Wow. A simply staggering game. The majority of Albion fans (including myself) had written the Baggies off before the game had even begun, but a Big Sam masterclass may have instilled a glimmer of hope in the West Brom faithful. Facing an inform Chelsea side, unbeaten under Tuchel, this was always going to require a mammoth performance, but that is exactly what Big Sam’s boys provided.
The only change to the starting lineup was the inclusion of Semi Ajayi in place of Connor Gallagher, who was unable to face his parent club. This meant Albion reverted to a back 5, with Pereira sitting central behind Diagne.
Chelsea made 5 changes from their last fixture in the league, with Christensen, Rudiger, Chilwell, Havertz and Mount all dropping to the bench. However, this Chelsea side still oozed quality, with the majority returning from international duty.Embed from Getty Images
The game began as many would’ve expected, Chelsea dominating possession, whilst the Albion looked to capitalise on any possible errors to spring counter attacks. Even in the opening 15 minutes there was an air of uneasiness around Stamford Bridge, Chelsea were making mistakes in defence, with one cynical challenge on the edge of the 18 yard box leading to Thiago Silva’s first yellow of the afternoon after just 5 minutes.
24 minutes in Dara O’Shea was forced off following a collision with Zouma and Philips, and on came Branislav Ivanovic, who only enjoyed a quick stay at his previous home, pulling up following his pursuit of Werner just 13 minutes later.
It was these 13 minutes though, that would prove to define the match. In the 27th minute, Pulisic smartly followed up an Alonso free kick that had struck the woodwork by tapping in to an empty net from close range, before Thiago Silva was dismissed with a second yellow for diving in to a challenge with Yokuslu on the edge of the box. Even the most pessimistic of Albion fans will have thought maybe, just maybe we could get something from the game.
And in stoppage time, the Brazilian Magician provided the goods. Following a pass back to Johnstone which was duly smashed back down field, Pereira catches both Zouma and Christensen sleeping, to find himself one on one with Mendy who he lobs with sheer class into the bottom right hand corner. Once again this season, Pereira proves his worth, with a moment of superb individual brilliance.Embed from Getty Images
It seems this is the moment the Albion smelt blood, with the next 3 minutes of stoppage time seeing the Baggies pile the pressure on ten man Tuchel’s side, culminating in a delightful passage of play that saw Diagne flick the ball across the edge of the penalty box to Pereira, who drove across the Chelsea area, with Philips shielding the Brazilian from Alonso, who he curls a sublime finish past into the corner yet again.
It was at this moment that, I like many other Albion fans was left stunned, in utter disbelief at the turnaround the Baggies had undergone. It was one that would be continued following the break, with Robinson crashing one of the goals of the season into the Chelsea net 18 minutes after the restart. Furlong beautifully crossed the ball to the edge of the box, where Robinson was waiting to volley the ball with venom past Mendy.Embed from Getty Images
Just 5 minutes later things went from bad to worse for Chelsea with perhaps one of the most well worked passages of play Albion fans have enjoyed this season.
It’s safe to say between the 60-70th minutes, Albion transformed into what can only be described as prime Guardiola Barcelona. Our own David Villa, Robbo carried the ball past the halfway line where he played a quick give and go with Messi, sorry Pereira. He proceeded to play a beautifully weighted ball to a sprinting Conor Townsend, driving into the box, then cheekily back heeling it to Pereira. The Magician then knocked it back to an oncoming Diagne who placed the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Delightful. Simply delightful.Embed from Getty Images
In a slight moment of doubt Mount snuck a goal back for the visitors after Werner selflessly passed the ball across Johnstone to give the England midfielder an empty goal to tap into. After an extended period of pressure from Chelsea, we attacked once more, and in stoppage time Robbo added another to his Premier League collection.
Diagne knocked the ball to Pereira in the Chelsea half, who weighted a beautiful pass for Callum Robinson to run onto, and chip Mendy with. There’s a brief VAR check, but even Allardyce is loving it, as celebrations ensue. A brilliant finish brings a brilliant afternoon of football to the end, and once again, we’re all thinking, surely we can’t pull it off?
Ratings: Johnstone (10), Furlong (10), O’Shea (10), Bartley (10), Ajayi (10), Townsend (10), Philips (10), Yokuslu (10), Maitland-Niles (10), Pereira (10), Diagne (10). Subs: Robinson (10), Livermore (10), Ivanovic (10)
Johnstone, Furlong, O’Shea (Ivanovic 24′(Robinson 37′)), Bartley, Ajayi, Townsend, Philips (Livermore 89′), Maitland-Niles, Yokuslu, Pereira, Diagne
Robson-Kanu, Diangana, Peltier, Snodgrass, Button, Grant
Mendy, Azplicueta, Zouma, Silva, James, Jorginho (Havertz 72′), Kovacic, Alonso, Ziyech (Christensen 33′), Pulisic (Mount 46′)
Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Chilwell, Gilmour
Silva (5′, 29′), Kovacic (66′)