Claude Puel insisted Inter Milan’s Antonio Candreva should have been sent off for appearing to strike Sam McQueen during Southampton’s 2-1 Europa League victory.
The manager did, however, also say he did not see Inter’s apparent attempts to tamper with the penalty spot in the build-up to Dusan Tadic’s saved attempt.
Southampton moved to the brink of the competition’s knockout stages after a famous, comeback victory over one of Europe’s biggest teams.
Virgil van Dijk’s equalising goal and an own goal from Yuto Nagatomo secured three vital points after Mauro Icardi had given Inter the lead. Their total of seven points from four games also ensured a further victory from their trip to Sparta Prague or home fixture with Hapoel Be’er Sheva would guarantee at least a top-two finish.
Puel regardless remained adamant Candreva should have been sent off in the first half when he appeared to strike McQueen with his forearm shortly after Southampton were awarded a penalty for handball.
The Italy international was instead only booked and remained on the pitch as the hosts recovered from going a goal down, but asked if he should have been given a red card, the manager responded: “Of course. And perhaps also I thought with the first goal Virgil (was fouled).
“It was important for us to come back with calm and quality.
“It was not the Milan of the first game (when Southampton lost 1-0); it was a good team with quality on the run and good spirit.
“In a game that was difficult we can show fantastic character.”
McQueen was selected at left-back in place of the rested Ryan Bertrand, and of the incident told BT Sport: “I saw him (Candreva) do it. Some players try and do it these days, they try and dig up the penalty spot.
“I thought that was a silly thing to do so I went over to try and stop it and I felt he gave me an elbow in the jaw. I’m an honest player, I didn’t want to go down even though I did drop to my knees a bit.
“I’m sure people will laugh at that. I felt there was an elbow so I think we were unlucky they didn’t get a red card.”
Van Dijk added: “Every corner kick we have attacking I get pulled a lot. These days it happens a lot but I told the ref every time before the corner kick or the free-kick that he needs to watch
(Andrea Ranocchia). We were unlucky we didn’t get the penalty. But we won the game so it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Stefano Vecchi was named as Inter’s caretaker manager after the sacking of Frank de Boer, and of his first game in charge – overseen by former England manager Roy Hodgson – he said: “We played excellently in the first half, but in the second you started to see some of our limitations coming out, particularly physically.
“We dropped deeper, and when you do that it can be lethal and that proved to be the case.
“In the first half we did well when we came under pressure but were caught out in the second half, with lucky ricochets, the ball coming off the crossbar. I can’t fault them whatsoever in terms of their desire.”