Lorenzo Insigne and Goran Pandev gave Napoli a 2-0 lead at the Emirates Cup on Gonzalo Higuain’s debut, but Arsenal fought back for a 2-2 draw after Pepe Reina’s penalty save.
The Emirates Cup concludes tomorrow with Napoli-Porto and Arsenal-Galatasaray. Earlier today the Turkish side beat Porto 1-0 with a Felipe Melo penalty. Teams are given three points for a win, one for a draw and a point for each goal scored.
Serge Gnabry wasted a great early opportunity by firing wide, but it was Napoli who took the lead with their first real chance.
Lorenzo Insigne hovered behind Carl Jenkinson on a long Gokhan Inler ball and pounced at the uncertainty, flicking it past Lukasz Fabianski from 12 yards.
Reina got away with an error when he passed it straight to Gnabry and was grateful the chip landed on the roof of the net.
The referee awarded a bizarre penalty when Valon Behrami bumped shins with Kieran Gibbs, leaving the Napoli players flabbergasted. Justice was served, as Reina marked his debut by saving Lukas Podolski’s penalty.
Moments later Goran Pandev was nudged in the back, but the referee did not award what looked far more of a spot-kick than the Gibbs incident.
Pandev did get his goal in spectacular fashion. Marek Hamsik’s through ball sent him down the left, where he waltzed past Per Mertesacker and Fabianski to deposit into the empty net from a tight angle.
Insigne almost made it 3-0, as his shot took a double ricochet to dribble just wide of the far post. Podolski’s angled drive was deflected inches past the upright and Aaron Ramsay failed to make the most of a strange Reina punch from the corner.
Higuain came on for the second half, making his Napoli debut against the team he so nearly joined this summer. Jack Wilshere had a strong run, but the angled drive scraped the back stick.
Olivier Giroud fired a free kick straight into the wall and Podolski blasted over from a promising position, while Behrami’s header was saved from an Insigne cross. Swiss international Behrami risked an own goal with his headed clearance, but Reina was alert.
Giroud tested Reina at the near post, the goalkeeper saving with his knee, but from the resulting corner Arsenal got their goal. Giroud’s overhead kick was heading well wide until it took a deflection off teammate Bacary Sagna’s back.
Napoli do not start their season until August 25, so Arsenal were at a more advanced stage in fitness training and poured forward in the final minutes. Reina smothered a fierce Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain attempt from distance and performed a great save on Per Mertesacker’s header from a free kick, but could do nothing about the Laurent Koscielny follow-up.
Arsenal 2-2 Napoli
Scorers: Insigne 7 (N), Pandev 28 (N), Giroud 73 (A), Koscielny 87 (A)
Arsenal: Fabianski, Jenkinson (Sagna 56), Koscielny, Mertesacker, Gibbs, Ramsey (Oxlade-Chamberlain 62), Wilshere (Arteta 62), Rosicky, Gnabry (Walcott 56), Podolski, Giroud
Napoli: Reina; Mesto, Cannavaro, Britos (Albiol 62), Armero; Behrami (Dzemaili 85), Inler; Insigne (Dossena 76), Hamsik (Mertens 65), Callejón (Maggio 46); Pandev (Higuain 46)
Saved penalty: Podolski 18 (A)
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.