Southampton returned to Premier League football in emphatic style with a comfortable 3-0 win at Norwich City.
This was despite Norwich seeming to get back into their stride quickest and making a fast start to proceedings without really testing Alex McCarthy.
Saints grew slowly into the game and managed to carve out a couple of openings, most notably Danny Ings forcing a low save from Tim Krul.
The lengthy gap between fixtures was apparent with the usual crispness of some of the players not up to their high standards.
Southampton were getting closer as the half went on with Ings next to go close after smacking the crossbar.
The visitors’ superiority was soon reflected on the scoreboard as Ings continued his brilliant form from before the break with a superbly curled finish from the edge of the box to get his 16th goal of the season.
Stuart Armstrong made it two soon after with another inch-perfect finish.
Norwich then had a goal correctly disallowed for offside before Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side cemented their dominance with a third courtesy of a great touch and finish from Nathan Redmond.
It was like we never went away after a simply brilliant performance from the Saints, here’s how we rated the players:
Alex McCarthy: 6
In truth, McCarthy didn’t have an awful lot to do on his return to competitive football.
He made a handful of comfortable saves while his kicking was often wayward.
Yan Valery: 5
Valery seemed to struggle with the return of football more than most and was lucky to escape without punishment for a couple of mistakes.
He did contribute to a rare clean sheet though and will hope he did enough to keep his place against Arsenal next Thursday.
Jack Stephens: 7
Stephens made one of his trademark bursts forward from defence and was almost rewarded with an assist as Ings hit the bar from his lay off.
He was also competent defensively and would’ve been pleased to continue his impressive form that started earlier in the season.
Jan Bednarek: 7
The reliable pairing of Stephens and Bednarek renewed acquaintances at Carrow Road and restarted where they left off in March.
Bednarek’s performance often consisted of last-ditch challenges to amend either his, or others’ mistakes
Ryan Bertrand: 7
The best way of describing Bertrand’s performance would be ‘solid’.
He was another player whose touch was often slack early on but he improved like many to provide good cover down the left-hand side.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: 7
It could’ve been easy for Hojbjerg to down tools after being stripped of the captaincy following him expressing his desire to leave but the former skipper still gave an accomplished performance in the middle of the park.
James Ward-Prowse: 7
That’s not a bad way to start your career as Southampton captain!
Ward-Prowse led the team by example with his energy and his desire for the ball was as high as it was over 100 days ago.
Stuart Armstrong: 8
Armstrong was one of many players who most certainly grew into the game after the inevitable sloppy start.
The Scottish international soon found his crisp touch and deservedly doubled Southampton’s lead with a nice daisy-cutter finish.
Nathan Redmond: 9
If there was one benefit of the lockdown, it was that Saints were able to get Redmond back from injury.
He proved how much the side missed him with an exceptional performance given the circumstances with some exquisite close control – capped off by another superb goal.
Michael Obafemi: 6
The young striker made some very intelligent runs but just seemed to lack the composure and quality when through on goal.
Most notably, he failed to spot Ings in a better position in front of goal a couple of times; but a decent performance nonetheless.
Danny Ings: 9
You wouldn’t have been able to tell that we’ve had three months off if you just looked at Ings’ performance.
His usual pressing game remained at the heart of everything Southampton did and he capped of a great performance with a super finish from the perfect position.
The manager left it surprisingly late to make his substitutions, but he did eventually make all five as the new rules permit.
Although in truth, none of Will Smallbone, Che Adams Nathan Tella, Sofiane Boufal and Kyle Walker-Peters had enough time to make an impact.