herald

Thursday 27 June 2019

Gunners put foot in semis

Arsenal 2 Napoli 0

OPENER: Aaron Ramsey
celebrates scoring Arsenal’s
first goal in last night’s Europa
League win over Napoli at the
Emirates Stadium. Pic: AFP/Getty
OPENER: Aaron Ramsey celebrates scoring Arsenal’s first goal in last night’s Europa League win over Napoli at the Emirates Stadium. Pic: AFP/Getty

Arsenal took control of their Europa League quarter-final tie with Napoli as they outclassed their Italian opponents to secure a first-leg victory.

The Gunners extended their fine run of home form, this their 15th win from the last 16 games at the Emirates Stadium, as an Aaron Ramsey strike and a Kalidou Koulibaly own goal gave them a 2-0 victory to take to Naples next week.

Gunners boss Unai Emery had admitted on the eve of the game that he knew his team needed to win this first leg, given the stark contrast of their away form when compared to the near-perfect run at home.

They have lost both away knockout ties in this season's Europa League to BATE Borisov and Rennes, two teams not considered as strong as Napoli, second in Serie A.

Advantage

Arsenal managed to turn both of those ties around when back in north London but this time they need to defend an advantage as they look to reach the semi-finals for the second year in a row.

Emery's side started well and Ramsey opened the scoring following a flowing move, latching onto a Ainsley Maitland-Niles pass after good work by Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette.

The lead was doubled 11 minutes later as Lucas Torreira had the wherewithal to steal possession from Fabian Ruiz and charge at the Napoli goal before his weak shot was diverted past goalkeeper Alex Meret off the leg of Koulibaly.

Arsenal continued to create chances, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang twice drawing saves off of Meret as the first half wore on, although fit-again captain Lorenzo Insigne passed up a fine opportunity to half the deficit as he blazed over before the interval.

The visitors attacked from the off after the break, Insigne tucking away a chance only to be correctly flagged offside before Koulibaly saw a header tipped over by Petr Cech.

With Napoli coming more and more into the game, Emery responded by replacing Ozil and Lacazette with Alex Iwobi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for the final quarter of the contest.

Napoli then missed their best chance of the night as Piotr Zielinski could only send Insigne's low cross over Cech's crossbar from close-range.

Ramsey was next to spurn a marvellous opportunity as he spooned Mkhitaryan's cross well over the bar after being picked out free inside the Napoli box, with Aubameyang hitting the side-netting late on.

Arsenal stood firm and head to the San Paolo Stadium as the favourites to advance to the last four.

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