Southampton 1-1 FC Midtjylland: Jay Rodriguez salvages draw
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 21/08/15 11:14am
Jay Rodriguez's first competitive goal in almost 18 months kept Southampton's Europa League dream alive as they came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with FC Midtjylland.
Saints' hopes of navigating their play-off tie with the Danish champions suffered a blow on the cusp of half-time in the first leg as former Saints academy prospect Tim Sparv drilled home the opener at St Mary's.
But, after James Ward-Prowse was fouled by Kian Hansen, Rodriguez – who is making his comeback form serious knee ligament injury – slotted home his first Southampton goal since March 2014 from the spot on 56 minutes.
Despite this, it proved to be a frustrating night for Ronald Koeman's side – who also saw a Steven Caulker goal disallowed.
Southampton now know they have to score in next Thursday's return leg if they are to reach the Europa League proper.
Saints made four changes to the side which lost 3-0 to Everton on Saturday, with Oriol Romeu handed his first Southampton start following his £5m move from Chelsea.
Rodriguez continued his rehabilitation from knee injury, partnering Graziano Pelle up front and he was involved from the off as the hosts created the first opening on six minutes.
Maya Yoshida played Rodriguez in with a ball over the top of the Midtjylland defence, but he was unable to keep an attempt on target, slicing an effort wide of goal.
Southampton failed to capitalise on their positive start and they were almost caught out on the quarter-hour mark as Petter Andersson's volley, after the hosts failed to clear their lines, came close to breaking the deadlock.
With that, the visitors grew into the game and looked to utilise Hansen's notorious long throw in. And the unique set piece almost paid dividends as Erik Sviatchenko reacted quickest to the flick on to draw Martin Stekelenburg into a reflex save.
Saints mounted a late rally as half-time approached, with Victor Wanyama and Romeu having efforts on the Midtjylland goal.
And they suffered a late sucker punch as Sparv collected Jose Fonte's clearance and drilled home to give the visitors the lead at the break.
Caulker thought he had drawn his side level just five minutes into the second half, but his effort was chalked off by referee Clement Turpin, who adjudged the on-loan QPR defender to have fouled his marker.
Undeterred, Saints finally scored as Rodriguez sent Midtjylland 'keeper Johan Dahlin the wrong way from 12 yards after Ward-Prowse was tripped in the area by Hansen.
Caulker was denied by an excellent save from Dahlin shortly after as the night began the turn frustrating, in part to the visitors' time wasting.
Matt Targett drilled an effort wide of goal on 75 minutes, Ward-Prowse came close with a long range free-kick 10 minutes later and Yoshida clipped the woodwork in stoppage time as Saints had to settle for the draw.