By Rob Kelly
Three fine goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Nicolas Pepe and Willian saw us claim a 3-1 victory against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.
After the disappointment of our European exit on Thursday night, Mikel Arteta’s side were expected to deliver a response here – and they did just that.
But it took some time to get going, and in fact it was the visitors who twice went closest in the early stages through the dangerous Matheus Pereira.
Gradually we began to assert our dominance, and when we upped the tempo the Baggies struggled to live with us – especially down our left flank, where Bukayo Saka took centre stage.
The England international was playing out of position at left back – not that you’d have known it - and on the half-hour mark it was no surprise that our opening goal was created by him.
After being played in by Willian following patient build-up play, Saka looked up and picked out the onrushing Smith Rowe, who had raced into the box and volleyed in on the run with his left foot.
It was a lovely strike, but there was even better to follow just five minutes later.
This time the goal stemmed from an attack up the right as Calum Chambers – enjoying another eye-catching display – fed Pepe, who cut inside and curled a sensational strike into the top-left hand corner.
It was a high-class goal, and no more than our dominance deserved – and we had further chances to add to our advantage before the break through Gabriel Martinelli, Chambers and Saka.
We continued to pile forward after the interval, with Pepe and Smith Rowe both testing Sam Johnstone early on, while a fine Saka cross not long afterwards just evaded Martinelli and Smith Rowe.
But out of the blue, the Baggies pulled one back when Pereira raced at the heart of our defence and fired a low shot beyond Bernd Leno and into the far corner.
The goal offered the visitors hope, and we had some nervy moments during the closing stages.
But in the 90th minute, Willian stepped up to curl a free kick into the top corner to wrap up the win, open his account for the club and relegate Sam Allardyce’s side in the process.
HOW IT HAPPENED
WHAT IT MEANS
We’re back in action on Wednesday as we travel across London to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, before our final two games of the campaign, at Crystal Palace and then hosting Brighton on the final day.
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