With the Saints having suffered a disappointing relegation from the Premier League at the tail end of the 2022/23 season, St Mary’s Stadium will host EFL Championship football once again for at least the next year. They’d look to open this campaign with three points against the Canaries, with a raucous home crowd behind them.
SOU: Bazunu; Manning, Stephens, Bednarek, Walker-Peters; S Armstrong, Smallbone, Alcaraz; Edozie, A Armstrong, Tella
NOR: Gunn; Giannoulis, Gibson, Duffy, Stacey; Hernández, McLean, Rowe; Sara; Sargent, Barnes
With just six minutes on the clock at St Mary’s, the visitors took a stunning lead through Josh Sargent. Rising highest at the back post, the American forward was able to plant a header past Gavin Bazunu, who was rendered useless in the entire affair – and it looked as though the Saints would be in for a long afternoon.
That wasn’t to be the case though, as Jan Bednarek found the crucial equalising goal for the hosts just eleven minutes later. Kyle Walker-Peters’ cross was perfectly placed for the defender, slotting home at the back post to restore parity in this mouthwatering fixture between two former Premier League clubs.
In a bizarre turn of events, the hosts catapulted themselves into the leads before the twenty-minute mark. Shane Duffy’s handball offence inside the penalty area granted Adam Armstrong an opportunity to take the lead from twelve yards, and that is precisely what he did – planting an effort to the right that evaded the diving Angus Gunn.
The goalmouth action was far from over at St Mary’s with that strike though, and it was Norwich that bagged in the 23rd minute to level the game at 2-2. Gabriel Sara’s screaming shot from the edge of the box was simply unstoppable, leaving Gavin Bazunu rooted to the spot between the Southampton sticks.
Twenty goalless minutes passed – and it looked as though these two sides would be inseparable at the break, until Jonathan Rowe found Norwich’s third in stoppage time. The midfielder had been granted acres of space inside the penalty area, and was able to power a header past Bazunu as a result.
Merely ten minutes of second-half action had elapsed before Che Adams equalised once more for Southampton, just moments after replacing the injured Sam Edozie. From the edge of the box, his low-driven strike was enough to level the game again, with Angus Gunn rooted to the spot.
Norwich thought they’d taken the lead once more through Ashley Barnes, but the linesman’s flag was promptly raised for an offside offence – and the forward’s celebrations were brought to an abrupt end before they’d really begun.
That crucial winning goal looked like it had arrived as Christian Fassnacht fired home in the 84th minute, capitalising on a defensive error from Ryan Manning. The Southampton defender had failed to truly deal with a cross delivered in from the flanks, allowing Fassnacht to power home for Norwich’s fourth goal of the match.
But this match was never going to conclude that clearly, and the Saints were handed one last opportunity to clinch an equaliser from the penalty spot as Kyle Walker-Peters was tripped inside the area. Stepping up to the spot for the second time in this drama-filled match, Adam Armstrong replicated his earlier heroics – finding the back of the net to level the match at 4-4 in stoppage time.
Charly Alcaraz could, and perhaps should, have added a fifth for the hosts in the dying seconds – but he sent his effort flying marginally wide of the post, allowing Angus Gunn to breathe a palpable sigh of relief.
Having settled for a point at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton will travel to Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park next weekend. Norwich City will host Millwall, but they must first venture to QPR’s Loftus Road Stadium in midweek to dispute a first-round Carabao Cup tie.