Southampton kicked off their return to Premier League action with a superb 3-0 victory over last-placed Norwich City at Carrow Road.
For the Saints, the win solidifies their surival bid – moving ten points clear of the drop zone – whilst the defeat minimises Norwich’s chances of what manager Daniel Farke called their ‘little miracle‘.
Farke’s side started well, playing at a quick pace and a high intensity. However, it was not long before the turn of play switched – and Southampton began intercepting passes, finding space and putting pressure on the Norwich defence. As half-time neared, talisman Danny Ings came closest to breaking the deadlock as his effort struck the bar in the 33rd minute.
No changes had been made to the teams as they peeled back out of the tunnel into the empty Carrow Road for the second half. This was, perhaps, one of Farke’s most significant errors of the match.
Only four minutes later, Southampton were able to finally to secure the goal that had been a long time coming, with Ings belting a right-footed shot into the bottom-right corner. Ings started the season exceptionally, with 10 goals in 15 matches, but had tailed off in the months before the league’s suspension. It seems the break gave the Saints striker the boost he needed to get back on track.
Just five minutes later Ings was involved again, providing an assist for Armstrong that led to Southampton’s second goal. This triggered Farke to finally make a change – taking off Trybull and Cantwell – the latter lacking his usual pace and energy in the final third.
Southampton continued to pile on the pressure, maintaining possession and taking advantage of Norwich’s errors. It was the Saints’ third goal that may have stung the most for the Norfolk-based side, as it was thumped past Tim Krul by ex-Canaries player Nathan Redmond.
These final minutes (as well as the increased number of substitutes rule), provided the opportunity for both clubs to give youngsters some Premier League match experience. Hasenhuttl brought on 20-year-old Nathan Tella, who has recently impressed for the Saints U23s, and Norwich subbed in Irishman Adam Idah. Young talent was not enough for the Canaries though, as the whistle soon blew on their 3-0 defeat.
Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuttl praised his team for their aggression and commended Danny Ings for his ‘fantastic’ finishing.
Hasenhuttl told BBC Sport: “The start was not perfect. We had a few problems in the beginning but after that we won more duels and had better aggression. That was the key.”
“In the second half we were more clinical and it was a deserved win from a very fit team. Danny Ings is a fantastic finisher when he is around the box. He is working very hard for the team. The key was our work against the ball. When we are pressing together it is not so easy to play against us.”
The south-coast side have shown impressive away performances throughout the season – gaining 23 points – more than Norwich have earned from all matches this season. Only Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool have scored more goals away from home than the Saints.
The win sees Southampton rise to 13th in the table, whilst Norwich remain rooted to the bottom. Next up the Saints host Arsenal at St Mary’s, who will be looking to bounce back from their 2-1 defeat at Brighton.