Albion’s push for European football is back on track after they came from behind to deservedly claim a first win at Stamford Bridge.
Conor Gallagher’s heavily deflected shot had given Chelsea an early lead but Kepa Arrizabalaga made two great saves and Evan Ferguson hit the bar before Danny Welbeck, who had only been on the pitch a few minutes, deservedly headed the equaliser just before the break.
Albion continued to dominate in the second half. Another substitute, Julio Enciso, struck the post but it was the Paraguayan who won it with a sensational shot from 30 yards into the top corner – and in front of a delirious away end.
Albion stay seventh and can now focus on next Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.
There had been three changes to the side beaten by Spurs, one enforced with Levi Colwill unavailable to play against his parent club. Rob Sanchez replaced the injured Jason Steele and Ferguson started in attack.
More than 3,000 Albion fans created all the atmosphere at kick-off and their team began brightly, and Ferguson nearly diverted Kaoru Mitoma’s low cross goalwards at the near post but found the side netting instead.
Joel Veltman had to halt Mykhailo Mudryk’s burst down the left with a push which earned him a fourth-minute booking before Albion had two great chances in the space of a 60 seconds.
Mitoma went past two defenders and found Alexis Mac Allister in space but a side-foot effort with his right foot was a yard wide of the far post. Albion won the ball back and it broke to Ferguson in the D and his shot beat Arrizabalaga only to come back off the bar.
It was Chelsea, though, who opened the scoring after 14 minutes when Gallagher’s shot from inside the D took a big deflection off Dunk which took it away from Sanchez and into the bottom left-hand corner.
Albion responded positively and could feel hard done by when Pervis Estupinan’s cross appeared to have been handled by Denis Zakaria but despite protests there was no VAR check. Solly March then found himself in space 25 yards out and let fly but his right-footer dipped over the bar.
Arrizabalaga was tested again on 25 minutes after a brilliant run by Mitoma, who sped past two challenges but was denied by a flying save diving to his right by the Chelsea keeper. Mitoma threatened again after Veltman had gone off injured but this time his low effort drifted wide of the post after another incisive move started by Adam Webster’s ball forward and Enciso’s flick.
A third of the way in and Albion could consider themselves very unfortunate to be behind. Mac Allister was next to have head in hands after firing just wide from the edge of the box before Enciso stood up a inviting ball for Ferguson to attack with his head, but at full stretch Arrizabalaga tipped it over the bar.
It was the striker’s last involvement as he took a knock and was replaced by Welbeck, but within a few moments of coming on Welbeck had scored for the second successive season at Stamford Bridge. March picked out Gross on the right and he teased a cross into the six-yard box where Welbeck rose between two defenders to steer his header inside the left-hand post. It was no more than we deserved.
Mac Allister’s volley took a deflection wide with Arrizabalaga struggling in stoppage time as Albion, having enjoyed two-thirds of the possession, ended the first half in control.
They started the second period where they had left off with Arrizabalaga called upon to save shots from Enciso and Welbeck, before Enciso had space to line up a strike just outside the six-yard box but Arrizabalaga and Chalobah combined to deflect it wide. Welbeck then inadvertently blocked March’s shot that was also on target before Estupinan dragged a low drive wide of the target.
Chelsea responded by making a quadruple substitution but it remained one-way traffic and Albion were denied by the woodwork again on the hour. Enciso did brilliantly to keep the ball in play and attack the box, holding off Reece James before driving a shot against the near post. The rebound arrived at speed at Welbeck’s feet but he couldn’t quite adjust his body position to direct it into the net.
Enciso and Mitoma linked up again on the left and it needed Chalobah to make a vital block to take the sting out of Mitoma’s shot. Chelsea finally stirred and Sanchez showed good reflexes to keep out efforts from Mudryk and James with his foot.
With 20 minutes to go Albion finally went in front and it was a goal of the season contender from Enciso, who had been so impressive after coming on. He collected possession 30 yards out, took a couple of strides forward and thumped a right-footer that arrowed into the top left-hand corner with Arrizabalaga left clutching at thin air. Cue scenes on the pitch – and behind the goal.
Chelsea pushed forward but apart from a stoppage-time effort by Mudryk which flew just over Albion kept them at bay fairly comfortably and a few minutes later could celebrate in front of the away end. Europe back on track. Next stop Wembley.
Albion: Sanchez, Veltman (Enciso 27), Webster (van Hecke 87), Dunk, Estupinan, Gross, March, Caicedo, Mitoma, Mac Allister, Ferguson (Welbeck 39).
Subs (not used): McGill, Undav, Gilmour, Buonanotte, Offiah, Moran.
Referee: Robert Jones