was straight at keeper Goresh, and was a sign of things to come for the home side who looked like a team short on goals and creativity.
Hapoel Be'er Sheva had a couple of bright moments themselves, shifting the ball out to the left flank with Southampton failing to close down the cross on a couple of occasions. The first of which saw Forster gather the ball at the near post, but the second resulted in Buzaglo firing a shot over despite being free in the box. Southampton were lucky.
Pierre Emile-Hojbjerg had a shot blocked following a poor clearance from Goresh, but the midfield was slow to move forward and lacklustre. A bright note was Josh Sims, given his first European start, and his energy and directness troubled the visitors.
The best moment saw the youngster dummy the ball and drive at the Be'er Sheva defence, with the ball eventually falling to Nathan Redmond. The former Norwich man looked to bend his shot into the right hand corner of the goal but a acrobatic save denied him.
Redmond epitomised Southampton's display, nervy and lacking in front of goal, with Hapoel playing the occasion, frustrating Saints with theatrics and gamesmanship. An earlier break saw Oriol Romeu set up a Redmond breakaway, with the forward delaying a return pass to the Spaniard until it was too late - with the eventual cross behind Romeu and Southampton having fluffed a good chance through indecision.
Austin looked to have dislocated his shoulder just before half time, landing awkwardly after heading a corner wide. Ever the fighter, he could be seen screaming to the medics that he was fine, but the Saints staff saw fit to err on the side of caution with Shane Long replacing the Englishman.
Southampton picked it up a little in the second period, with Romeu and Tadic, on for Sims, going close in quick succession. Yoshida was alert to deny Sahar with an impressive block following a fortunate ricochet.
Redmond and Bertrand made good inroads down the left, but a lack of composure coupled with poor decision making saw crosses float harmlessly out of play and chances fluffed.
The warning signs were there for Southampton, who failed to close down the visitors several times, although chances for Hapoel were few and far between.
With Saints chasing the win, Hapoel's goal came following a rare piece of poor play from Oriol Romeu. The Spaniard, key to his side's defending throughout the season, tried to play out from the back when he should have cleared it. Buzaglo did what Southampton have been unable to do all season, displaying a ruthlessness in front of goal that Southampton could only dream of.
James Ward-Prowse came on for Hojbjerg, with Tadic already on the pitch and both had an impact on proceedings. The young Englishman in particular pushed his team on, with impressive delivery that was otherwise lacking on the night.
And it was from him that Southampton nearly levelled, with Shane Long denied by great defending at the death. Following van Dijk's control and finish from close range, Yoshida should have won it after meeting Ward-Prowse's pinpoint cross, but he headed inches wide.
All in all, Southampton were punished for their slow, dull football and didn't deserve to go through. Manager Claude Puel will no doubt come under pressure having set his team up to control games, rather than take it to the opponent.
The Frenchman has publicly stated that this was due to his team needing to conserve energy in a long, arduous campaign, but that has just got several games shorter following their European exit, and Southampton fans will feel very disillusioned having embraced the competition.
Saints: Forster, Cedric, Yoshida, Davis, Van Dijk (C), Bertrand; Romeu, Hojbjerg (Ward-Prowse); Redmond, Sims (Tadic), Austin (Long)
Subs: Lewis, Clasie, Fonte, Long, Tadic, Ward-Prowse, McQueen
Hapoel Be'er Sheva: Goresh; Bitton, Vitor, Tzedek (C), Korhut; Radi, Ogu, Hoban (Ghadir); Buzaglo, Sahar (Palhano Soares), Nwakaeme
Subs: Turgeman, Ghadir, Ohayon, Taha, Shabtay, Palhano Soares, Haimov