SAINTS fans headed to St Mary’s in hope of catching a glimpse of the future.

Instead, they witnessed the Under-23s lose 3-1 to Dinamo Zagreb in the semi-final of the International Cup.

Saints dished out free tickets to those in attendance, with 3,605 supporters taking advantage of a free evening and half-term.

And for those inside St Mary’s, there was enough drama in the first half to make it a worthwhile trip.

First team boss Ralph Hasenhuttl was present to catch the action and cast his eye over the next string of players who will be challenging for a place in his squad.

The U23s went a goal down, before equalising though Harry Hamblin, only to be reduced to ten-men when he got himself sent off.

Dinamo Zagreb took full advantage of the extra body, with Marko Gjira and Petar Cuic netting in the second half.

Radhi Jaidi’s youngsters came firing out of the blocks when Tyreke Johnson caused Dinamo Zagreb goalkeeper Dinko Horkas to hit a wayward clearance in the first minute of the match.

Johnson, who made his first-team debut against Arsenal last December, sprinted at Horkas in the hope of latching onto a lacklustre pass.

Despite the quick start, it was the visitors who had the first opportunity of the match.

Mario Cuze was picked out inside the area to head his effort on target, only for Harry Lewis to deny the striker.

Lewis dived down, fully stretched, to tip the ball around the post and out for a corner.

Saints responded well and caused some concern amongst the Croatian side’s defence when Will Smallbone and Johnson combined in the box, only for the shot to eventually be blocked.

Nathan Tella then got in amongst the action for the U23s by narrowly putting his effort wide.

Tella picked the ball, following a goalmouth scramble, but didn’t have enough time to compose himself and strike it on target.

After a brief spell on top, Saints were back in defence mode when Antonio Marin went trawling down the wing.

The Croatian got a lucky deflection when he weaved his way past Christoph Klarer to make his way into the Saints area.

He then slotted the ball into the path of Sipos who angled it into the bottom corner, leaving Lewis little time to react.

Jaidi was forced to make a change in the 16th minute after Tella went down in the middle of the St Mary’s pitch.

The 19-year-old challenged Dinamo Zagreb’s Bartol Franic in the air, only to land awkwardly on his leg, leaving him unable to carry on.

Alex Jankewitz took his place in the middle of the park.

Despite the early tactical change, Saints found themselves level in the 23rd minute.

Hamblin met Will Smallbone’s inch-perfect cross to powerfully head the ball past Horkas and into the back of the Zagreb net.

He then wheeled away to celebrate in front of the Saints fans, before being bundled by the rest of his teammates.

The U23s continued to assert their dominance on the match and almost went ahead through Will Ferry.

Ferry stung the palms of Horkas inside the Zagreb box with a drilled shot from outside the area.

Horkas was strong enough to tip the ball out for a corner which Saints launched to the back post with no avail.

The International Cup semi-final took a turn for the worse in the 40th minute.

Goalscorer Hamblin went from hero to unintentional villain when he was given a straight red card by referee Josh Smith.

Hamblin slipped into a challenge on Gjira, with his studs showing and off the ground.

Smith was stood right in front of the tackle and immediately showed the Saints player a red card.

The game looked to be boiling over towards the end of the first half, as Smallbone was booked for a needless foul.

Saints managed to see the rest of the half out - including the additional six minutes - to go in at the break a man down but with the scoreboard level.

Despite having an extra player on the pitch, Zagreb failed to assert any dominance in the opening exchanges following the restart.

However, they soon made the advantage count in the 54th minute to take control of the game.

Gjira, who went down from the Hamblin foul in the first half, rifled his shot into the bottom corner from just inside the box.

Zagreb continued to probe the Saints defence and went close again moments later.

Clever link-up play on the edge of the area saw Sipos get a shot away, only for Saints defender Aaron O’Driscoll to block the effort.

Johnson cut a lonely figure up front for Jaidi’s team but didn’t let that stop him from displaying his potential.

He picked up possession on the halfway line, surged forward, played a neat pass to Ferry, who then zipped it across to Jankewitz.

Jankewitz then went down via a foul outside the penalty area but the referee told the youngster to get back on his feet.

Johnson continued to be a nuisance, forcing Horkas to make another save in the 71st minute.

Zagreb sealed the win with an excellent passage of play.

Second half substitute Cuic took full advantage of Marin’s defence-splitting pass to slot the ball past Lewis and the game out of ten-men Saints’ reach.

Jaidi’s side had a last-minute chance to grab a consolation goal when Ferry ran through free on goal, only to put his attempt wide.