Defending champions Arsenal lose 2-1 to Watford in FA Cup quarters

  • AP, Manchester
  • Updated: Mar 13, 2016 22:45 IST
Watford's Odion Ighalo, right, celebrates scoring his side's first goal with Nathan Ake and Adlene Guedioura. (AP Photo)

Arsenal’s bid to capture their third consecutive FA Cup title ended with a 2-1 loss to Watford in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

Odion Ighalo and Adlene Guedioura — with a fiercely struck shot from the edge of the area — scored second-half goals for Watford, which joined Crystal Palace and Everton in an unlikely lineup for the semifinals at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester United hosts West Ham in the fourth quarterfinal match later Sunday.

It was the worst possible start to a make-or-break week in Arsenal’s season. The north London team is 2-0 down before the second leg of its Champions League last-16 match against Barcelona on Wednesday, and then heads to Everton in the Premier League for what could be a must-win game in its fading title challenge.

Danny Welbeck reduced the deficit for Arsenal in the 88th minute and Watford only just hung on, with Alex Iwobi striking the post from long range before Welbeck scooped a follow-up effort over the bar.

“Our fantastic run has come to an end on a day where we felt that our performance deserved a win,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “Credit to Watford, they created few chances but took them all.”

Arsenal played a full-strength lineup — an indication of Wenger’s priorities ahead of the Barcelona game — but an attack featuring Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud struggled to cause Watford’s defense many problems before a late flurry of chances.

Arsenal has now won just one game in its last seven in a familiar early-spring collapse, with the pressure starting to grow on Wenger.

Arsenal had been looking to become the first team in 130 years to win the FA Cup for three straight years.

Ighalo opened the scoring in the 50th when he received a flick-on from strike partner Troy Deeney, evaded marker Gabriel and tucked a finish from eight meters into to the bottom corner.

Guedioura made it 2-0 by smashing an angled drive into the roof of net, inside David Ospina’s near post, from Ighalo’s lay-off.

Watford reached the semifinals of the world’s oldest knockout competition for the sixth time in its history, in its first season under coach Quique Sanchez Flores.

“I have memories on television of the old Wembley and watching in Spain and seeing the finals of this competition,” Flores said. “Now it is a new Wembley, I’ve just arrived in England, and to get there is exciting.”

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