By Andy Sims, PA
West Ham brushed off their European exit and reignited the race for the Premier League top six with a thumping 4-0 win at Norwich.
The Hammers arrived at Carrow Road licking their wounds after their painful Europa League semi-final defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday night.
But Norwich, condemned to relegation by defeat at Aston Villa last weekend, were less Frankfurt and more Frank Spencer with goalkeeper Tim Krul having a nightmare.
Manchester United’s 4-0 defeat at Brighton has left the door open for West Ham to snatch sixth place and qualify for the Europa League again next season.
Thanks to Norwich’s generosity they are now three points behind United, with a game in hand and a superior goal difference.
Krul was badly at fault for goals from Said Benrahma and Michail Antonio to leave his side 2-0 down after half an hour.
West Ham were three up by half-time thanks to Benrahma’s second, and Manuel Lanzini added the fourth from the penalty spot.
Benrahma’s first arrived in the 12th minute when he collected Jarrod Bowen’s cross on the left of the Norwich penalty area.
The Algerian’s shot deflected off the knee of Max Aarons but Krul still should have stopped it, only for the ball to squirm out of his grasp and roll in.
Benrahma was not complaining after registering only his second goal since December and reaching double figures for the season.
Things got worse for Krul on the half-hour mark when Bowen slipped Antonio through on goal.
Krul came off his line and stuck out a hand to nick the ball away, but succeeded only in nudging it back into the striker’s path, leaving covering defender Sam Bryam on the deck and Antonio, who scored four on his last trip to Norwich two seasons ago, tapping into an empty net.
“That’s why we’re going down” was one of the more polite songs to emanate from an increasingly frustrated home fanbase watching their side slip towards a club-record 12th home defeat in a single season.
West Ham should have had a third moments later but Bowen volleyed wide from six yards.
But they did not have to wait long, as in first-half stoppage time Bowen set up his third goal of the match, reaching the byline and pulling the ball back for Benrahma to lash home from 15 yards.
Norwich thought they had pulled one back at the start of the second half when Byram bundled the ball in from a corner, but the VAR spotted a handball and the goal was ruled out.
Instead a handball at the other end piled on the misery for the Canaries, the ball hitting the arm of Jacob Sorensen and Lanzini tucking away the penalty as West Ham comprehensively kept their hopes of a return to Europe alive.