EUROPA LEAGUE Napoli 0-1 Arsenal (3-0 agg): Gunners reach semi-finals after solid win in Naples
PUBLISHED: 21:59 18 April 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
Arsenal have reached the last-four of the Europa League after a solid 1-0 win against Napoli (3-0 on aggregate) at the Stadio San Paolo on Thursday night.
The Gunners were in a strong position going into the second-leg after a 2-0 win at the Emirates in first-leg, and they weathered an early storm as Arkadiusz Milik had a goal disallowed and missed a free header when he should have scored.
Alexandre Lacazette punished the missed chances on 36 minutes, when a struck a brilliant 30-yard free-kick past Alex Meret to silence the cauldron-like atmosphere at the San Paolo and seal Arsenal semi-final spot.
With the deafening San Paolo atmosphere behind them, the home side had the games opening chance.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave the ball away following a corner, and Napoli broke with towering centre-half Kalidou Koulibaly leading the charge. He eventually fed Jose Callejon, but the Spaniard could only fire his shot straight at Petr Cech from close range.
The Napoli chances kept coming, and I Partenopei thought they'd opened the scoring with 24 minutes gone when Milik's deft chip beat Cech, but the offside flag went up immediately, much to the anger of the rambunctious Neapolitan support.
The Polish forward should have got on the score sheet minutes later when he missed a free header from six yards out, and he was punished on 36 minutes when the Gunners struck the opener in superb fashion.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who had replaced an injured Aaron Ramsey moments earlier – won a free-kick about 30 yards from goal which Lacazette took.
The Frenchman struck the ball brilliantly, with his strike clearing the wall before dipping into the bottom corner, leaving Meret motionless between the sticks and silencing the home crowd as “1-0 to the Arsenal” rang out from the travelling support.
Carlo Ancelotti's side had a mountain to climb, needing four goals to progress to the last-four as the half-time whistle blew.
Arsenal could have compounded their misery not long after the interval when Mkhitaryan squared a pass to Aubameyang on the edge of the six-yard box, but the Gunners top scorer couldn't add to his tally as Meret's strong hand tipped his effort behind.
Ancelotti rolled the dice in an attempt to salvage some hope, introducing attackers Dries Mertens and Amin Younes to proceedings, but the changes had little effect as the Gunners held firm.
Credit to the Napoli support though, as the flags still wove, the drums still played and the chants were still sung despite their teams plight.
Arsenal held firm and saw out the result to progress to the last-four, where they will meet Spanish side Valencia.