Saints 4-2 Norwich: Report
Southampton came out on top in a remarkable contest at St Mary’s where three of the game’s six goals arrived in the last five minutes of play.
Saints had looked on course for a straightforward 3-0 win until that stage, as Rickie Lambert and Jay Rodriguez’s second half strikes added to Morgan Schneiderlin’s fifth minute opener.
On 85 minutes a slip at the back was pounced upon by Norwich substitute Johan Elmander, who went some way towards justifying Chris Hughton’s triple substitution with a cool finish under Artur Boruc.
That goal sparked a rare bit of hope for the Canaries who had looked dead and buried for much of the contest, and that optimism was raised two minutes later, when Robert Snodgrass snuck a low shot in at the near post for 3-2 with three minutes remaining of the 90.
The late surge from the visitors was eventually extinguished when Saints substitute Sam Gallagher notched the club’s second strike of the season awarded by the goal decision system as he finished off Steven Davis's run and pass to seal all three points with the last kick of the game.
It was a bizarre end to an extraordinary contest in which Saints were the superior side for long periods, but had waited until the second half to back that up with what appeared to be the killer goals until the Canaries staged an unlikely looking comeback, which thankfully, never quite came off.
Mauricio Pochettino made two changes to the team that started against Crystal palace last time out. Gaston Ramirez and James Ward-Prowse came in for Rickie Lambert – who dropped to the bench – and the injured Jack Cork.
Victor Wanyama and Kelvin Davis both missed out with knocks as well.
Norwich matched their opponents up in formation, with Nathan Redmond, the man who scored the winner in the reverse of this fixture, starting on the substitutes’ bench.
The Canaries got the game underway on a St Mary’s surface bathed in sunshine, with Jonathan Howson and Anthony Pilkington took the first touches of the match for the visitors who lined up in their changed strip of white shirts and black shorts attacking the Chapel stand.
It was Saints who made the early running though, with Clyne bombing forward down the right where he was upended in a challenge that resulted in the first corner of the afternoon, inside the opening two minutes of action.
Ward-Prowse’s delivery was met by the towering header from Dejan Lovren, whose firm connection cleared the bar by a matter of inches.
That warning sign wasn’t heeded by the visitors, with Saints opening the scoring with just five minutes on the watch.
A neat move that started with Steven Davis deep in midfield, led to Jay Rodriguez playing the ball back to Ramirez, whose first time pass into the area was latched onto by Morgan SCHNEIDERLIN and the Frenchman lifted the ball over Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy with ease for 1-0.
A rampant home side piled on the pressure thereafter, with a free-kick delivery from Ramirez on the left was met by a flick header from Steven Davis inside the box, but the glanced effort flew wide of the far post.
After a brief stoppage in play whilst a Norwich player received treatment, Saints went back on the attack. Ramirez’s delightful looping pass over towards Rodriguez was met by the striker, whose first touch took him away from Joseph Yobo, but the defender recovered to deny a low shot at the far post.
For all the good work in the final third, the hosts were almost guilty of over-playing when they attempted to clear their lines on the quarter hour mark. A high pass from Lovren across the area was seized upon by Gary Hooper inside the box, but fortunately, Ward-Prowse and Boruc recovered the situation just in time.
Saints got back on the front-foot to create another chance for themselves on 20 minutes when Ramirez once more, played the ball into the area, and although a deflection took it away from Rodriguez, Steven Davis flashed his shot wide.
Ramirez then had a chance for himself when Clyne returned the ball back onto the edge of the box where the Uruguayan bent a shot around the far post with Ruddy rooted to his spot.
Frustrated Norwich supporters started to cheer each pass they made across their midfield as they struggled to penetrate Saints’ backline, with each pass made by the visitors taking them no further forward into their opponents’ half.
On 27 Saints continued their bombardment of the visitors’ rear-guard when Ramirez played another fine ball over the top for Rodriguez, but the frontman was quickly thwarted by the City defence, who were out quickly to make a block.
Norwich had their best opportunity just past the half hour when Snodgrass picked up the ball and player Hooper in on the right, but the striker’s skewed shot smacked the back stick supporting the frame of the goal as the Canaries slowly started to venture forward more.
Full back Martin Olsson got to the byline, only to be fouled by Steven Davis, who went into the book for his lunge on the defender. The resulting free-kick from the left taken by Snodgrass was eventually cleared by the Saints defence with few problems.
A corner from the right flank by Snodgrass teased the Saints defence soon after, but the delivery crept all the way through the area, despite Norwich’s Ryan Bennett scrambling across to try and turn the ball in at the far post.
As the half began to draw to a close, Anthony Pilkington was booked for attempting to push Gary Hooper’s cross in with his hand, with the Canaries looking more desperate with each chance that passed.
The opening 45 minutes ended with little else of note, with Saints good value for their lead, despite a tepid end to the first half.
HALF-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 1-0 NORWICH CITY
There were no changes from either side at the break, with Saints playing into the sunlight for the second 45 minutes, though a good three-quarters of the pitch was now in the shade.
Artur Boruc had an early save to make as he picked up Ward-Prowse’s header back under pressure from Howson who was making a late charge into the box.
A more patient approach from the hosts drew a chance for Ward-Prowse at the other end, with the midfielder waiting patiently on the edge of the area to receive Ramirez’s cutback, to work Ruddy at his left post who had to turn the shot past the post for a corner.
The relaxed nature of Saints’ passing drew a few nervy moments however, with the short passing game in their own area, creating chances for the Canaries to venture forward.
Saints responded with a corner from Ward-Prowse which was flicked on by Lallana inside the six yard box, but scraping narrowly wide of the far post.
That proved to be the last touch for the skipper who was immediately replaced by Rickie Lambert, with Rodriguez moving out to the left side.
That switch almost led to Lambert’s first touch as Rodriguez sprinted down the left to supply a cutback, but the ball was nicked off the forward’s feet before he could get there.
But his eventual first touch resulted in the game’s second goal as LAMBERT received the short header on from Ramirez to then comfortably round Yobo and fire a low shot into the bottom corner for 2-0.
The goal restored Saints’ swagger going forward, with neat, probing football asking questions of the visitors, who had no response.
Pochettino made his second change by brining on Guly do Prado on for Ramirez with an hour played, with Saints holding onto possession in Norwich’s half.
A triple substitution then followed by Chris Hughton for the visitors who made wholesale changes by bringing on strikers, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander, as well as Nathan Redmond, with Gary Hooper amongst those to make way.
The move to a rigid 4-4-2 gave the Canaries more of an attacking threat, but Elmander and van Wolfswinkel didn’t appear to be on the same wavelength as the visitors struggled to find a way through.
Despite a brief surge, Norwich soon succumbed to a third goal after good understanding between Clyne and Lambert with the former putting the cross in for the latter, whose knock to Guly drew a save from Ruddy.
From the rebound however, Lambert had another shot blocked, and RODRIGUEZ was on hand to chip in with his 14 goal of the season on 72 minutes with a simple finish from six yards out.
Steven Whittaker’s low drive wide of the near post summed up Norwich’s day in front of goal, with his low strike trickling some distance away from Boruc’s right post.
At the other end, on 81 minutes, Guly played Rodriguez in for the striker to hit one from range, with his shot smacking the crossbar on its way out of play.
Moments later, Steven Davis played in Lambert, whose low shot inside the box was kept out by the feet of Ruddy, to deny the substitute a second goal of the game.
Just when the hosts appeared to be strolling towards victory with another clean sheet, Saints were stunned by a strike from Johan ELMANDER who capitalised on Schneiderlin’s loose pass to reduce the deficit with 85 minutes on the watch.
And two minutes later, Saints opened the door further when a low shot was parried by Boruc into the path of SNODGRASS who hit a low shot into the right side of the goal for an astonishing 3-2 scoreline with less than five minutes to play.
Unsurprisingly, the visitors - who are fighting for their lives - threw everything at Saints, with a further five minutes of stoppage time added on by the fourth official.
Redmond went agonisingly close to connecting with Snodgrass’s pass into the area, but Boruc was quickly on it to take more time off the clock.
Saints then replaced Rodriguez with Sam Gallagher two minutes into added on time, though the hosts would see out the game with ten men as Lovren limped out of the action after succumbing to an eye-watering injury in the closing stages.
A nervous wait ensued for the final whistle whilst Lambert and Guly dropped back to defend, but they needn’t have worried too much as Saints got forward on the break led by Davis and Sam GALLAGHER who each kept their composure to finally kill off their opponents with a deflected shot that bounced over the line for 4-2.
That was the final kick of the game, with confirmation of the fourth goal confirmed on the big screens by the goal decision system as the whistle blew.
FULL-TIME: SOUTHAMPTON 4-2 NORWICH CITY
Southampton team: Artur Boruc, Nathaniel Clyne, Jose Fonte, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw, Morgan Schneiderlin, Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse, Adam Lallana (c) (Rickie Lambert 55), Gaston Ramirez (Guly do Prado 60), Jay Rodriguez (Sam Gallagher 90+2)
Unused substitutes: Paulo Gazzaniga, Maya Yoshida, Jos Hooiveld, Calum Chambers
Goals: Schneiderlin, 5; Lambert, 57; Rodriguez, 72; Gallagher 90+5
Norwich City team: John Ruddy (c), Steven Whittaker, Joseph Yobo, Ryan Bennett, Martin Olsson, Bradley Johnson (Ricky van Wolfswinkel 64), Jonathan Howson, Alexander Tettey, Anthony Pilkington (Nathan Redmond 64), Robert Snodgrass, Gary Hooper (Johan Elmander 64)
Unused substitutes: Mark Bunn, Russell Martin, Sebastien Bassong, Wes Hoolahan
Goals: Elmander, 85; Snodgrass, 87
Referee: Kevin Friend
Attendance: 29,828 (including 2,294 away)