30/08/2015: Saints 3-0 Norwich
Saints recorded their first Premier League win of the season and moved into the top 10, with a much improved performance against Norwich. The home side were on top throughout, but really made their dominance count after Norwich went down to 10 men.
Ronald Koeman went with a much more positive starting-line up. Oriol Romeu and James Ward-Prowse sat in front of the defence. Full-backs Cedric Soares and Matt Targett were given great licence to push on and stretch the pitch on the wings alongside Sadio Mane and Dusan Tadic.
Saints were almost unrecognisable from the side that lost in Denmark on Thursday. The team looked well balanced and positive throughout. Ward-Prowse's 2nd minute free-kick went just wide of the post. Mane forced a save from John Ruddy before Graziano Pelle tried his luck with an overhead kick. Norwich's one and only major chance came on 20, with Cameron Jerome heading wide from Graham Dorrans' cross. 10 minutes later Tadic dragged the ball just wide of goal.
Saints were handed a massive boost on 31 when Steven Whittaker was deservedly sent off for hauling back Tadic. The Canaries immediately took playmaker Wes Hoolahan off for defender Andre Wisdom, as Saints' dominance grew. The pressure eventually told just before half-time. Pelle beat Ruddy at the near post from close range from Mane's through ball. Ward-Prowse also deserves credit for claiming the ball back on the right flank in the build-up. Saints almost added a second moments later when Mane and Pelle combined again.
Koeman elected to take advantage of Saints' one man advantage by switching to 4-4-2 at the start of the second-half, bringing on Jay Rodriguez for Steven Davis. The home side upped the tempo, peppering the Norwich goal with shot after shot. Rodriguez came close on a couple of occasions. Some fans were on their feet when Pelle smashed the ball just wide of the post on 59.
The second goal would eventually arrive on 64. Mane jinked down the right before cutting the ball back for Tadic, who sent Ruddy the wrong way. The Serbian grabbed another one three minutes later. Mane once again teased the Norwich defence, before teeing up Cedric on the right. He crossed for Pelle, who headed down towards goal. Ruddy made a save, but Tadic was there to follow up for 3-0.
Saints had a few more chances to stretch their lead even further. Rodriguez curled the ball just over the bar before Ward-Prowse went close again with another free-kick. The intensity dropped slightly during the last 10 minutes or so with the result in the bag. Saints had a couple of good moves break down just before the penalty area. Gary Hooper put in one last pathetic effort for Norwich right at the end of the game.
A much needed three points and a good performance. Norwich were very poor and had ten men for a good portion of the match, but Saints can still take some encouragement from the game. Koeman finally got the team balance right, having been far too cautious or far too open in previous league games. Tadic was back to the form he showed during the early part of his Southampton career, and several others had their best game of the season so far. There were some superb exchanges between the attacking players. For the first time this season we were exciting to watch. It still remains to be seen whether this team is capable of performing like this on a consistent basis and against better teams, but for now it's just nice to enjoy that winning feeling again.
Stekelenburg: 6. Had very little to do
Cedric: 7. Grew into the game, providing attacking support down the right
Fonte: 7. Displayed good organisational skills and assured on the ball
Yoshida: 7. Made one bad slip early on, which fortunately didn't prove costly. Recovered well, however. Looked composed for most of the game
Targett: 6. A few of his early crosses failed to beat the first man, but defensively much improved. Didn't let much get past him
Romeu: 8. Defensively a lot more effective. Put in some big tackles
Ward-Prowse: 7. Added energy and quick passing in midfield. Getting closer with his free-kicks
Davis: 6. Steady enough before coming off at half-time
Mane: 8. Had a role in all three goals. Made space for himself with his quick feet and intelligence
Tadic: 8. Recaptured the old-magic. An excellent showing even if you disregard the goals. Displayed some great footwork
Pelle: 8. A constant menace in the penalty area
Rodriguez: 7. Looked far more energetic than he did in any of his previous appearances since his comeback. Unlucky not to grab a goal of his own
Martina: 5. Got forward a few times down the right-flank late in the game
Juanmi: Displayed some good close control, making one impressive burst into the penalty area
Saints: Pelle (45) Tadic (64, 67)
Attendance: 29,573 (2,021 Norwich fans)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Saints line-up: Stekelenburg, Cedric (Martina 72), Fonte, Yoshida, Targett, Romeu, Ward-Prowse, S Davis (Rodriguez 46), Mane (Juanmi 80), Tadic, Pelle
Subs not used: K Davis, Caulker, Reed, Long
Norwich line-up: Ruddy, Whittaker, Martin, Bassong, Brady, Redmond, Dorrans (Johnson 70), Tettey, Howson, Hoolahan (Wisdom 32), Jerome (Hooper 89)
Subs not used: Rudd, Bennett, O'Neil, van Wolfswinkel