Three first-half goals from Southampton were decisive as the team ended a six game run without a win to take all three points from the Welsh capital.
A brace of strikes from Jay Rodriguez was added to by Rickie Lambert’s volley which saw the scoring in the game completed inside half an hour against the Bluebirds.
Rodriguez got the ball rolling in the 14th minute when he converted Adam Lallana’s cross for his eighth goal of the season – and fourth in six games – with a controlled close range finish. That was encouragement for the striker, who saw number nine follow six minutes later as he stabbed home Rickie Lambert’s cross to double the score.
Rodriguez returned the favour for Lambert to convert a volley from six yards out that saw Saints return to their uncompromising best in attack with a quality performance that continued throughout the 90 minutes.
Even though there were no further goals in the second period, it was a comfortable afternoon for the visitors who had only won one of their previous 12 Premier League games played on Boxing Day.
The victory against the Bluebirds was also the first league win secured in Cardiff for 48 years.
Mauricio Pochettino was forced into one change with Dejan Lovren taken ill prior to the game. Jose Fonte returned to the starting eleven in the Croat’s place, and he was partnered by Maya Yoshida at the back with Jos Hooiveld dropping to the bench.
There was one other change from the team that started the defeat to Tottenham, with Luke Shaw coming back into the team at the expense of Danny Fox. Goalkeeper and club captain, Kelvin Davis returned to the squad after injury and was named amongst the substitutes.
Hosts Cardiff got the game underway with Saints lining up in their changed strip of black shirts and white shorts on a cool and clear afternoon in south Wales.
The visitors made an early foray forward with Calum Chambers getting a taste of the action in Cardiff’s half as he tried to spark a quick start for the team.
Another good half-opening for Saints came in the third minute when skipper Adam Lallana and Steven Davis exchanged passes before the latter played a clever ball into Rodriguez who sped away towards the area only for Kevin Theophile-Catherine to block him off before the striker could get into the area.
It was a composed start from the visitors as they waited patiently to build up from the back with a series of controlled passes across both halves which nullified the hosts’ natural approach.
However, Cardiff were presented with a great chance to open the scoring in the eleventh minute when Craig Noone cut in from the right flank to cross dangerously into the area where Peter Whittingham’s touch let him down as he was unable to put the ball on target from six yards out.
Saints similarly, nearly conjured something out of nothing a couple of minutes later when Lallana played a neat reverse ball into the path of Rodriguez, but the frontman couldn’t quite reach it.
He went one better however in the 14th minute of the contest when Saints took the lead with a well-worked move from inside their own half. Morgan Schneiderlin played the ball over the top which Lallana gave chase to and when he collected it on the edge of the area, the skipper intelligently squared it to RODRIGUEZ from eight yards out who poked home the cross to make it 1-0.
The breakthrough goal had given Saints the boost they needed, and they went onto double their advantage with 20 minutes on the watch. It was from another move which started from inside the visitors’ half, as Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert, and Steven Davis were all involved across the park before Lambert collected the ball inside the Cardiff half to cross accurately into the area for RODRIGUEZ to stab home his and the visitors’ second goal of the game.
Saints had their tails up and continued to cause the hosts’ problems with crosses from either flank. A deep cross from Schneiderlin was narrowly missed by Lambert as he attempted to crash in a late effort at the far post.
That preceded a couple of bookings, one for either side as, first, Noone was cautioned for a late challenge on Shaw, and then the young Saints full-back saw yellow for a lunge on the Cardiff man five minutes later.
Cardiff sought a reply from a set piece when Whittingham’s cross from the right was headed towards goal by Jordon Mutch, but the effort was pushed over by Gazzaniga, who was unaware that the Bluebirds midfielder was offside.
It appeared to be Saints’ game when they made it 3-0 on 27 minutes on the back of a corner from the right hand side. The ball was laid back into the path of Calum Chambers who delivered a deep cross that Rodriguez headed down inside the area and into the path of Rickie LAMBERT who controlled and spun his marker to volley home past Marshall.
That strike put the visitors into a comfortable position in the game, but the contest remained an open one with Gazzaniga needing to produce a fine reaction save to Andrew Taylor’s low drive into the area which took a deflection off Jose Fonte as Saints showed their strength in defence as well as attack.
Maya Yoshida intercepted Theophile-Catherine’s cross as Saints stayed firm at the back, and for the final ten minutes of the half they generally outfought and out-passed their opponents who were glad of the whistle for half-time which arrived after two minutes of stoppages.
HALF-TIME: CARDIFF 0-3 SOUTHAMPTON
Cardiff made one change at the break with Andreas Cornelius replacing Peter Odemwingie in attack for the second 45 minutes.
Three minutes after the restart Saints were dealt a blow when Schneiderlin was booked for a clunsy foul on Frazier Campbell. The yellow card saw the Frenchman move on to five cautions for the season, which ruled him out of the forthcoming trip to Everton.
The home side applied plenty of pressure on Saints from set pieces in the opening exchanges of the new half, with Gazzaniga clearing his lines as he dealt with the new threat from the Cardiff substitute from aerial situations.
Saints soon ventured forward to good effect again though with Rodriguez releasing Shaw in on goal where the full back attempted to round Marshall to find the back of the net, only for the Cardiff keeper to get a touch on the shot which put the ball out for a corner.
From the set piece, the ball broke for Cork whose drive from range was saved. Meanwhile, the openness of the contest continued to suit Luke Shaw, who got free again down the left flank to test Marshall with a low strike 20 yards from goal.
On the hour mark Cardiff withdrew Andrew Taylor and brought on Declan John as the hosts tried to shore things up.
Campbell had an opportunity to strike at goal when he got the better of Fonte, but the striker’s shot went high and wide of the target.
At the other end, Shaw was on the receiving end of a clattering from Noone as the youngster bombed forward once more to good effect, and although he required treatment Shaw was soon back on his feet and involved in the game.
Saints still seemed the more likely team to score next as they attacked with purpose and energy. Schneiderlin’s cross from the byline was nicked off Rodriguez’s head by a Cardiff defender, before Lallana’s delivery from the right couldn’t quite be converted by Lambert at the far post, with the forward dragging his shot wide.
A lull in play was ended by a substitution apiece as play entered the final ten minutes. James Ward-Prowse came on for Saints captain Lallana, whilst Cardiff’s final switch saw Aron Gunnarrsson replaced by Kim Bo-Kyung.
The substitutions preceded another good break from the visitors that resulted in Lambert playing the ball into Shaw, whose low cross was cleared by Ben Turner under pressure from Rodriguez.
Cardiff’s efforts were summed up by Noone’s wayward shot from distance which flew into the stand behind Gazzaniga’s goal as the hosts’ attempts to get back into the game fell short.
Gaston Ramirez replaced two-goal hero Jay Rodriguez for Saints with four minutes remaining before Sam Gallagher entered the fray in place of Lambert with time running out.
Referee Andre Marriner’s whistle soon afterwards, confirmed a late Christmas present for Saints which was gladly received by the travelling faithful in the corner of the ground.
FULL-TIME: CARDIFF 0-3 SOUTHAMPTON
Cardiff team: David Marshall, Andrew Taylor (Declan John 60), Steven Caulker (c), Ben Turner, Kevin Theophile-Catherine, Jordon Mutch, Craig Noone, Aron Gunnarsson (Kim Bo-Kyung 80), Peter Whittingham, Peter Odemwingie (Andreas Cornelius 46), Frazier Campbell
Unused substitutes: Joe Lewis, Mark Hudson, Don Cowie, Nicky Manynard
Southampton team: Paulo Gazzaniga, Calum Chambers, Jose Fonte, Maya Yoshida, Luke Shaw, Jack Cork, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, Adam Lallana (c) (James Ward-Prowse 80), Jay Rodriguez (Gaston Ramírez 86), Rickie Lambert (Sam Gallagher 90).
Unused substitutes: Kelvin Davis, Danny Fox, Jos Hooiveld, Harrison Reed.
Goals: Jay Rodriguez, 14 & 20; Lambert, 27
Referee: Andre Marriner