This match almost had it all: a battle against relegation, a triple substitution, plenty of goals, and almost, almost a fairy-tale comeback from the underdogs. But in the end the hosts took all three points, leaving Norwich just four points above the drop.
Right from the start Southampton were on top, with James Ward-Prowse very nearly opening the scoring after just two minutes. His header went wide, but it mattered little, as Saints were in front by the fifth minute.
The Norwich defense were cut apart, with neither of the Canaries’ defensive midfielders picking up on the run of Gastón Ramírez. Jay Rodriguez laid off the ball for Morgan Schneiderlin, whose neatly clipped shot sailed over John Ruddy to land in the back of the net.
The hosts weren’t about to slow down, however, continuing to pile pressure on Norwich. Ramírez put in a lovely ball that Rodriguez just missed. Steven Davis was able to latch on, but his shot went just wide. Moments later, Ramírez was having a go himself, from 20 yards, but his curling shot went wide as well. It’s tough to believe he hadn’t started since the first day of 2014.
After about the half-hour mark, Norwich started to ease their way into the game. The visitors’ first chance came when Robert Snodgrass played in Gary Hooper, but the front man’s shot went wide. Anthony Pilkington put in a decent sharp drive, but it was blocked before threatening Artur Boruc’s goal.
It was Southampton that came back roaring after the restart, however. José Fonte slid a long ball through to Ramírez, but Ryan Bennett got in the way. The Norwich defender flicked on to Rickie Lambert, who’d been on for just a minute. The forward slipped past Jos Hooiveld to double his side’s lead.
It was then that Chris Hughton decided to make a change…or three. Off came Pilkington, Hooper and Bradley Johnson; on came Nathan Redmond, Johan Elmander and Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Jay Rodriguez put in Southampton’s third goal. John Ruddy had managed to save Guly Do Prado’s original shot, but the rebound fell to Rodriguez, who had no trouble putting it away. 3-0, and it looked as though the Saints were coasting to victory.
Hughton’s triple substitution, however, proved to be quite effective. Fonte made a hash of a pass to Boruc, which Elmander was able to intercept, slotting past the goalkeeper. Then, less than two minutes later, van Wolfswinkel’s shot was deflected into the path of Snodgrass, and the Canaries were within a goal of snatching a point.
Alas, the fairy-tale comeback fell short. Instead it was Southampton that grabbed the final goal, almost with the last move of the match. Alexander Tettey’s slip allowed Sam Gallagher – again, on just minutes before – the chance to latch on to a through ball and put in the Saints fourth and final goal.
Southampton: Boruc, Clyne, Fonte, Lovren, Shaw, Schneiderlin, S. Davis, Ward-Prowse, Lallana (Lambert 55), Ramírez (Guly 61), Rodriguez (Gallagher 93)
Goals: Schneiderlin 5′, Lambert 57′, Rodriguez 72, Gallagher 97′
Norwich City: Ruddy; Whittaker, Yobo, R Bennett, Olsson; Tettey, Johnson (van Wolfswinkel 65), Howson; Snodgrass, Pilkington (Redmond 65), Hooper (Elmander 65)
Goals: Elmander 85′, Snodgrass 86′,