Igahlo goal, Guedioura super strike see Watford sink Arsenal to reach semi-final
Holly Thackeray | March 13, 2016
Arsenal 1 – 2 Watford
- Giroud goal tightly ruled offside in 10th minute
- Ighalo breaks deadlock to fire Watford ahead after the break
- Guedioura’s blistering strike put the Hornets 2-0 up in 64th minute
- Super sub Welbeck struck back with late goal for Gunners
Arsenal out for the count, Watford go to Wembley
Arsenal’s defence of their FA Cup title and chances of a third successive triumph were sent crashing to earth, as guests Watford sent shockwaves through north London with a thrilling 2-1 quarter-final win at the Emirates, thanks to second-half strikes from Odion Ighalo and Adlene Guedioura.
After a frustrating first 45 in which the Gunners dominated, the Hornets’ patience paid off, with the highlight of the match Guedioura’s blistering blast at goal, though Danny Welbeck bagged another late goal to ensure an enthralling finish.
Arsene Wenger has come under criticism of late, and may find himself under more pressure than ever now, as the capital club conceded another shot at silverware here, with a tricky Champions League last 16 second leg at the Nou Camp up next.
While, Watford (9/2 with Coral for a Premier League top 10 finish), now in the draw for the final four and destined for a Wembley semi-final showpiece continue to be one of the surprise packages of the season…
Arsenal early start chalked off
Arsenal had the Hornets under pressure from the off, with their easy on the eye exchanges testing Watford’s rearguard early on.
The Gunners got the ball in the back of the net around the 10th minute mark, but Olivier Giroud’s ruthless effort nestled in the net only to be ruled offside. The Frenchman was, just, it seemed, though the slick counter from Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez was promising for the hosts.
Callum Chambers then pumped a cross in, only for visiting keeper Costel Pantilimon, who almost missed out on his cup start following an administrative error, to catch easily.
While, Chelsea-owned defender Nathan Ake continued to shine for his loan club, making a crucially-timed intervention between Kieran Gibbs’ ball and onrushing Campbell. Still, bar a few attempts to break, it was all Arsenal.
Things get feisty
Finally, around 25 minutes, Watford threatened thanks to a top-notch outside-the-boot pass by classy Etienne Capoue on the counter, which unleashed usually lethal Odion Ighalo. But, the Nigerian hesitated in the box, with his pass to strike partner Troy Deeney being easily cleared.
Dangerman Deeney then found himself involved in controversy, as the striker beat Gunners centre back Gabriel Paulista to the ball, but found himself on the receiving end of a rash two-footed tackle that probably should have seen red.
There were poor decisions across the pitch in the first 45, however, as Gunners midfielder Mohamed Elneny then blazed a lovely delivery from Chambers over the bar. The Egyptian later compounded his poor finishing by letting another exciting move peter out by letting fly from outside the area.
While, at the other end, frustrated forward Ighalo scuppered an almost identical attack to his earlier miscue, in a first-half with recurrent themes, delaying his pass to Deeney again and allowing Arsenal to recover once more.
The Gunners then had a right to be aggrieved, amid another contentious call by the referee saw Sebastian Prodl escape for flying in on Mesut Ozil in the penalty area. Although, the German plotter responded with aplomb, gifting a gorgeous ball to Campbell, but the striker could not convert at full stretch, so the half ended as a stalemate. Would Arsenal pay for those misses?
Arsenal unravel to Ighalo
They certainly did as, once back from the break, Hornets hitman Ighalo quickly injected much-needed drama into the game and put his wobbly first-half firmly behind him.
The alert African attacker profited from poor Arsenal defending on 50 minutes, bagging a pure poacher’s goal, after a throw in and then flick on by unmarked Deeney saw him twist and convert low past back-up stopper David Ospina. It appeared Arsenal hadn’t learnt their lesson either, as a similar move almost saw the striker slot in a second moments later.
Ighalo and the hungry Hornets could soon have added another, as the game came alive with their London hosts severely shaken at the back, but the sharpshooter could only send Ake’s cross wide.
Arsenal were still a threat up front, however, forcing Pantilimon to pull out all the stops, as the goalie denied lurking Giroud at close range, the game taking on a frantic pace.
Guedioura super strike for Watford second, Welbeck sets up scramble
Algeria international Guedioura then superbly stole the headlines, with Watford finding the second goal of the game through the midfielder, who arrived on the edge of the box after some diligent Deeney hold-up play, unleashing a thunderbolt past helpless Ospina; it really was a rocket, no wonder the Hornets delighted fans with a dance.
That goal from Guedioura though…pic.twitter.com/Xlf86dT7xI
— Purely Football (@PurelyFootball) March 13, 2016
Arsenal refused to give up the ghost, however, and once again former Manchester United marksman Welbeck displayed his skill as a super sub, scoring another late, last-gasp goal from Ozil’s exceptional back-heel to set up a scorching finish.
The Gunners came within inches of an equaliser, as Pantilimon stood helplessly by as a loose ball rebounded off his post, several Arsenal star fluffing their lines until Welbeck eventually sent it wide.
Yet, the Hornets sensationally hung on to reach their first FA Cup final in nine years, as Arsenal left the pitch to a chorus of boos.