Shane Long limps off in San Siro, Martin O’Neill holds his breath

Irish striker is now a doubt for the upcoming Austria qualifier with latest hamstring injury

Southampton’s Shane Long goes off injured at the San Siro. Photograph: Reuters

Southampton’s Shane Long goes off injured at the San Siro. Photograph: Reuters

 

Republic of Ireland striker Shane Long is a doubt for next month’s World Cup qualifier with Austria having limped off in Southampton’s defeat to Inter Milan on Thursday night.

Long appeared to suffer a hamstring injury, immediately signalling to the bench to be replaced, during the 1-0 Europa League defeat at the San Siro.

He was subsequently substituted, with Charlie Austin coming on for him, just three minutes into the second half.

The seriousness of the injury remains unknown but with Ireland’s trip to Vienna coming in three weeks’ time (November 12th) Ireland manager Martin O’Neill will be hoping that the injury is not as bad as it first appeared.

Long was also replaced in Ireland’s last qualifier win over Moldova, two weeks ago, again with a hamstring complaint. Thursday was his first appearance since that game.

Southampton manager Claude Puel dismissed suggestions his rotation system was responsible for his team’s “unlucky” defeat in Milan.

Antonio Candreva’s exceptional second-half goal secured an important victory for Inter at the San Siro that prevented their visitors from building a lead at the top of Group K.

One of the most glamorous fixtures in Southampton’s history concluded with them third in the group when they could have taken a significant step towards reaching the knockout stages.

Despite being reduced to 10 men after Marcelo Brozovic’s red card, Inter have returned to contention after winning their first points.

Defeat also came after Puel made six changes from the starting XI he had selected in Sunday’s 3-1 defeat of Burnley — an injury suffered by Matt Targett meant one was forced upon him — which included goalscorers Charlie Austin and Nathan Redmond.

Asked if his changes had disrupted his team, Puel responded: “No. I think if you can play a very good game... We have all the time fresh players to play good football. This is very, very important.

“Not all the players can play good football (if they play every game). It’s important to consider all the players. We want to go for the qualification with all the squad and not just 11 players.

“We can see (we played a) good game with the quality against Inter away it is difficult to think and to answer the question. It’s a very, very good game and unlucky. We are just unlucky.

“We do good work and with all the many chances we can play very good on the ground with quality, and just (need) a goal to be rewarded for all this good play. It is a frustration.”

Southampton had fine chances to score in the ninth minute, when Jay Rodriguez conceded possession after hesitating from a shooting position, and in the second half through Virgil van Dijk.

The central defender similarly missed a fine chance in the recent 0-0 draw away to Israel’s Hapoel Be’er Sheva, and on this occasion produced too casual a finish saved by Samir Handanovic when requiring only a routine finish from directly in front of goal.

Puel also recognised the return against Inter in a fortnight has become “interesting”, while Van Dijk told BT Sport: “We were the only team that deserved to win and to concede a goal with their only chance frustrated.

“We should have had the game dead and buried in the first half but that is what happens if you don’t take your chances.

“I had a big chance with my left foot and a header. We had so many opportunities to win the game.”

The result also relieved some of the pressure that had been building on Inter manager Frank de Boer, and the Dutchman said: “They created some very dangerous chances. We knew that they were very dangerous.

“At first there were small chances for both of us. Luckily we have a great goalkeeper, he was unbelievable. The result for the group? It’s very important for us.”

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