Just over a week after suffering agony from the penalty spot at Wembley Albion gained revenge over Manchester United after a near-unbelievable finale at the Amex.
Five minutes of stoppage time was nearly up when Luke Shaw blocked a shot with his hand in a crowded penalty area. Referee Andre Marriner was directed towards the monitor by the VAR and took one look before pointing to the penalty spot. Alexis Mac Allister was the most composed man in Sussex as he settled himself before driving the penalty into the top left corner.
There was barely time for a re-start. Albion had banked three precious points in the push for European football and completed a Premier League double over United.
It had been a terrific contest with both sides squandering some golden chances. They may have left it late but Albion deserved to edge it based on their second-half performance when David De Gea pulled off a couple of outstanding saves when Albion piled on the pressure in the closing stages.
Victory lifted above Spurs and into sixth place, with another home game against Everton to come on Monday.
Roberto De Zerbi made four changes to the side that had thumped Wolves. Kaoru Mitoma, Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo, who slotted in at right-back in the absence of the injured Pascal Gross, all returned and Facundo Buonanotte started on the right with Solly March on the bench.
Both sides went at each other from the off with the game played at a terrific tempo from the first whistle.
There could have been goals at either end in the first four minutes. Anthony dragged a shot wide with only Jason Steele to beat before Mitoma intercepted Victor Lindelof’s wayward pass, but De Gea blocked his shot with his face and needed lengthy treatment before continuing.
Mitoma started the game really well. In the 13th minute Billy Gilmour and Danny Welbeck combined to play him down the left but he stabbed a low shot inches wide of the far post. Adam Webster headed a corner at De Gea before United hit back. Anthony found the side betting, Casemiro headed onto the roof of the net and Steele stood tall to prevent Marcus Rashford’s shot from sneaking in at the near post.
Mac Allister and Julio Enciso weren’t far away with shots from outside the box before Steele excelled himself again when he blocked Anthony Martial’s close-range strike. Albion ended a hectic half on top and Buonanotte was only inches wide with a right-foot shot through a crowded six-yard box.
The start of the second half was no less frenetic and Albion looked the more threatening. Mitoma had time and space to run at the heart of the United defence but hit one effort into the side netting before trying to poke a shot past De Gea which lacked power. He then teed up Welbeck on the edge of the box but the former United striker couldn’t keep his shot on target.
March was introduced for Buonanotte, who had taken a whack on the face moments earlier, before Steele was tested for the first time in the second half and was up to the task as he pushed away Fernandes’ shot. At the other end Mitoma was floored again, this time after a push by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but Marriner waved play on.
Things threatened to boil over when Anthony hacked down Mac Allister, sparking a melee involving a handful of players. Anthony was perhaps fortunate to only get a yellow card.
Steele was happy to see Casemiro’s volley from the edge of the box rise over the bar before Enciso’s daisy-cutter at the other end flashed a yard wide.
Deniz Undav and Levi Colwill came on for the last 15 minutes but it was another of our substitutes who went closest to grabbing a late winner. March led a counter-attack down the right, cut across the edge of the box and let fly with his left foot, the shot whistling a few inches wide.
In the final minute De Gea sprung to his right to divert Mac Allister’s 25-yarder round the post, a terrific save as the Spaniard would have seen it late. Another scramble saw De Gea keep out Pervis Estupinan’s piledriver before March’s cross eluded a clutch of Albion players.
But in the scramble Shaw had handled and his reaction when referee Marriner wandered over to the pitchside monitor told you all you needed to know. Mac Allister was calmness personified amid all the bedlam and three De Geas wouldn’t have saved his emphatically struck penalty.
Party time at the Amex and Albion are now in a Europa League spot.
Albion: Steele, Caicedo, Dunk, Webster, Estupinan, Mitoma, Mac Allister, Gilmour (Colwill 75), Buonanotte (March 62), Enciso, Welbeck (Undav 75).
Subs not used: Sanchez, Ayari, van Hecke, Offiah, Moran, Peupion.
Referee: Andre Marriner