FA Cup: Nottingham Forest 4 Arsenal 2
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
FA Cup holders Arsenal crashed out at the third-round stage for the first time under Arsene Wenger after an action-packed tie at the City Ground.
The home side benefitted from two penalties along the way, including another controversial spot-kick against the Gunners, and ended with 10 men after defender Joe Worrall was sent off in the closing minutes.
But it made no difference to the outcome as Arsenal were left to wonder what might have been.
Wenger began a three-match ban by sitting in the stands and made nine changes to his starting line-up from Wednesday’s 2-2 Premier League draw with Chelsea.
Defenders Rob Holding and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were the only ones retained from midweek, with Calum Chambers the most experienced member of the substitutes bench.
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And Arsenal fell behind on 20 minutes when American Eric Lichaj headed in from close range for the home side.
Parity was restored just three minutes later, though, as Holding’s header hit a post and World Cup winner Per Mertesacker – whose first appearance of last season was the FA Cup final win over Chelsea, due to injury – followed up to level.
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Forest, under caretaker-boss Gary Brazil, regained the lead just before the interval with a stunning, dipping volley from Lichaj and went 3-1 up just past the hour mark when Holding fouled Matty Cash in the box and Ben Brereton sent David Ospina the wrong way from the penalty spot.
Arsenal gave themselves late hope when Danny Welbeck capitalised on a mistake by Forest keeper Jordan Smith and cut the gap to one with 11 minutes remaining, but the hosts were awarded a second spot-kick when Mathieu Debuchy tackled Armand Traore from behind in the box.
Kieran Dowell stepped up to take the kick and beat Ospina, but Arsenal players immediately surrounded referee Jonathan Moss claiming the penalty should havee been ruled out as the Forest player had kicked the ball against his standing foot.
After consulting his linesman Moss allowed the goal to stand and although Worrall was given his marching orders for a foul on substitute Chuba Akpom, Theo Walcott’s close-range miss, from a difficult angle, summed up Arsenal’s disappointing afternoon as they made a piece of unwanted history.
Arsenal: Ospina, Debuchy (Akpom 87), Mertesacker, Holding, Maitland-Niles, Elneny, Willock (Nketiah 65), Walcott, Iwobi, Nelson, Welbeck. Unused subs: Chambers, Reine-Adelaide, Da Silva, Macey, Osei-Tutu.