Norwich City 0-4 West Ham United
Saturday, 7th May 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
Away to Norwich City was the perfect fixture as West Ham smashed their hosts 4-0 at Carrow Road, as focus turned back to domestic success after Thursday's painful exit from the Europa League.Two goals for Benrahma, one for Antonio and a second half Manuel Lanzini penalty gave West Ham their dominant away win, the fourth time they've scored four in a league game this season, as David Moyes's side put the pressure on Manchester United above them and Wolves below them.
The Hammers are now five points ahead of Wolves and only three behind Manchester United in 6th, meaning European football is getting closer for a second successive season, and the chance is still there to make the Europa League rather than the Europa Conference.
After Thursday's defeat in Frankfurt, the players could have been forgiven had their motivation dropped a little for the game against the already relegated Norwich, but a four-goal victory was the perfect tonic to refocus their efforts for the remaining two games of the season.
Frankly, there could have been no better opponent to play than the quite woeful Norwich City. Rooted to the bottom of the table - although, shockingly, only one point below Watford - and with a goal difference of minus 53, the distinct lack of Premier League quality means Dean Smith's side offered no form of challenge or resistance. In truth, West Ham were not that good on the day, but still were four goals better than a side who seem to approach the Premier League like a form of purgatory. Back in January, these pages described Norwich's performance at the London Stadium as abject. This was much, much worse.
Even the cautious mind of David Moyes felt Soucek could be left out for this one, replacing the rampaging Czech midfielder with the more skilful Benrahma and moving Lanzini into a deeper two with Declan Rice. He was right to do so, with his side having so much of the ball and so little defending to do. Fabianski returned to his number one spot as the league goalkeeper in an otherwise unchanged side from the Frankfurt second leg.
The game started with West Ham in complete control and it remained that way throughout almost the whole 90 minutes. Norwich offered minimal threat in the away game, relying on direct balls to Pukki and Idah up front. With the young striker out, Pukki was fighting a losing battle as he pressured and pressed to defend from the front. What a thankless task, but at least he will soon be back in the comfort of the Championship, where he thrives.
West Ham had chances early on and were encouraged by how lackadaisacal Norwich's defending was. Benrahma and Antonio both could have scored after a good Coufal cross from the right found the Algerian at the far post. He chested it down then dallied before a backheel to Antonio fell a little short and left the striker on the stretch for the shot.
It was another ten minutes until they scored, but it had been coming. Lanzini found Bowen in a pocket of space outside the box, the winger coming off the right to find a dangerous position. He passed wide to Benrahma, who cut inside onto his right and shot low at goal. The effort was diverted on the way to goal by the defender's block, catching Krul wrong-footed. He adjusted too slowly to stop the ball going through his hand and into the back of the net.
The ease of it all, the game and the goal itself, possibly gave the West Ham players a touch too much confidence as they Norwich find their feet in the game for the next ten minutes. Not that Norwich really threatened, but Moyes's side definitely didn't look set to take out their frustration on Norwich.
When they did gather themselves once more and decide they may as well go score again, they did so. It felt that easy.
This time, not content with how he just allowed the first goal in, this time Krul deserves an assist. A pass from Bowen on the edge of the area was too hard for Antonio to get to, but Krul is a kind man. The goalkeeper slid to the edge of the six-yard box, flicked it towards goal and slid off, allowing Antonio to adjust and tap the ball into an empty net for 2-0.
Moments later, Bowen missed a sitter of his own from about the same range. The first move after the goal gives West Ham another great chance, Fornals with a shot blocked in the area. It dropped to Bowen, three yards out, but his instinctive effort flew wide. He clearly didn't know quite where he was, the shot going an impressive distance wide considering how close to goal he was.
It really didn't matter. West Ham had the game won at 2-0, regaining the control they had let loosen and just doing what can only be described as a professional job from there out.
The only concerns were injuries. Three players ended up withdrawn across the game, forced off after challenges. A firm but fair Byram challenge did for Antonio, the forward hobbling around for the final ten minutes of the half before being replaced in the break, whilst Dawson and Benrahma both came off in the second half.
It meant the striker was still on the field as West Ham smashed home a third. It was Benrahma again, finishing wonderfully from the middle of the area after great work down the right. After a long build of possession, it was Lanzini who found the space, darting between players to roll a ball through down the flank for Bowen. He drove to the byline, passing it into the middle with his right, and to where Benrahma had made the perfect run before hammering it into the roof of the net.
With at least two of those three going down as Bowen assists, the Englishman passed ten each for goals and assists in the Premier League this season, the first player to do so since Paolo Di Canio.
3-0 at the break was a pretty fair reflection of the gulf in quality between the sides, and this was without West Ham ever really clicking into gear. Had they been at their best, heaven only knows what the score might have been.
Yarmolenko was introduced for Antonio and out came the Hammers looking for more, but it was Norwich with the ball in the net inside the first minute of the half. A corner floated right to Fabianski's hands was suddenly in the back of the net, Byram reacting quickest after the goalkeeper allowed the soft cross through his hands. It bounced up and hit Byram before the defender could poke it home, and he celebrates as the West Ham appeals went up. They were right, too, with VAR showing a handball right before Byram could score.
It remained 3-0 for twenty minutes of the second half. The game was meandering, a pointless endeavour for all involved, so Norwich conspired once more to hand West Ham a goal. Almost literally as a Norwich defender handled in the area and West Ham were given a penalty.
It was VAR who confirmed it, seeing that Dawson was being held by the defender as he flew through the air to meet the inswinging corner. He missed his header, and the ball flew right into the hand grabbing his shirt. The penalty was given as the centre back received treatment after colliding with the advertising hoardings. He was replaced by Mark Noble, a birthday appearance for the skipper as Rice moved into defence. Unfortunately, the penalty was taken right before the captain could come on.
Lanzini stepped up, rather than Benrahma who was sat on a hat-trick, and rolled it into the bottom corner to make it four.
It could have been five or more, Fornals soon missing a chance in the six-yard box as Cresswell's pass was just behind him. Benrahma should have rounded off his fine performance with a hat-trick, too, but dallied a little when through on goal and lost the ball to Byram. The ex-West Ham man could not escape a bit of drama, with Benrahma kicking him as he nicked the ball away and leaving the Algerian too hurt to continue.
The game was hard to enjoy even for all of the dominance. There was never a contest in it, and though Pukki should have scored late on when through on goal - Fabianski doing well to stay big and make the save - there was nothing in the match. No edge, no competition and nothing to be taken from it.
Norwich remain bottom, West Ham stay in seventh. With two more games to go, it will take a lot from Wolves (or even Brighton) to take European football from West Ham, whilst the game in hand over Manchester United (as well as a goal difference ten better than the once successful club) means the Europa League could still have a successive season blessed with the West Ham presence.
David Moyes 8/10: Arguably, he could have dressed a banana in a West Ham kit and got a result out there, but the Lanzini call was right and the changes were hard to disagree with.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Good save at the end, but a worrying lapse of concentration with that corner. We often play teams who defend deep and don't threaten the goalkeeper much, but we rarely have such comfortable leads. That mistake could be costly on another day.
Exactly the performance you need out of your right back against a team you can dominate. Was a brilliant support for Bowen and a great attacking threat throughout.
A quietly efficient game for Cresswell. After a difficult few days, this is what he needed, especially as the away support are more mature than sections of the fanbase who have attacked him since the red card.
Some of the sloppier moments at the back had a hint of real arrogance from Kurt, who either switched off or just assumed he wouldn't be challenged by the Norwich players.
Won the penalty with his brave attempt to score. Wasn't challenged much at the back, but did make one exceptional block.
A boringly easy game for Dec, but one of those where his ability to get the ball back and get his team started again made attacks feel relentless. 119 passes, 93% accuracy.
Perfect game for Lanzini. Not tested defensively in deep roles, so can just play his game. Did so with an ease and calmness that comes with his game. The little bit of play to get Bowen free on the third goal was a highlight.
Looked a good fit in that 10 role, but nothing can be judged against Norwich.
One of his better West Ham performances, although he was still quite frustrating to watch as he turned good to bad on too many occasions. A bit of luck on the first goal, but an excellent finish for the second.
Should have scored, but the instant reaction plus Krul's rushing figure made it all on instinct rather than anything else. 9/10 he scores it. Assists, dangerous running and a solid work rate, too.
Got his goal, worked hard, caused problems and then taken off injured at half time. Job done.
(Replaced Antonio, 46) A pretty anonymous 45 minutes.
(Replaced Dawson, 67) Racked up over 50 passes in his 25-minute cameo. Hard not to give him a 10/10 as the games run out on his career.
(Replaced Benrahma, 76) One shot after a good run. Barely did a thing, otherwise, in a game that had long since died.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Manuel Lanzini, Pablo Fornals, Said Benrahma, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Said Benrahma 12 Michail Antonio 30 Said Benrahma 45 Manuel Lanzini 65 .
Booked: Jarrod Bowen 0 .
Sent off: None.
Norwich City: Krul, Aaron, Hanley, Williams, Byram, Gilmour, Sorensen, Rashica (Springett 46), Dowell (Placheta 71), Lees-Melou (Rupp 46), Pukki.
Subs not used: Gunn, Gibson, Tzolis, Giannoulis, Gibbs, Rowe.
Booked: Williams (61).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Robert Jones.
Man of the Match: Said Benrahma.