Southampton edged closer to the European places with a comfortable Premier League win over relegation-threatened Norwich at St Mary’s.
Che Adams scored the opening goal of the game for the hosts, flicking the ball past Canaries goalkeeper Angus Gunn after Tino Livramento’s cross had ricocheted around the six-yard box.
Oriol Romeu’s sublime late volley wrapped up the points for Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side.
The result sees Southampton move up to ninth in the table, while Norwich remain bottom five points from safety, having played at least one game more than any of the five sides directly above them.
But for some errant finishing – and the performance of Gunn against his former employers – Saints’ margin of victory would have been greater.
“These are the toughest wins to get, against teams where everyone expects you to win,” Hasenhuttl said.
“The last two teams coming here were in a relegation battle [Everton were their previous home game] and we won 2-0 with a clean sheet. People think it’s easy but it’s not.
“When you see the reaction of the fans there was not one moment when people weren’t believing we could win. That is a new feeling here I think.”
While they let a one-goal lead slip to lose the reverse fixture between the sides, the hosts rarely looked like relinquishing control on this occasion with the scoreline not a true reflection of their total dominance.
Mohamed Elyounoussi and Kyle Walker-Peters both had powerful efforts saved by Gunn, while Adams headed wide when well placed from a James Ward-Prowse corner.
Norwich had appeared to turn a corner with positive results against Everton, Watford and Crystal Palace.
However, they have now slipped to three consecutive defeats, shipped nine goals in the process and worryingly only three teams have avoided relegation from the Premier League after losing as many matches (17) as Norwich at this stage of the season.
And unlike their heavier losses to Manchester City and Liverpool, where they acquitted themselves well at times, this was an abject display.
With 30 minutes on the clock Dean Smith’s side had barely stepped foot out of their own half as they allowed Southampton to play around them, cross and shoot seemingly at will.
“The better team won on the night, we can’t argue with that,” said Smith. “If we only have six or seven-out-of-10 performances we won’t win games in the Premier League.”
Remarkably Josh Sargent had arguably the best chance early in the game, seeing his shot blocked following good play by Teemu Pukki, but they had to wait until the 73rd minute before Grant Hanley finally registered an effort on target.
By then Southampton’s pressure had told with Adams’ 36th-minute opener – and the Canaries could have few complaints when Romeu lashed in from 18 yards with two minutes remaining.
Prior to kick-off, Saints’ Austrian boss Hasenhuttl expressed the view that positive results against clubs near the top of the table had instilled confidence in his team.
Southampton came into this contest with just one defeat from their last 12 matches in all competitions and not having lost at home since September.
That was clearly evident once play got under way, as they stroked the ball around confidently with Romeu and Ward-Prowse setting the tone in midfield.
The Spaniard made more accurate passes than any other player on the pitch (65) – followed closely by England international Ward-Prowse (60) – and almost double the number made by any Norwich midfielder.
And Romeu’s first goal in 41 league appearances – dating back to October 2020 against West Brom – was apt reward for a fine evening’s work.