Danny Ings is back to his best.
The Southampton striker scored his fourth goal in as many games as the Saints beat Norwich 2-1 at St. Mary’s to move out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Ings headed James Ward-Prowse’s teasing free kick past Canaries goalkeeper Tim Krul to give the hosts the lead in the 22nd minute.
Ryan Bertrand doubled Southampton’s lead two minutes before half time, finishing from five yards after Shane Long headed a corner to the back post.
Teemu Pukki pulled one back for Norwich in the second half, but the Saints held on for a crucial victory which sees them leapfrog struggling Everton in the table.
Manager RalphHasenhuttl smiled when asked about Ings’ man of the match performance after the game.
“It is a result of a guy who is working his ass off!”
After a difficult start to the season, Hasenhuttl’s team have now won seven points from the last nine. Southampton have beaten relegation rivals Norwich and Watford in back-to-back games, and drew 2-2 at the Emirates before that.
27-year-old Ings has been the Saints’ talisman in their recent upturn in form.
After years of unfortunate injury struggles, the English forward is once again displaying the form which convinced Liverpool to snap him up from Burnley four years ago.
Ings burst onto the scene with Sean Dyche’s Clarets in the 2014/15 season, but his 11 goals weren’t enough to keep Burnley in the top flight.
8 – Danny Ings (8) has now scored more Premier League goals in 15 appearances this season than he managed in 24 in 2018-19 (7); only in 2014-15 (11) has he had a more prolific campaign in the competition. #SOUNOR pic.twitter.com/6cL9QFEmmF
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 4, 2019
The Reds came calling.
Ings was one of the few bright sparks as Liverpool endured a stuttering start to the season under Brendan Rodgers, scoring two goals in six matches and impressing the Anfield crowd with his willing running and selfless attitude.
It was Ings who opened the scoring in the Merseyside derby in Rodgers’ last game at the helm, with Romelu Lukaku’s late equalizer ultimately spelling the end of the manager’s reign.
Ings then suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in Jurgen Klopp’s very first Liverpool training session in October 2015.
After being hailed for his dedication to rehab while sidelined, Ings made a welcome return to the Reds team on the final day of the season, which Liverpool drew 1-1 against West Brom at the Hawthorns.
Another serious knee injury in October 2016 in a Carabao Cup match against Spurs ruled Ings out for almost a year.
Due to his injury woes and the superb form of Liverpool’s front three, Ings had to wait until April 2018 until his first goal under Klopp (and his first goal since 2015).
He made just 25 appearances in all competitions for the Merseyside club, scoring four goals in a spell that was decimated by injury.
Last summer, he requested a move away from Anfield to pursue regular football.
Klopp was reluctant to let the industrious striker leave, but acquiesced when Southampton came calling.
The Saints signed Ings on an initial loan deal, which was made permanent this summer for a reported £18 million.
Ings has been worth every penny.
The 27-year-old scored seven goals in 24 appearances for the club last season as Southampton finished 16th in the league, just five points clear of the drop zone.
Hassenhuttl’s men are flirting with relegation again this season, but it is Ings’ efforts that are keeping the club afloat.
Incredibly, Ings has scored 47% of the clubs league goals this season.
He has scored eight Premier League goals already this season, one more than he managed in total last season. The rest of his teammates have only managed a combined nine goals. No player in the top flight has scored a higher proportion of his team’s goals.
The delivery 🤤
The finish 🔥
The celebration ❤️
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) December 4, 2019
That’s as many as Raheem Sterling and Teemu Pukki, and more than Harry Kane (seven) and Mohamed Salah (six) have managed so far.
Sadio Mane, Sergio Aguero and Marcus Rashford have all scored nine.
His form has possibly gone somewhat under the radar when you consider the plaudits directed at Pukki for his early season exploits.
Ings has hit double figures for the season already when you add in his brace against Portsmouth in the Carabao Cup.
What’s even more impressive is that all of Ings’ goals have come from open play. It’s not just the goals, but the Englishman’s all-round play which is so impressive. He makes brilliant runs, links the play cleverly and closes defenders down incessantly.
Ings is in the type of form which surely warrants at least consideration for an England recall.
He opened his account on the second day of the season against his former club Liverpool at Anfield, blocking down a lax Adrian clearance to reduced the Reds’ lead to 2-1 after coming off the bench for the visitors.
Ings chipped in with an assist in the Saints’ next game, a 2-0 away win at Brighton.
The striker only started one of the club’s next three league matches, but ended his mini-drought against 10-man Spurs in late September.
Tanguy Ndombele had given Mauricio Pochettino’s men the lead, before Serge Aurier was sent off for too rash and foolish yellow cards.
In a case of Stranger ‘Ings (forgive me), Ings’ equalizing goal against the North London club was very similar to his bizarre goal against Liverpool.
Never one to give up on lost causes, Ings chased down Spurs ‘keeper Hugo Lloris, who couldn’t sort his feet out.
Ings dispossessed the panicked France international and tapped in Southampton’s equalizer.
Harry Kane went on to snatch all three points for Spurs.
Ings scored again in Southampton’s very next match, a difficult 4-1 drubbing at home to Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
The Saints striker poked home a poacher’s finish from Yan Valery’s cut-back on the half hour mark after the visitors had raced into a two-goal lead courtesy of Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount.
Ings’ goal couldn’t spark a Southampton fightback, with further Chelsea goals coming from N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi.
Ings made it three goals in three games when he earned Hassenhuttl’s side a point at Molineux.
Ings capitalized on some poor defending to race into the box and calmly slot the ball under Rui Patricio to give Southampton the lead, before Raul Jimenez converted a penalty to secure a point for Wolves.
Then came the humiliating 9-0 home demolition at the hands of Leicester, before a 2-1 loss to Manchester City at the Etihad and a 2-1 defeat to Everton at St. Mary’s.
Tom Davies gave the Toffees the lead with a back post header, before Ings drew the hosts level with a close-range finish from Sofiane Boufal’s low cross.
Richarlison nicked all three points for the visitors late on, a result which left the Saints mired in 19th place on eight points, three adrift of safety after 12 matches.
Pressure began to mount on Hassenhuttl, with the club going seven matches without a league win, but a run of strong results since then has breathed fresh life into his team.
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) December 4, 2019
Ings scored again in Southampton’s 2-2 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates.
Southampton caught the Gunners’ defence napping with a quick free kick from Bertrand which sent Ings clear of the Arsenal defence.
Ings raced through on goal and fired an excellent finish past Bernd Leno at the near post.
Alexander Lacazette drew the hosts level, before Ings then won a penalty after a tug by Kieran Tierney inside the area.
Ward-Prowse kept his nerve from 12 yards to make it 2-1, but Lacazette’s second goal earned Arsenal a point.
Ings followed up his sixth goal of the season with a crucial equalizer against Watford at St. Mary’s last week, bundling the ball home from Moussa Djenepo cross after Ismalia Sarr had opened the scoring for the Hornets.
Ward Prowse won the game for the Saints with a sublime free kick to claim the team’s first win in eight, with Ings once again named man of the match for his efforts.
Thursday’s win over Norwich secured back-to-back wins for the Saints, who are now one point and one place clear of the relegation zone.
Relegation remains a constant worry, and confidence is clearly an issue, but the players and fans will take heart from the club’s upturn in form.
Given the tight nature of the table – only six points separate Tottenham in eighth and Everton in 18th – one win can make a dramatic difference, even at this stage of the season.
With the Saints games facing West Ham and Aston Villa in their next two league matches, this is a crucial period for the club.
Villa are ahead of Southampton on goal difference, while the Hammers are one slender point ahead after 15 games.
Southampton have done well to beat two of the teams around them in their last two games, and two more positive results could lift them up towards the middle of the table.
A glance at the list of teams Ings has scored against tells its own story.
The former Burnley striker has bagged goals against Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Spurs, as well as vital strikes against Wolves, Watford and Norwich.
This is a player who is scoring hugely important goals.
Saints fans will be keeping their fingers and toes crossed that he stays fit and firing.