By Olawale Afolabi
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.
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.
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.