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Arsenal cut gap to leaders Liverpool after labouring to win at Nottingham Forest

Arsenal eased to victory at Nottingham Forest (Mike Egerton/PA)
Arsenal eased to victory at Nottingham Forest (Mike Egerton/PA)

Arsenal overcame a sluggish first-half performance to cut the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to two points after a 2-1 win at Nottingham Forest.

The Gunners looked toothless in the first half, but rallied to register three big points thanks to goals from Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka.

The result leaves them on the coattails of Liverpool, who can extend their lead back to five points against Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring
Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka was on target in Nottingham (Mike Egerton/PA)

Forest had no intention of going for the win in a pragmatic approach deployed by Nuno Espirito Santo, but they made a game of it late on as Taiwo Awoniyi slammed home in the 89th minute.

Arsenal saw it out to end a three-game losing streak at the City Ground and exorcise the ghosts of last season’s defeat, which saw their title challenge come to an end.

Forest’s situation at the foot of the Premier League is looking precarious, as they sit two points above the relegation zone with the threat of a points deduction for breaking financial rules hanging over them.

It is not in Nuno’s make-up to play an expansive game and his plan was to put men behind the ball and ask Arsenal the question of whether they could break them down.

The first half provided an answer of a resounding no, as for all their possession and territorial advantage the Gunners lacked a cutting edge to trouble Forest.

They had seven shots on target but none of them tested their former team-mate Matt Turner in the Forest goal, with Saka’s snapshot which deflected off Murillo and just wide the nearest they came to breaking the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes.

Nottingham Forest’s Taiwo Awoniyi celebrates scoring
Taiwo Awoniyi responded for Nottingham Forest (Mike Egerton/PA)

Forest offered next to nothing as an attacking force, registering just one pass in the final third in the opening half-hour, with Danilo’s drive over the crossbar from distance their only real foray forward.

The Gunners began to turn the screw after the second half and put Forest’s goal under serious threat for the first time.

Turner was forced into his first save when he palmed away Saka’s deflected effort with a strong hand before their best moment came four minutes later.

An intricate move involving Saka and Martin Odegaard led to Jesus being played in but he smashed his effort from a narrow angle into a post.

Eventually Arsenal’s pressure told as they took the lead in the 65th minute, though Turner will not want to see it again.

Forest switched off from Zinchenko’s throw-in and Jesus burst to the byline where his toe-poked shot went through Turner’s legs and into the back of the net.

Turner has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after a number of high-profile mistakes, but has been backed by Nuno, himself a former goalkeeper, though this may change things.

It was 2-0 seven minutes later after a breakaway goal. Gonzalo Montiel fluffed a clearance on the halfway line, skewing straight to Odegaard, who set Jesus free and he picked out Saka at the far post, with the England international making no mistake.

Forest had rarely threatened but Awoniyi, making his first appearance since November, converted after William Saliba’s mistake late on, though they could find a leveller.