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Norwich Relegated From Premier League as West Ham's Antonio Hits Four

Norwich Relegated From Premier League as West Ham's Antonio Hits Four

Sunday, 12 July, 2020 - 05:00
Michail Antonio scores his hat-trick goal. He went on to score all four in West Ham’s win at Norwich. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/NMC pool
London - Jacob Steinberg

Would Daniel Farke do it differently if he was allowed another go? Norwich’s manager has stuck to his principles all season, trusting in the players who won promotion last year and insisting on an expansive style, but it is not hard to feel that a touch more pragmatism would not have gone amiss in a scrap for survival.

Weaknesses are ruthlessly exposed at this level and Norwich’s inability to cover up their flaws has been their undoing, dragging them back down to the Championship at the first time of asking.

The defeat that sealed Norwich’s relegation summed them up. They defended abysmally, conceded soft goals from set pieces and lacked conviction in the final third.

Farke’s lightweight side looked broken and beaten throughout and succeeded only in delivering a masterclass in how not to handle Michail Antonio, whose four goals helped West Ham take a big step towards preserving their Premier League status with their first away win in nine matches.

“We are always self-critical,” Farke said. “You always have to ask yourself what you could have done better. It is not unexpected. The first day after promotion I said you have a 5% chance to stay in this league without spending money.

“I am sorry we were not able to work another miracle. No one expected us to win the title in the Championship. We were highly motivated to beat the odds. We can only apologize.”

Farke spoke about injuries to key individuals and expressed hope for the future, pointing out that Norwich have talented young players on long-term contracts.

He sounded confident about their financial position and ready to fight again next year, saying that he has no desire to leave the club. “I have a long-term contract,” he said. Nonetheless, it was striking to hear him describe Norwich’s seventh successive defeat as a case of “men against boys”.

They were demolished by Antonio, who collected his first professional hat-trick after moving to six goals in his past four games, and West Ham cantered to their second 4-0 win since David Moyes replaced Manuel Pellegrini in December.

Moyes was delighted with a first clean sheet in 15 matches after his side rose six points clear of the bottom three with three games left, having played one more than 18th-placed Bournemouth.

There was a doomed air about Norwich and a straightforward change from Moyes lifted West Ham after their defeat by Burnley last Wednesday, the omission of Andriy Yarmolenko for Mark Noble giving the side more balance.

Noble worked diligently with Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek in midfield, Jarrod Bowen was menacing after returning to the right flank and Norwich creaked at the back, escaping when Soucek clippedshot wide early on.

Norwich’s feeble defence could not cope with Antonio. West Ham’s forward rattled his markers, Ben Godfrey and Timm Klose, and he had already forced a save from Tim Krul before giving the visitors the lead, meeting Issa Diop’s flick from Bowen’s corner with an emphatic right-foot volley from close range.

Behind after 11 minutes, Norwich could have been forgiven for walking down the tunnel. They are the only team in Europe’s top-five leagues not to have claimed a point after conceding first this season and even West Ham, who have dropped 24 points from winning positions this season, could not find a way to blow this lead.

Noble, surprisingly playing at the highest point of midfield, was looking like a cockney Kevin De Bruyne. Bowen caused constant problems, arrowing two efforts wide, and West Ham had another chance go begging when Krul denied Soucek.

It was a brilliant save from Krul but he was powerless to stop West Ham doubling their lead just before half‑time. Noble swung in a free‑kick and Antonio glanced in an easy header.

After 53 minutes Noble made another telling impact, lofting a clever pass through for Antonio. The 30-year-old raced clear and although Krul saved his first effort the striker gobbled up the rebound with a looping header.

West Ham attacked again and Antonio became the first player to score four goals in a game for West Ham since David Cross in 1981, tapping in a cross from Ryan Fredericks.

“He’s been excellent because we’ve been without Seb Haller,” Moyes said. “Not many people score four in a Premier League match.”

It was a grim march to the final whistle for Norwich. Farke sounded resigned before the game, admitting his side were already down. The German just wanted his players to enjoy themselves. The problem, though, is that there is nothing fun about relegation.

The Guardian Sport

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