FA Cup holders Arsenal knocked out as Watford reach Wembley

Watford's Odion Ighalo (left) celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Arsenal

Watford's Odion Ighalo (left) celebrates scoring his side's first goal against Arsenal - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Arsenal 1 Watford 2

Arsenal’s grip on the FA Cup was finally broken as Watford sent them packing in their quarter-final clash at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners, who had lifted the trophy in each of the last two seasons, were denied another trip to Wembley by second-half goals from Odion Ighalo and Adlene Guedioura.

Although substitute Danny Welbeck reduced the deficit late on, the home side were unable to force a replay – and the defeat leaves their chances of silverware this year looking ever more remote.

The Gunners’ best moments in the first half came when they optimised the flanks, with Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs frequently getting forward to join the attack.

Despite that, although Olivier Giroud slipped the ball into the net in the ninth minute – only to be ruled fractionally offside – there was little to concern Watford goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon.

Chambers’ quick thinking set up an opportunity for Mohamed Elneny on the half-hour mark, but the midfielder was unable to bring the ball under control and lashed it wildly over the bar.

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And Elneny’s end product was just as untidy shortly before half-time after Mesut Ozil and Joel Campbell had combined to tee him up on the edge of the box.

Arsenal were somewhat fortunate to retain a full complement of players after Gabriel lunged in over the top on Hornets skipper Troy Deeney, but the foul went unpunished by referee Andre Marriner.

However, Gabriel’s luck was out five minutes into the second half when Ighalo collected Deeney’s flick-on and turned the Brazilian defender before slotting the ball beyond David Ospina.

And the Watford forward might have doubled his side’s advantage soon afterwards, nudging a volley over the bar after Deeney had headed back Allan Nyom’s deep cross.

Campbell created a chance for Giroud to equalise, but he was denied by Pantilimon at the near post – and the Hornets promptly counter-attacked to go 2-0 up.

Deeney held the ball up inside the box, evading Per Mertesacker, and then laid it off to Guedioura, who cracked an unstoppable right-foot drive into the roof of the net.

Arsenal made a triple substitution in a bid to salvage the game – but, although Alexis Sanchez set up Gibbs for a header that flew straight into the hands of Pantilimon, the Hornets seemed comfortable.

That all changed two minutes from the end, when Welbeck exchanged passes with Ozil and slotted into the corner to give his side renewed hope.

Welbeck then squandered an opportunity to make it 2-2 after Alex Iwobi’s effort had struck the post and rebounded off Pantilimon – but, despite relentless pressure, it was too little, too late.

Arsenal: Ospina; Chambers, Mertesacker, Gabriel, Gibbs; Coquelin, Elneny (Iwobi 67); Campbell (Welbeck 67), Ozil, Sanchez; Giroud (Walcott 67).