Nottingham Forest 0
Two goals from Gabriel Martinelli and one apiece from Joe Willock, Reiss Nelson and the returning Rob Holding, gave Arsenal a comfortable 5-0 victory over Nottingham Forest and secured their place in the last-16 of the Carabao Cup.
It took time for the Gunners to break through against the Championship club, but once Forest’s resistance was breached, there was only ever going to be one winner.
There were 30 minutes on the clock when Arsenal worked the ball to the right side of the pitch, and Calum Chambers’ volleyed cross was headed beautifully into the top right corner by Martinelli – his first competitive goal for Arsenal.
The Gunners could have made it 2-0 five minutes before the break when another of their promising youngsters, Emile Smith Rowe, headed a cross from the impressive debutant Kieran Tierney powerfully goalwards, but saw his effort beaten out by Muric.
By the time Tierney, the left-back signed from Celtic for around £25m in the summer, was taken off to be replaced by the returning Hector Bellerin midway through the second half, he had already endeared himself to the Gunners’ faithful, earning a standing ovation as he left the field.
Tierney was quick to intercept balls at the back, and on several occasions swiftly turned defence into attack down the Arsenal left. It was hard not to notice something of the young Nigel Winterburn in his combative, no-nonsense style down the flank.
In the second half Arsenal pushed for the killer second. First Mesut Ozil found space on the edge of the box and decided to take on the last defender instead of shooting or passing – both of which would have probably been better options.
Then Joe Willock headed wide a Bukayo Saka cross when presented with an open goal.
Arsenal did make it 2-0 on 70 minutes, when Rob Holding, returning after nine months out with a knee injury, headed home Reiss Nelson’s right wing cross.
Two minutes later Sammy Ameobi, on as a sub for Forest, had just about the away side’s only effort on goal, which was easily saved by Emi Martinez.
Then came the moment of the night. First Tierney was given his ovation after an outstanding debut, then just seconds later, his replacement, Bellerin, another making a comeback after a long-term lay-off, crossed for Joe Willock to make it three.
By now Forest, who made six changes to Saturday’s side which beat Barnsley 1-0, would have been wishing for the final blast of referee Daren England’s whistle.
But there was more punishment to come. First the impressive Buyako Saka combined with Calum Chambers down the left, the latter’s cross being turned in by Reiss Nelson.
Then, best saved until last, Martnelli curled a beauty into the top right corner to round off the event.
And with Spurs losing on penalties to Colchester, the Arsenal fans could not have wished for a better night.
The only sour note came when Smith Rowe was stretchered off in the dying embers of the first half with what looked like a serious knock.
There have been legitimate concerns about the Gunners’ defence of late, but with Chambers’ performances today and on Sunday against Aston Villa, combined with the impressive returns of Holding and Bellerin – and the mightily impressive debut of Tierney - things may be looking up for the Gunners’ back-line.
Arsenal: Martinez, Tierney (Bellerin), Ozil (Ceballos), Torreira, Holding, Mustafi, Chambers, Nelson (Yellow), Willock, Smith Rowe (Saka), Martinelli
Subs: Bellerin, Ceballos, Macey, Balogun, Bola, Burton, Saka
Nottingham Forest: Muric, Ribeiro (Mighten), Figueiredo, Carvalho (Ameobi), Cash, Robinson, Lolley (Gabriel), Silva, Rodriguez, Adomah, Johnson
Subs: Milosevic, Grabban, Smith, Ameobi, Sow, Gabriel, Mighten
Referee: Darren England