December 9, 2016 / 7:51 AM / 8 months ago

Soccer-Puel wants 'positive reaction' from Sunderland after Europa exit

Dec 9 (Reuters) - Southampton manager Claude Puel demanded a positive reaction from his team in Sunday's home Premier League game against Middlesbrough after their Europa League exit.

The Saints needed a win or a goalless draw to progress but were dumped out after a 1-1 draw at home to Hapoel Be'er Sheva on Thursday, which sent the Israeli side into the round of 32 as Group K runners-up.

The French manager and his players have called for immediate domestic focus as they aim to scale the table from their current 12th place to set themselves up for an European quest next season.

"It's an opportunity to play quickly. It's a good thing to have this game on Sunday and to have a good reaction," Puel told the club website (www.southamptonfc.com).

"It's important to look forward and come back... in the first half of the table and keep the good concentration for the next game in the Premier League."

Defender Virgil van Dijk, who led Southampton in the Europa League, said they must also learn from Thursday's game, in which he scored the equaliser.

"We knew it was going to be a tough game...Obviously, we couldn't keep the clean sheet. We need to look at it and bounce back on Sunday, which is going to be a massive game," he said.

Maya Yoshida echoed his defensive partner's thoughts and said league victories is the only way to move forward.

"I don't know what to say. We have a game at the weekend as well so we will have to keep our heads up and try to get three points in the Premier League," the Japanese said. (Reporting by Debanjan Bose in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)

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