Albion are up to sixth in the table after a sensational second-half performance delivered a mortal blow to Arsenal’s chances of winning the title.
After a goalless first-half Julio Enciso headed Albion in front on 51 minutes. Arsenal were then killed off with two late goals. Denis Undav’s cute lob doubled the lead and deep into stoppage time Pervis Estupinan volleyed in the third.
After the disappointment of last Monday this was the perfect response from Roberto De Zerbi and his team as they became only the second side after Manchester City to win at the Emirates and recorded their third successive win here.
Just under 3,000 ecstatic Albion fans saluted De Zerbi and the players at the final whistle. On a warm north London afternoon the sunlit uplands of Europe appear to be coming nicely into view.
De Zerbi had made four changes with Levi Colwill, Enciso, Evan Ferguson and Billy Gilmour coming into the XI with Moises Caicedo slotting in at right back.
The Albion fans were calling for a penalty after five minutes when Gabriel Martinelli led with his arm as he contested a high ball with Kaoru Mitoma which floored the Albion player. Referee Andy Madley kept his cards in his pocket and again a few moments later when Caicedo brought down Martinelli with a strong challenge. The Brazilian carried on but was replaced in the 20th minute by Leandro Trossard, whose first touch saw the ball go out of play, much to the delight of the away fans.
Albion created the first dangerous moment when Enciso got in front of Ben White to latch onto Lewis Dunk’s long ball before forcing Aaron Ramsdale to turn the ball over when Enciso tried to beat him at the near post.
Martin Odegaard responded with a low drive that went a yard or so wide before the Norwegian linked up with Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Jesus, whose angled effort was kept out by Jason Steele’s outstretched left foot.
Trossard went close on the half-hour, cutting in from the left to find space for a crack at goal from the edge of the box which clipped the crossbar on its way over.
Enciso had an even better chance on 36 minutes. Mitoma, who had started on the right, switched wings and left Ben White in his wake with a trademark run into the box. His low cross found Enciso who wrapped his right foot round the ball but couldn’t steer it into the net from six yards.
Saka dragged a volley narrowly wide in stoppage time but Albion would have been pleased with their efforts in the first half as they had generally managed to keep Arsenal at arm’s length.
And it got even better six minutes into the second half. The move started with Levi Colwill picking out Mitoma with a long pass down the left. Estupinan overlapped and when his first cross was only partially cleared by Kieran Tierney the Colombian’s volleyed return bounced over Tierney and an unmarked Enciso planted a close-range header past Ramsdale for his third goal of the season.
Substitute Reis Nelson wasn’t far away with a right foot drive from the edge of the box but Albion had a measure of control and as Arsenal’s frustrations intensified Mikel Arteta was shown a yellow card.
Substitute Danny Welbeck played a one-two with Enciso to open up space for an effort which drifted wide and at the other end Steele got right behind Trossard’s shot.
Arsenal were leaving spaces as they sought an equaliser and Alexis Mac Allister nearly profited after a lovely pass by Welbeck allowed the Argentinian to let fly with a shot that Ramsdale was relieved to see flash past the post.
Albion had done a superb job in negating Arsenal’s threats and with four minutes to go our fans were dancing in the sunshine when Undav applied the coup de grace.
Ramsdale’s attempt to find Jakub Kiwior was cut out by Pascal Gross and his ball forward found Undav in splendid isolation. The German still had a lot to do but he nonchalantly lifted the ball over Ramsdale and into the empty net.
As the Emirates emptied Albion fans could enjoy stoppage time, even more so when they scored a third. Ramsdale could only push Undav’s shot into the path of Estupinan and he volleyed the ball past the keeper for his first goal of the season.
A stunning second-half by Albion. “We’re on out way,” sang 3,000 Sussex voices. Destination unknown at the moment perhaps but there have been some memorable moments this season and this probably topped the lot.
Albion: Steele, Gross, Dunk, Colwill, Estupinan, Mac Allister, Caicedo, Enciso (Undav 82), Mitoma, Gilmour (Welbeck 61), Ferguson (Bounoanotte 77).
Subs not used: McGill, Ayari, van Hecke, Offiah, Moran, Peupion.
Referee: Andy Madley