West Ham United F.C
Benrahma 12, 45 Antonio 30 Lanzini 65 pen
West Ham raise hopes with big win over relegated Norwich
- Credit: PA
Maybe just maybe, automatic Europa League qualification could be back on for West Ham United following a fantastic 4-0 victory over Norwich City at Carrow Road.
David Moyes' men put the calamitous Canaries firmly to the sword, defiantly ending their run of four straight losses as they shrugged off the disappointment of defeat at Deutsche Bank Park on Thursday.
And having bounced back from their Eintracht Frankfurt reverse with a comfortable win they have closed the gap on Manchester United in sixth place.
With the recalled Saïd Benrahma scoring twice either side of a Michail Antonio tap-in, it was an opening 45 minutes to forget for careless Canaries keeper Tim Krul as West Ham raced into a three-goal interval lead.
And with Manuel Lanzini firing home the fourth from the penalty spot midway through the second-half, West Ham now face Manchester City next Sunday ahead of their final match at Brighton & Hove Albion in a fortnight’s time knowing that sixth spot is firmly back on the radar.
Despite their heart-breaking Europa League semi-final exit in Germany three days earlier, the Hammers had arrived in Norfolk still harbouring hopes of qualifying for next season’s competition following United’s forlorn 4-0 defeat at Brighton on Saturday.
And with his former club now right back in his sights, Moyes made two changes as Łukasz Fabianski predictably returned in goal in place of Alphonse Areola, while the attack-minded Benrahma also started as Tomáš Souček dropped to the bench.
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Within the opening five minutes, Benrahma set up Antonio whose shot was deflected behind for a corner which Craig Dawson subsequently nodded over the top and, with the Hammers firmly on the front foot in the early exchanges, Moyes’ men forced a trio of flag-kicks.
Clearly, there were no signs of any Europa League lag and, with a dozen minutes on the clock, Vladimír Coufal’s right-wing raid saw Jarrod Bowen play a one-two with Pablo Fornals on the 18-yard line before squaring to Benrahma.
The Algerian wasted no time striding into the Norwich area before letting fly with a low 12-yarder that deflected off Max Aarons ahead of squirming through Krul’s clutches to take his tally into double figures for the season, while the Canaries’ keeper was left looking high into the Norfolk sky knowing TV replays will not make pleasant viewing.
But that soft slip was nothing compared to the second Krul calamity that followed on the half-hour mark, when Bowen played in Antonio, who strode towards goal with Grant Hanley in pursuit.
Racing from his line, the keeper’s attempted dive into the striker’s studs merely resulted in a collision with his own skipper and, having only now succeeded in scooping the ball back into the path of Antonio, the Jamaican international gleefully stroked his 12th goal of the season into an empty net.
“Premier League? You’re havin’ a laugh,’” taunted the Hammers fans while their Canaries counterparts could only groan and boo in equal measure.
The rock-bottom Canaries had officially been relegated as a result of the 2-0 defeat at Aston Villa last Saturday and, with his team having already fallen off their top-flight perch, Dean Smith had made just one change with Jacob Sorensen earning a call-up in place of Mathias Normann.
Already two goals adrift, Norwich then survived another East End raid and Video Assistant Review that saw Lanzini’s 18-yard shot strike the arm of former Hammer Sam Byram before Bowen – who had earlier been booked following a collision with Brandon Williams – hooked the ricochet over the top.
Undeterred, the visitors still pressed forward and, with the final kick of a runaway, rampant first half, they trebled their advantage when Lanzini linked with Bowen, whose third assist of the afternoon allowed Benrahma to lash an unstoppable rising 12-yarder past Krul.
Antonio (hip) who had taken a bit of a battering during the opening 45 minutes was replaced by Andriy Yarmolenko for the restart, while Smith – who could have been forgiven for wishing that he could make 11 substitutions – went for a double-switch that saw Pierre Lees-Melou and Milot Rashica retire as Lukas Rupp and debutant Tony Springett entered the fray.
Certainly, the Norwich new-boy wasted no time marking his arrival on the Premier League stage, immediately forcing a corner that was uncharacteristically dropped by Fabiański but after seeing Byram bundle home, the Polish stopper’s blushes were spared when a VAR review ruled that the ex-Hammer had handled.
And if that decision cruelly went against the Canaries, then midway through the second period, they suffered another body blow when referee Robert Jones consulted his pitchside monitor before adjudging that Sorensen had pushed Dawson in pursuit of a near-post corner.
The lethal Lanzini fired the consequent spot-kick inside the base of the right-hand upright as Krul headed in the opposite direction and the Hammers were now four goals to the good.
With Dawson having fallen awkwardly in that penalty incident, Mark Noble duly arrived to choruses of ‘Happy Birthday’ as the vociferous visiting supporters heralded the skipper’s arrival.
Fornals and Benrahma then had good opportunities to top off Noble’s 35th celebrations with yet more goals that would have put yet more icing on the captain’s birthday cake but in the end the four strikes already in the bag were more than enough for the Hammers to keep their renewed Europa League hopes alive with those two games left to play.
Norwich City: Krul, Aarons, Williams, Hanley, Byram, Gilmour, Lees-Melou (Rupp 46), Sorensen, Dowell (Placheta 71), Rashica (Springett 46), Pukki. Unused subs: Gunn, Gibson, Tzolis, Giannoulis, Gibbs, Rowe.
West Ham United: Fabiański, Coufal, Cresswell, Dawson (Noble 68), Zouma, Rice, Fornals, Benrahma (Vlašić 74), Lanzini, Bowen, Antonio (Yarmolenko 46). Unused subs: Areola, Fredericks, Masuaku, Souček, Johnson, Král.
Booked: Bowen (25), Williams (61).
Referee: Robert Jones.