Video: Shane Long on target as Saints seal Euro victory
SOUTHAMPTON 3 VITESSE ARNHEM 0
Published 30/07/2015 | 22:26
Southampton enjoyed a dream return to continental football, hitting three past Vitesse Arnhem as they secured a first European win in nearly 34 years.
Saints have endured a topsy-turvy time since their last dalliance with football on this stage in 2003, dropping down to League One and the verge of liquidation before rising to last year secure their best ever Premier League finish.
That surprise seventh place brought with it qualification for the Europa League, which Ronald Koeman's men started with a 3-0 win thanks to goals from Graziano Pelle, Dusan Tadic and Shane Long.
A sold-out St Mary's witnessed Saints' first European victory since overcoming Limerick in September 1981, with the result setting them up nicely for the return leg of the third qualifying round tie against the club with whom Koeman cut his managerial teeth.
Vitesse certainly started well enough on the south coast, but the hosts ended an even first half on top and Pelle opened the scoring after latching onto a Sadio Mane through ball.
The nippy Senegalese was causing havoc again minutes later, winning a penalty which Tadic converted with the last kick of the first half.
Maarten Stekelenburg was called upon to prevent substitute Milot Rashica scoring a potentially vital away goal in the second half, before substitute Long nodded home a late third to give Saints a strong advantage heading to Arnhem.
Things could have been a whole lot different had the Eredivisie side capitalised on lax early defending, with Valeri Qazaishvili bursting past Maya Yoshida to hit a low, fizzing drive just wide of the far post.
It was a let-off the Japan defender attempted to capitalise on shortly afterwards, but he could only send his free header straight at Vitesse goalkeeper Eloy Room.
Yoshida was again involved at the other end of the field when Saints next created a clear-cut opening, sending the follow-up wide after Victor Wanyama's initial close-range effort was saved.
Cedric Soares, Jose Fonte and Steven Davis had attempts of varying quality as the hosts pushed for an opener, which arrived in style after 36 minutes.
Mane was the architect as he put through Pelle, who rifled a venomous first-time strike into the top right-hand corner.
Things were to get better still before half-time as, having turned his man from a short corner, Mane was bundled over by Rochdi Achenteh in the box. Tadic stepped up for the resulting spot-kick, sending Room the wrong way.
Pelle wasted a chance to grab a third by blazing over after Matt Targett's cross caused confusion at the back, before injury ended Jordy Clasie's debut soon after.
Juanmi replaced him as Long also came on, quickly winning a free-kick after a foul by Izzy Brown - on loan from Chelsea, like fellow starter Lewis Baker - but it came to nothing.
Vitesse became increasingly desperate to score as the second half wore on and debutant Stekelenburg had to be alert to thwart Rashica.
The substitute saw an effort deflect off his own player before Saints racked up a third on the break. Room darted off his line to thwart Long, but the Irishman nodded home Juanmi's clipped cross.