West Ham tee up quick-fire Europa League return as Norwich offer perfect cure to Frankfurt hangover

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Just three days on from their Europa League semi-final defeat in the cauldron that was the Deutsch Bank Park in Frankfurt, David Moyes might’ve feared a hangover ahead of a game that was must-win in West Ham’s bid to ensure they are back in Europe again at the start of next season.

He needn’t have worried.

Carrow Road in the sunshine presented, by comparison, an environment about as hostile as the home furnishings section of John Lewis and already relegated Norwich were the most accommodating of hosts as the Hammers cruised to the simplest of 4-0 wins without having to be anywhere near their best.

Tim Krul had a shocker between the sticks for the home side, at fault for the first two goals as he allowed Said Benrahma’s deflected effort to trickle through him and then contrived to present Michail Antonio with an open goal for his first Premier League strike since New Year’s Day.

Both were created by Jarrod Bowen, who then set up Benrahma’s second on the stroke of half-time to join Mohamed Salah as the only players to have reached double figures for both goals and assists in the Premier League this season, and he ought to have added to the former tally when somehow lifting wide from three yards in the moments after Antonio’s tap-in.

Those kind of statistics are testament to the consistency with which the Englishman has performed as one of the division’s genuinely elite forwards this term, in contrast to Benrahma, who produced the kind of display that Moyes has been so openly frustrated not to see more regularly. The Algerian gave Max Aarons a torrid time down the left, as Bowen did with Brandon Williams on the opposite flank and a first England cap is now surely only weeks away for the former Hull City man, provided he gets to the end of a long campaign in one piece, having in all likelihood been denied a maiden call-up by injury in March.

Williams, on-loan from Manchester United, and Chelsea’s Billy Gilmour may well play Premier League football for their parent clubs next season but there will surely not be many more of this Norwich side plying their trade in the top tier. In the first-half in particular, they were simply inept at the back and were booed off at the break by a home crowd only roused into song for a chorus of “That’s why we’re going down” after Krul’s second calamity.

In the away end, it was proper day out stuff, with numbers already looking ahead about their next European adventure and delighting in Norwich’s misery, encouraging their opposition to enjoy their trip to Coventry next term and to “say hello to Millwall”. There was a burst of “Happy Birthday” for substitute Mark Noble, too, on his 35th, introduced for what will be one of his final appearances in claret and blue soon after Manuel Lanzini had made it four from the spot.

Norwich had briefly improved after the break, during which Dean Smith made a double change, but Jacob Sorensen’s hapless decision to jump arm raised against Craig Dawson represented a reversion to type and Krul, who might’ve fancied a shot at some redemption given his penalty record, was sent the wrong way by Lanzini from 12 yards.

Victory moves the Hammers within three points of Manchester United and given the way Ralf Rangnick’s side are currently rivalling Norwich in the inadequacy stakes it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Moyes’ men could catch them in sixth and secure an immediate Europa League return.

Sterner tests await though, the contrast when champions-elect Manchester City come to the London Stadium next weekend likely to be as stark as that between firecracker Frankfurt and an East Anglian stroll this afternoon.

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