Nottingham Forest 4-2 Arsenal: Eric Lichaj double helps eliminate holders
By James Walker-Roberts
Last Updated: 08/01/18 6:30am
Nottingham Forest scored two penalties to knock holders Arsenal out of the FA Cup after a thrilling 4-2 third-round victory at the City Ground on Sunday.
Eric Lichaj headed Forest in front in the 20th minute and then scored a brilliant volley late in the first half after Per Mertesacker had equalised for Arsenal.
Ben Brereton made it 3-1 when he converted a penalty after half-time, only for Danny Welbeck to give the Gunners a lifeline when he replied in the 79th minute.
Nottingham Forest: Smith (6), Lichaj (8), Worrall (5), Mancienne (7), Traore (6), Osborn (6), Vaughan (7), Cash (7), Dowell (7), Clough (5), Brereton (8)
Subs: McKay (5), Walker (6), Mills (5)
Arsenal: Ospina (6), Debuchy (4), Mertesacker (4), Holding (3), Nelson (5), Willock (5), Elneny (5), Maitland-Niles (6), Walcott (4), Iwobi (4), Welbeck (5)
Subs: Akpom (5), Nketiah (5)
Man of the match: Ben Brereton
But Kieran Dowell hit back with Forest's second penalty of the game, despite slipping and appearing to kick the ball with both feet, and the hosts held on for a famous win even after Joe Worrall was sent off.
It is the first time Arsenal, who made nine changes to their starting line-up, have lost in the third round of the FA Cup under Arsene Wenger, who was watching from the stands due to a touchline ban.
Wenger saw his much-changed defence regularly exposed defensively by the Championship side and, after Brereton and Matty Cash were both denied by David Ospina, the deadlock was broken when Dowell's free-kick was headed in from close range by Lichaj.
Arsenal responded quickly as Rob Holding headed against the post from a corner and Mertesacker turned in the rebound.
But despite controlling possession, Arsenal went in behind at half-time. After Ospina twice saved from Brereton, it was Lichaj who struck again for Forest, this time chesting down on the edge of the box and hitting a superb volley into the far corner.
Arsenal continued to lack a cutting edge after the break and they fell further behind in the 64th minute as Holding tripped Cash in the box and Brereton converted the penalty.
Forest 'keeper Jordan Smith saved well from substitute Eddie Nketiah but was then at fault as he let the ball out of his grip and Welbeck tapped into the empty net.
At that stage it looked like Forest might have to endure a nervy finish, but the mood was lifted when Mathieu Debuchy fouled Armand Traore in the box.
Forest only made two changes as Clough and Vaughan replaced McKay and Bridcutt. Holding and Maitland-Niles were the only Arsenal players to keep their places from the midweek draw with Chelsea. Willock, Mertesacker, Nelson and Iwobi were among those to start.
Dowell slipped as he took the penalty but still scored and the goal was given after referee Jon Moss consulted with his assistant about whether it was a double touch. And even though Forest saw Worrall sent off for two quick yellow cards, they still held on for victory.
- Arsenal have lost an FA Cup third-round tie for the first time since 1996, when they went out to Sheffield United.
- Nottingham Forest became the first side from a lower division to score four goals in an FA Cup tie against Arsenal since Hull City in 1908.
- Arsenal have conceded each of the last 28 penalties they've faced in all competitions, since Lukasz Fabianski saved against Bayern Munich in March 2014.
- Nottingham Forest are the first team from a lower division to eliminate the FA Cup holders since Swansea beat Portsmouth in 2009.
Gary Brazil: "I may be a little bit biased but I think it was a well-deserved win. There were some big performances from the players this afternoon and I always felt comfortable we would go on and win the game and so it proved."
Arsene Wenger: "We were not good enough anywhere, not at the front, not in the middle, not at the back, and we paid for it. They looked sharper, had more chances, and that's all I can say. They had an outstanding performance and I couldn't fault any of their individual performances."
Man of the match - Ben Brereton
Tough for Lichaj to miss out after scoring twice and having a solid game defensively, but Brereton was excellent for Forest as the lone striker and key to their gameplan.
The 18-year-old tormented Mertesacker with his pace, held the ball up well against Holding and won several free-kicks to give his side some recovery time in the second half. He also scored the penalty to put Forest 3-1 ahead.
Nottingham Forest are live on Sky Sports Football on Saturday when they host Aston Villa in the Sky Bet Championship. Arsenal travel to Chelsea for the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final on Wednesday and then go to Bournemouth in the Premier League on Sunday, with both games live on Sky Sports.