Southampton fell foul of poor refereeing decisions as their European adventure ended prematurely, according to their manager Ronald Koeman.
The Dutchman saw his side lose 1-0 to FC Midtjylland in Denmark on Thursday night and, having only managed a draw at St Mary’s seven days earlier, Saints crashed out of the Europa League at the play-off stage.
But instead of blaming his players, who have yet to taste victory in the Premier League this season, Koeman focused more on the officiating across both legs as he vented his frustrations at what he perceived to be poor decisions that hampered Southampton’s chances.
Koeman was already unhappy having seen a Steven Caulker header chalked off in the first leg as FC Midtjylland left St Mary’s with a 1-1 draw and he again questioned the decision not to award his side a penalty as they chased a result.
James Ward-Prowse was furiously appealing for a penalty after claiming his free-kick came off an arm in the Midtjylland wall, with his manager not shying away from offering a scathing opinion on the officiating in the tie – which was settled with a strike from former Celtic forward Morten Rasmussen at a soaked MCH Arena in Herning.
“I have to say, and it’s critical to both referees in both games, if you analyse both games, we had more chances,” he said.
“We scored a normal goal last week and if you watch television and you see the free kick of Ward-Prowse – it’s a penalty. So easy. But if you don’t see it that still makes it more complex, more difficult.
“Then the final result, the final result of last week, is totally different (if the decisions are correct). Congratulations to Midtjylland. They play well, they play out of a good organisation and they scored today and we didn’t.
“It’s two mistakes. It’s one penalty and one goal and it’s a big influence on the result. It’s different reasons. One of the reasons was the referee of today because it’s a penalty. Last week it’s a normal goal but we did a mistake and they scored for 1-1.”
Jay Rodriguez was at fault in the build-up to Rasmussen’s decisive goal as he conceded possession on the edge of his own box to allow the Denmark international to turn Jose Fonte and fire past Maarten Stekelenburg to score with his side’s first decent chance of the game.
When asked if how disappointed he was with their European exit, Koeman replied: “Very, because if you don’t create chances the disappointment is a little bit different.
“I think we start well the game, we dominate the game, we had some good chances in the beginning and one mistake, one chance, very clinical 1-0.
“But congratulations to Midtjylland. They play well, they play out of a good organisation and they scored today and we didn’t.”