By Rob Kelly
Alex Lacazette netted twice as we kicked off 2021 in style with an outstanding performance to blow away West Bromwich Albion in the snow at The Hawthorns.
With the in-form Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe in full flow, we attacked with real confidence against the bottom club and got our reward with two goals in each half.
Riding high on confidence after back-to-back victories against Chelsea and Brighton, we made a bright start– and never let up throughout in a thrilling performance.
Hector Bellerin and Saka both tested goalkeeper Sam Johnstone in the opening exchanges, before the latter came within inches of teeing up Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the opener.
With the snow pouring down on The Hawthorns, we were making all the running, but were indebted to Bernd Leno for a key save to deny Matt Phillips.
It proved a crucial moment as, less than two minutes later, we took the lead as the excellent Kieran Tierney raced past Darnell Furlong, before checking back and curling a pinpoint right-footed shot into the top corner.
It was a sensational strike from the Scot – but there was arguably even better to come shortly afterwards as we doubled our advantage.
If the first was all of Tierney’s own making, the second was more of a team effort as Saka combined brilliantly with Lacazette and the influential Smith Rowe around the box, before converting the latter’s low cross.
It was a delightful move, and we came close to adding a third before the interval as Lacazette saw two goalbound efforts saved by Johnstone.
West Brom had the ball in the back of our net minutes after the restart, but it was disallowed for offside – but it served as a warning against any complacency.
Lacazette, enjoying a fine evening’s work, then came close again when played through by Dani Ceballos but saw his shot cleared off the line.
But the France international did not have long to wait for his goal, when he converted smartly in the box after more good work from Saka.
Moments later he had his second of the night as a quick counter ended in Tierney picking out Lacazette to fire into the roof of the net from close range.
Aubameyang poked a shot over as we continued to attack with ferocity in the closing stages, before breaking again at speed only to see his shot saved by Johnstone.
But there were to be no further goals to add to a fine performance, as we celebrated a third Premier League win on the bounce to see in the new year.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We start our defence of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday evening as we host Newcastle United in the third round.
Then Crystal Palace visit Emirates Stadium on January 14, before another game against the Magpies – this time in the Premier League – four days later.
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