West Ham United 2 Norwich 0
Wednesday, 12th January 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
2022 continued delightfully for West Ham United as their first home game of the new year saw them comfortably beat an abject Norwich City 2-0.The opponents were poor, but the performance from the Hammers was not; Jarrod Bowen the star man as he netted twice and put in one of his best performances in a West Ham shirt. With 16 goal involvements this season - eight goals, eight assists - the forward is outperforming every Englishman in the Premier League and is surely knocking on the door for his first international call-up.
Much like the game at the weekend, West Ham controlled almost the entirety of the 90 minutes and should have won by more, the only criticism again being that by leaving it at 1-0 for so long, they allowed the door to stay open in an affair that was always theirs to win. Instead the three points went where they were most deserved, and the side kept a second consecutive clean sheet to move back into 4th place in the Premier League table.
The team news saw a welcome return for left back Aaron Cresswell, out since injuring his back in December, but the side were without Tomas Soucek in midfield due to Covid. Coufal returned, whilst Pablo Fornals came back to the starting eleven as David Moyes named an attacking side, using Lanzini in the deeper two of midfield.
His side started strong and with an intent that lasted throughout the whole match. There were goals to be scored against a weak and floundering Norwich side who look certain for relegation, and West Ham looked keen to exploit their weaknesses. They should have scored inside two minutes, neat interplay on the left finding Lanzini centrally and he threaded through a pass that saw Bowen in on goal, just on the edge of the area. His touch was good, but he took his shot quickly and fired it right at Tim Krul when he should have done better.
It was encouragement enough for the players and the first half was all their way. Norwich offered little to nothing, pumping balls into the channels for young Adam Idah to chase and try and force errors. Diop and Dawson handled him well, whilst Pukki mainly waited for chances that were never coming.
At the other end, Lanzini wasted a few chances on the edge of the box after good football, an early one created by smart work from the increasingly confident Nikola Vlasic, whilst the Argentine later skied a similar chance when a smart freekick routine found him in all kinds of space.
There were good signs from the left, Cresswell fitting right back into things and delivering a number of inviting crosses from the wing throughout the game. His passing at the back was notable too, and his presence seemed to bring out a much more controlled performance from Diop.
There were notable performances all round. Fornals caught the eye on his return, the energy back in his game and married with the direct, dangerous and intelligent passes that none of his teammates offers so consistently. A combination with Coufal nearly came off, and then the resulting corner saw Krul throw Vlasic down to the ground after grabbing his face. VAR offered nothing; just one of those things goalkeepers just get away.
VAR was soon to get involved, but again not to West Ham's favour. A short corner, one of many routines on show, saw Bowen receive the ball straight back from Fornals and curl in a cross on the diagonal and at goal. It evaded everyone and dropped into the bottom corner, but Vlasic had attempted to head the ball and, even though he had not touched it nor really was in Krul's path, it was deemed enough to chalk the goal off.
That kind of decision had gone in West Ham's favour at the weekend, but Bowen didn't have long to wait to finally get his name on the scoresheet. A rare bad cross from Cresswell was overhit and sailed across to the other side of the area, but Coufal was prepared. Regaining the ball, the right back curled in a ball between the two Norwich centre backs, and as they stood waiting, Bowen was alert, getting around his man to head at goal and beat Krul from close range to give his side the deserved lead.
The half ended with The Hammers on top, and the game restarted with no change to the pattern of play. If Norwich were to get anything from this, they were going to rely on a lot of luck or a moment of inspiration. In the past they have come up, played some good football but had nowhere near enough to survive. This time around they are offering very little to enjoy and West Ham should have seen this game off by a big margin,
They had the chances too, Antonio and Bowen both wasteful in front of goal. Fornals created a great chance for the striker nearly ten minutes into the second half, Antonio pinning his man against him with his back to goal and spinning before a shot that he blasted well over from close range. Five minutes later, Fornals played Bowen through on goal and into the area with a fantastic pass, but Bowen's chip over the dive of Krul was hit too hard and cannoned off the bar and to safety.
On another night, Bowen may have had four or five, hitting the base of the post not long after that miss as Fornals again found him in the area, the wide man then beating his marker round the outside and hammering a shot that was ever so slightly blocked and diverted onto the post before bouncing wide.
As chances went begging, Norwich sensed that the door remained open. West Ham let the game drift a little, and for five minutes Norwich gained some momentum. Idah came the closest for them, winning the ball back on the edge of the area from Bowen and turning to hit a shot that nearly caught Fabianski by surprise. It was a testament to the goalkeeper's concentration that he got a good hand to the powerfully hit drive and deflected it onto the post and away.
It was a little spark that maybe woke West Ham up a little bit to the threat that was still there, however dim. Masuaku was brought on for Vlasic and Cresswell started to hold back, letting Masuaku do the work down the flank.
Fornals drifted over to that side, but as Norwich looked to press higher up and put more bodies forward, the space opened up for West Ham to play. After a couple false dawns down that left, it was from here that the second goal came.
Credit goes to Fornals, picking the ball up in a pocket space as West Ham played out from the back. His pass in front of the run of Masuaku gave him space to drive into and the winger did just that. He drove at the hole on the Norwich right and into the area, but delayed his ball across goal. Taking the extra touch, he then passed to Bowen free in the middle of the six-yard box to tap into an empty net.
The offside flag went up, and it appeared Masuaku's hesitation had proven the downfall, but VAR this time came to West Ham's aid. Bowen had halted his movement and the Norwich right back had not, his foot coming back just as the pass was played and just enough to keep Bowen onside for his eighth goal of the season and to continue a remarkable spell of form.
There was still time for Antonio to miss a huge opportunity from only a few yards from goal, hitting it right at Krul's toes when he had the whole goal to aim at, and even as the flag went up, Antonio knew he should have put the ball in the back of the net.
But there was little left for Norwich to give and West Ham eased down for another three points and pushed themselves back into the top four. This time last year, the signing of Lingard lifted the squad to push on and finish the season in fine form. This time around, it may be that returning players like Cresswell and Zouma, as well as the likes of Antonio and Fornals catching a rest and coming back fresher will be enough to build momentum for a memorable second half of the season. There will surely be bigger tests, but the start has been impressive.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Made some solid but simple saves in the match, but gets a lot of credit for his reaction to Idah's effort having been left with nothing to do for so long.
An impressive performance where he kept pushing up the pitch and ended up with a deserved assist from a cleverly delivered cross.
There's some irony in the fact the cross he overhit was the one we ended up making something from, but his return was very welcome and helped the balance of the side. As well as that, he delivered some lovely and dangerous balls into the box.
In amongst a lot of no-nonsense, Craig Dawson defending was a moment where he took down a dropping ball from a corner, flicked it up and volleyed at goal. It came to nothing, but it needs to be remembered.
Maintained control much better today, there were moments where he looked set to rush in and do some Diop defending, forcing something from nothing, but instead he shepherded and remained patient. At one point, a pass to him was left short and he could have taken a risk, but instead the Frenchman smashed the ball away. Safety first.
Had complete control of the midfield, although he'll rarely be tested less in doing so. Just smothered any sort of breaks and played calmly.
Marked down for his shooting as he wasted a few opportunities with awful efforts. Otherwise, the game was easy for Manu as he continues his fine return to form.
An absolute force of creativity, yet he comes away with no assists having created numerous big chances. His form had dipped around Christmas, but this looks like a return to his best. More key passes, more final third passes and more chances created in the game. Just smart passing with dangerous intent, his vision in attack the difference in his game to Lanzini, plus the workrate is phenomenal.
Another good showing for Vlasic and he is starting to show more and more of his game. Made good progress down the left channel a few times and enjoyed the presence of Fornals and Cresswell down there with him.
Really, Bowen should have had more but the increase in his goal threat lately has made him a Hammer of the Year contender. The goal involvement making him the most dangerous English attacker in the Premier League just shows the progression in his game and the talent he has.
Bowen benefits a lot from the way Antonio occupies defenders and makes space for the supporting cast to come into. Probably should have scored, but did everything brilliantly until the finish. Worked hard and caused Hanley headaches.
(Replaced Vlasic, 77) Came on and added energy again from the bench, this time reigniting the left hand side and getting an assist.
(Replaced Antonio, 87) On for a few minutes.
Did not play.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Craig Dawson, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Nikola Vlasic, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Jarrod Bowen 42 Jarrod Bowen 84 .
Sent off: None.
Norwich: Krul, Aarons, Gibson, Hanley, Williams, Lees-Melou, McLean, Placheta (Dowell 66), Rashica (Tzolis 72), Idah (Rowe 75), Pukki.
Subs not used: Gunn, Byram, Kabak, Sorensen, Giannoulis, Gibbs.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Simon Hooper.
Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.