Tadic double punishes 10-man Norwich as Saints respond to Europa exit
Steven Whittaker’s needless and avoidable red card for two cheap bookings allowed Southampton to climb above Norwich City in the Premier League table, courtesy of a Graziano Pelle opener and two Dusan Tadic goals at St Mary’s.
Ronald Koeman saw his Saints crash out of the Europa League play-offs in midweek, but got the required response of a first domestic victory of the campaign here at a time when the south coast club once again look vulnerable to other teams poaching their players.
Sadio Mane may be chief among those after the Senegal winger made two assists in this encounter, not to mention Kenya anchorman Victor Wanyama, who is reportedly trying to force a move to Tottenham through and was left out of Southampton’s squad.
Oriol Romeu operated in defensive midfield in Wanyama’s absence, giving others the freedom to attack. James Ward-Prowse saw an early free-kick tipped away by John Ruddy at full stretch and the Canaries keeper also had to be on hand to turn Tadic’s strike across goal behind.
Sandwiched between those two Saints chances, Whittaker picked up his first of two yellows for preventing home side left back Matt Targett from taking a throw. On half an hour, the Norwich defender left referee Jon Moss little option but to send the Scot off after his clumsy challenge on Tadic.
This forced Alex Neil into sacrificing playmaker Wes Hoolahan for Andre Wisdom and, on the stroke of half time, Southampton made their man advantage tell when Pelle broke the deadlock. The Canaries could not clear their lines and Mane passed to the Italy international, who swept past Ruddy on his near post before he could react.
Magnificent Mane was almost gifted a goal himself when Norwich number one Ruddy made a hash of a clearance, but recovered to deny him. There were further warning signs for the visitors just before the hour when Pelle curled narrowly wide from the same supply line.
A quick-fire double from Tadic then put this match to bed for the Saints. First turning in man of the match Mane’s low right-wing centre at the back post, the Serbia international then reacted first for a tap in as Ruddy spilled Pelle’s downward header into his path.
That third Southampton goal was started off by Mane, whose infield incursion that highlighted how easily exploited makeshift Canaries left back Robbie Brady was and allowed Cedric Soares on the overlap to find Pelle.
Substitute Gary Hooper’s stoppage time swerving shot that worked Maarten Stekelenburg was all Norwich could muster in a match one individual threw away. The Canaries will be up against it and have been cut to 13/8 for relegation.