Southampton put in a slick performance on their Premier League return, easily beating Norwich 3-0 as the Canaries edged closer to relegation.
The Saints looked like they had barely missed a Premier League game - let alone three months' worth - and soon took control after a good start from Norwich, who were punished for too many errors in possession.
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It took just four minutes of the second half for Danny Ings (49) to find the net, before Stuart Armstrong (54) added a quick second. Nathan Redmond (79) then wrapped things up against his former side late on.
Southampton move up just a place ahead of the remaining games this weekend - now on 37 points in 13th - while Norwich remain rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with 21 points.
How Saints returned with a victory
Norwich began well at an empty Carrow Road, with Kenny McLean pinging a fierce effort over the crossbar from range early on. Not long after, the hosts produced a wonderful attacking move as Jamal Lewis burst down the field. He squared the ball for Teemu Pukki, who in turn picked out Josip Drmic, but he was unable to cap his first Premier League start with a goal as some poor control allowed Southampton to block his shot.
The visitors soon found their feet and started to take advantage of some poor Norwich passing. They went close twice around the half-hour mark, the first coming from a trademark James Ward-Prowse corner. The new Saints captain hit his effort low, pulling it back to the top of the area as an unmarked Armstrong stormed into the area to strike, but it landed into the hands of Canaries 'keeper Tim Krul.
Norwich: Krul (6), Aarons (7), Klose (6), Godfrey (6), Lewis (6), Trybull (5), McLean (5), Buendia (6), Drmic (6), Cantwell (5), Pukki (6).
Subs used: Hernandez (5), Vrancic (5), Duda (n/a), Idah (n/a), Martin (n/a).
Southampton: McCarthy (6), Valery (6), Stephens (7), Bednarek (7), Bertrand (7), Armstrong (7), Ward-Prowse (7), Hojbjerg (7), Obafemi (7), Redmond (7), Ings (8).
Subs used: Smallbone (n/a), Adams (n/a), Tella (n/a), Boufal (n/a), Walker-Peters (n/a).
Man of the match: Danny Ings.
Not long after, Southampton had the best chance of the half. As Norwich tried to play out from the back, Jack Stephens nipped in ahead of Todd Cantwell to steal the ball away before driving towards the area. He then squared the ball to Ings, but the usually reliable striker could only ping his effort off the top of the crossbar.
It felt like only a matter of time before Southampton would take the lead and, four minutes after the break, Ings found the breakthrough. It came with a bit of luck as a throw-in bounced off a number of players before Armstrong's attempt to play the striker in nicked off the legs of Lewis. Once it was at Ings' feet, though, he had a clear sight of goal and he curled the ball sweetly into the middle of the net.
- Norwich made three changes with Grant Hanley, Alex Tettey and Ondrej Duda dropping out with Timm Klose, Tom Trybull and Josip Drmic coming in.
- Southampton also made three changes from their last game. Sofiane Boufal, Moussa Djenepo and Shane Long made way for Stuart Armstrong, Michael Obafemi and Nathan Redmond.
Five minutes later, the Saints had a second as they hit Norwich on a devastating counter-attack. Ings burst down the field after a neat lay-off from Redmond, before picking out Armstrong on his right. The Scotland international then darted past five Norwich defenders before powering the ball home past Krul into the bottom corner.
Southampton continued to see the better of the play and the chances, with Ward-Prowse twice denied by some wonderful defending from Max Aarons, but Norwich did have a sight of goal in the 64th minute. Drmic laid the ball off to Pukki at the top of the area, but his shot could only find the body of Jan Bednarek in a cluster of Saints defenders.
Redmond - who spent three years at Norwich - rounded off the victory in the 79th minute. The hosts were once again caught in possession, allowing Ings to burst down the field. He slotted the ball through for Michael Obafemi before he, in turn, picked out Redmond at the top of the area. He dinked past Timm Klose and Ben Godfrey with ease before slotting home and sealing a well-deserved three points for Southampton.
Man of the match - Danny Ings
The Southampton striker was a huge part of their success. Not only did he score the opener, he helped set up the next two with his bursting runs down the field, showing no ill-effects from three months of no football. He had four shots and made four key passes with one assist.
But he also made some vital clearances at the back and seemed to be everywhere at the big moments, making three tackles - the third highest of the team. He has helped turn around the Saints' season and he will be huge for them in the last eight games.
What the managers said
Norwich manager Daniel Farke: "Of course we're disappointed but because of the second half, we have to accept the loss because we were not defensively solid enough in the key scenes. The first scene was the 1-0 and then 2-0, it was then difficult with all the setbacks we've had in the recent days and weeks. It was then difficult to turn the game, but our defensive solidity before the first and second goals was the key today.
"Of course, goals are changing games and when you lead, it is good for the confidence. After conceding the first goal so early in the second half, it was then not easy for the confidence of my young players and the goals are always defining for a game. Then to be 2-0 back, it was too difficult for us to turn the game.
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"We chose today to go with a pretty offensive, attacking line-up, with many offensive-thinking players on the pitch because we have to attack the games. We have to go with this because we know we need to win at least five games during these last weeks, but today we paid the price a bit for so many offensive-thinking players on the pitch.
"It's a big setback without any doubts. I made my point clearly before, it's a best-of-nine series, we need to win five games and now we are one back. I wouldn't be too over-excited over a win and now we know it is not getting easier but we will fight to the end."
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: "I think in the first 10 minutes, we had some problems to come into the game against an aggressive opponent. Especially in the counter-pressing, they were good in the first 10 minutes but then there was one or two things where we started to fight back and from that moment on, I think it was a very good performance.
"In the second half, it was exactly what I was demanding, that we are more clinical in the final third and these big chances we create, we must also use them for goals and Ings was the opener, as happens often.
"I think we showed a very committed, good organised performance, especially against the ball and also our transition game was quite good. In the first half, it wasn't good enough to score, but in the second half, it was an absolutely deserved win I think.
"For us now, 37 points is a big step forward. I must say, this club in the last 100 days was so committed in every part and although we did not have our fans with us today, I think they know that we do our job to make them happy. I think we sent a good signal to everybody that we want to give them good moments even though they're not in the stadium."
Norwich will be back in action on Wednesday when they host Everton at Carrow Road (kick-off 6pm). Southampton welcome Arsenal to St Mary's on Thursday, live on Sky Sports (kick-off 6pm).