West Ham United F.C
Bowen 42, 83
Bowen brace sees West Ham nullify Norwich City
- Credit: PA
West Ham United made it a hat-trick of victories as they moved into fourth spot with a comfortable win over basement boys Norwich City at London Stadium.
Jarrod Bowen’s double-barrelled blast shot down the Canaries to leave Dean Smith’s men wobbling on their Premier League perches, three points adrift of safety, while David Moyes boys remain on the up to the delight of every East Ender in the crowd of 59,775.
The Hammers No.20 put his side ahead towards the end of a one-way first half and, with the second period going the same way, too, having twice struck the woodwork, Bowen then cemented victory with his eighth goal of the season, with seven minutes remaining.
After easing themselves into the FA Cup fourth round with victory over Leeds United on Sunday, the Hammers made a quartet of changes as fit-again Vladimír Coufal and Aaron Cresswell returned to action alongside Pablo Fornals and Łukasz Fabianski, while Tomáš Souček and Ryan Fredericks plus substitutes Alphonse Areola and Ben Johnson sat out.
Kicking-off in fifth spot – 15 places and 24 points above the rock-bottom Canaries – West Ham could have taken the lead inside the opening two minutes, when man-of-the-match Bowen ghosted into the visitors’ area unchecked but Tim Krul brilliantly saved his rasping, low 15-yard drive.
Next-up, Manuel Lanzini sent a wayward long-ranger high over the Dutch keeper’s crossbar before Kenny McLean mirrored that effort at the other end.
Both winless and goalless in their previous five Premier League matches, Norwich had, at least, managed to overcome League One Charlton Athletic in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon.
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Following that win at The Valley, Smith made seven changes with Max Aarons, Ben Gibson, Przemysław Płacheta, Milot Rashica, Adam Idah, Brandon Williams and Teemu Pukki all receiving call-ups.
While the Hammers fans were pleased to see Coufal back in the starting line-up, Manuel Lanzini was not so enamoured by his team-mate’s return, when he was flattened by the Czech Republic international as the claret and blue duo went into pursuit of the same ball on the halfway line.
With West Ham forcing a string of corners, Canaries captain Grant Hanley deflected Craig Dawson’s point-blank, angled volley behind and from the subsequent flag-kick Lanzini curled an 18-yarder into Krul’s gloves.
The pressure was certainly building and, as Declan Rice held the fort, Bowen, Lanzini, Fornals and Nikola Vlašić continued to press in support of Michail Antonio, who had sensationally scored all four goals in the last meeting between these two teams during 2019/20’s Project Restart.
When Rashica rashly upended Coufal on the edge of the area on the half-hour mark, Bowen cleverly cut the consequent free-kick back to Lanzini but, once again, the Argentinian’s shooting boots deserted him and his shot flew high into the dark Stratford skies.
Seconds later, another right-wing cross from Bowen ended up in the back of the net but all West Ham celebrations were soon cut short by an offside flag against Vlašić, who may even have got the feintest of touches as the ball sailed into the danger zone.
Bowen did not have to wait too long to overcome that disappointment, though, for on 42 minutes, the deadlock was finally and predictably broken by Moyes men.
Cresswell’s over-hit left-wing cross was recycled on the opposite flank by Coufal, who flighted the perfect ball towards the six-yard box, where the pint-sized Bowen got between Williams and Gibson to nod West Ham into a deserved interval lead.
The second half continued as the previous 45 minutes had ended with the tumbling Vlašić’s appeal for a penalty falling on the deaf ears of referee Simon Hooper before Antonio collected from Fornals ahead of sending an eight-yard shot-on-the-turn high over.
As the hour-mark approached, Lanzini found Fornals, who threaded a defence-splitting pass into the path of Bowen but having drawn the helplessly-exposed Krul from his goal, the busy Hammer only succeeded in clipping his 12-yarder onto the crossbar to groans of East End exasperation.
Arriving deep in Norwich territory once again, Bowen then drilled a low, angled shot onto the base of Krul’s left-hand post and, with West Ham having taken both the shots and corner counts into double-figures, the visitors continued to wobble.
Midway through the second period – having just replaced Płacheta with Kieran Dowell – Norwich almost conjured up an equaliser out of thin air, however, when Idah cut in from the left flank and danced to the edge of the Hammers area, where he left fly with a swerving 18-yarder that Fabiański – making his 300th Premier League appearance - palmed onto his right-hand post.
Christos Tzolis and Jonathan Rowe replaced Rashica and Idah as Canaries boss Smith fruitlessly played his final two cards of the evening, while in the other dug-out, Moyes stood down Vlašić as Arthur Masuaku entered the stage and promptly sliced behind.
But in his second act of the night, the Hammers substitute again burst into the left-hand side of the area and cut back to Bowen, who in tandem with Gibson slide home from six yards out before surviving a nervous offside review by Video Assistant Referee John Brooks.
In truth, the confidence-bereft Canaries had looked like a beaten team from the opening moments and that two-goal deficit could easily have become three but Antonio’s point-blank shot looped over before his replacement, Andriy Yarmolenko then brought the best out of Krul.
By now, though, the job was done and as Norwich head home to Norfolk looking for a goal yet alone a win, they know their furious fight for survival continues, while West Ham – riding high in those Champions League places – now contemplate Sunday afternoon’s visit of Leeds United.
West Ham: Fabiański, Coufal, Cresswell, Diop, Dawson, Rice, Bowen, Fornals, Lanzini, Vlašić (Masuaku 78), Antonio (Yarmolenko 87). Unused subs: Areola, Johnson, Král, Oko-Flex, Alese, Ekwah, Ashby.
Norwich: Krul, Aarons, Williams, Gibson, Hanley, Lees-Melou, McLean, Płacheta (Dowell 65), Rashica (Tzolis 71), Idah, Pukki. Unused subs: Gunn, Byram, Kabak, Sørensen, Giannoulis, Gibbs, Rowe.
Referee: Simon Hooper