Nottingham Forest 4-2 Arsenal: Holders knocked out in classic FA Cup tie

Arsenal suffered their first third round FA Cup exit in 21 years

Nottingham Forest 4-2 Arsenal: Holders knocked out in classic FA Cup tie
Eric Lichaj scored twice as Forest knocked the holders out | Photo: Getty Images.
Nottingham Forest
4 2
Arsenal
Nottingham Forest: Smith, Lichaj, Worrall, Mancienne, Traore, Osborn, Vaughan, Brereton, Dowell (Mills, min. 93), Cash (McKay, min. 87), Clough (Walker, min. 56).
Arsenal: Ospina, Debuchy (Akpom, min. 87), Mertesacker, Holding, Nelson, Willock (Nketiah, min. 66), Elneny, Maitland-Niles, Walcott, Iwobi, Welbeck.
SCORE: 1-0, min. 20, Lichaj. 1-1, min. 23, Mertesacker. 2-1, min. 44, Lichaj. 3-1, min. 65, Brereton. 3-2, min. 79, Welbeck. 4-2, min. 85, Dowell.
REFEREE: Jonathan Moss. Yellow cards: Ospina, Debuchy, Mertesacker. Red cards: Worrall.
INCIDENTS: FA Cup third round match between Nottingham Forest and Arsenal at the City Ground.

Arsene Wenger suffered his first ever defeat in the third round of the FA Cup as Arsenal were defeated 4-2 at the hands of Nottingham Forest.

The Gunners have a glorious love affair with the competition but the famous trophy was up to its old tricks as Forest upset the cup holders at the City Ground.

Eric Lichaj had put the hosts in front before Per Mertesacker's equaliser cancelled that out. However Lichaj got on the score sheet again with a stunning volley before Ben Brereton scored from the spot.

Danny Welbeck looked to have given late hope before a contentious penalty decision saw Arsenal concede a second spot kick as Kieran Dowell wrapped things up. 

Set pieces provide early entertainment

The first quarter of the game was a story of two set plays as both sides scored goals from free-kicks within the opening 23 minutes. 

Forest's opener was a case of classic Arsenal defending. Dowell's ball from the right was whipped in and then Lichaj, who had got to the front post completely unmarked and untracked, was able to head home after 20 minutes. 

It was a dream start for the hosts but their lead was undone just three minutes later. 

Theo Walcott's free-kick was headed against the post by Rob Holding but the Gunners' captain Mertesacker pounced on the ball and was able to fire home inside a crowded penalty area to give his side the perfect response to going behind.

Lichaj stunner puts dangerous Forest back in front

Despite Holding and Mertesacker playing a part in the Arsenal goal, their defensive contributions brought huge cause for concern. Before the opening goal they were given early warning signs of the potential Forest's attack could bring, but ultimately it was one of their defenders that was causing the early damage.

Brereton who was leading the line forced a simple save out of David Ospina with just six minutes gone and then the Colombian stopper had to be at his best to deny Matty Cash with a fantastic hand to tip his effort wide of the post just before the opener.

Ospina was there again to deny two more opportunities for Brereton but he couldn't do anything to stop Lichaj who was having the game of his life, popping up with his second goal of the tie to make it 2-1.

Holding's cleared header only went as far as Lichaj on the edge of the box and the American was able to bring it down before unleashing a fantastic volley with left Ospina stranded as Forest retook the lead moments before half time.

Brereton penalty gives Forest control

If anything was to sum up Arsenal's last few weeks it would be conceding a penalty. They gave away a late on against West Brom in their final game of 2017, and also conceded one in their opening match of the new year. 

But the FA Cup it seemed wasn't going to give the Gunners a change of fortune as Forest doubled their advantage from the penalty spot on 65 minutes. 

Holding's loose tackle brought down Cash just inside the area and referee Jonathon Moss pointed to the spot. Brereton was the man to take it and the 18-year-old sent Ospina the wrong way to make it 3-1. 

Frantic finish sends Arsenal out

Arsenal had barely had a sniff all game but a late strike from Welbeck gave the visitors late hope as he made it 3-2. 

Jordan Smith in the Forest goal let the ball slip from his grasp and Welbeck was able to seize on the loose ball and calmly slot it into an empty net to set up a grandstand finish. 

However as Arsenal looked to push for a replay Forest wrapped things up with a hugely controversial penalty. A number of decisions have gone against Arsenal in recent weeks and this appeared to be another. 

Mathieu Debuchy slid in on former Gunner Armand Traore and looked to have won the ball but a second penalty of the game was given, Debuchy penalised for tackling from behind. However more controversy followed as Dowell scored from the spot. As he took the penalty he slipped and may have touched the ball twice but the officials ruled that the goal should stand. 

There was meanwhile still time for a red card, as Joe Worrall was sent off for a second bookable offence after a late challenge on Chuba Akpom.

Akpom was then in the action again as he tried to dink it over Smith in injury time but the Forest keeper made a great save to deny the substitute and then Walcott couldn't find the net on the follow up as Arsenal were knocked out.