06/08/2015: Vitesse 0-2 Saints
Saints comfortably progressed to the Europa League play-off round with a routine win over Vitesse. The away side effectively killed the tie off in the first five minutes. Saints will face Danish champions FC Midtjylland next for a place in the group stage.
Saints made the perfect start to the game in the GelreDome. James Ward-Prowse's deep free-kick came back out to the left wing. Ward-Prowse found himself in possession once again moments later, letting the ball fall to Graziano Pelle, who turned before shooting into the bottom corner of the net.
Saints did a professional job of seeing the game out from that point on. The away side only exerted themselves as much as they needed too and rarely penetrated the Vitesse defence. The home side played some neat football in the middle of the park, but lacked any real guile to cause Saints any problems in the final third. Milot Rashica got away from Steven Caulker at a corner, but could only knock the ball over. Maarten Stekelenburg had no trouble tipping Maikel van Der Werff's long range swerver out for a corner. At one point Valeri Kazaishvili found himself in plenty of room just outside of the area, but could only shoot straight at Stekelenburg.
The second-half was perhaps even more uneventful than the first. Marvelous Nakamba had the best chance for the hosts, firing over from distance on. Saints got slightly stronger towards the end of the game and wrapped it up on 89. Sadio Mane robbed the ball from Danilo Pantic inside the centre circle before driving forward. The striker pulled slightly wide of the onrushing defender before slotting in past Eloy Room. Jay Rodriguez had a couple of chances during the closing stages of the contest, but couldn't quite make it a dream return.
A professional job by Saints in the end. The game wasn't much of a spectacle, and the result was never in doubt. Saints won't be able to get away with playing like in most domestic games, but on this occasion the performance was acceptable. With such a packed schedule coming up, preserving as much energy as possible is vital. If Saints progress to the group stages they will most likely come up against much stronger opponents, but the last two games have been useful in getting the team used to the tempo and style of European football.
Stekelenburg: 7. Made a few smart stops and commanded his area effectively
Martina: 7. Not troubled too much defensively. Solid on the ball
Fonte: 6. Another fairly easy outing. Didn't do a lot wrong
Caulker: 6. A few shaky moments early on, but did get slightly better as the game wore on. Generally read the game well
Yoshida: 7. Acquitted himself extremely well out of position. Assured passing and comfortable in possession
Wanyama: 7. Didn't have to exert himself as much as usual, but still too much for the opposition
Ward-Prowse: 6. Had a slightly fortuitous role in the first goal, and some good delivery, but quiet in midfield
Davis: 7. Another good showing. Started off a few good attacking moves with some decent skill
Mane: 7. Worked hard throughout and effective going forward when he needed to be. Made his goal look easy
Tadic: 6. Never really got into the game
Pelle: 7. Has looked sharper at the start of this season than he did in his first pre-season
Juanmi: 6. Involved in a few good attacking moves
Rodriguez: 6. Great to see him back in competitive action
Reed: Kept things ticking over as they were in midfield
Saints: Pelle (4) Mane (89)
Referee: Ilias Spathas
Vitesse line-up: Room, van der Werff (Achenteh 72), Leerdam, Diks, Kashia, Brown (Nathan 69), Nakamba, Baker (Pantic 80), Oliynyk, Qaraishvili, Rashica
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Martina, Fonte, Caulker, Yoshida, Wanyama, S Davis (Reed 77), Ward-Prowse, Mane, Tadic (Juanmi 65), Pelle (Rodriguez 71)
Subs not used: K Davis, Cedric, Targett, McQueen