Thursday April 18 2019
EL: Napoli slump out to Arsenal

Napoli crashed out of the Europa League quarter-final, as an Alexandre Lacazette free kick saw Arsenal defeat the sluggish Partenopei 3-0 on aggregate.

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The Partenopei had a mountain to climb after losing the first leg 2-0 in London last week, but with Raul Albiol and Amadou Diawara still out injured, Vlad Chiriches was used in the three-and-a-half-man defence that had proved effective in the Champions League this season. The Gunners made one change from their XI, as Granit Xhaka returned from injury to replace Mesut Ozil, moving Aaron Ramsey into the trequartista role.

Arsenal had a very aggressive start, but were almost caught out on a rapid counter-attack led by Kalidou Koulibaly, who rolled across for Jose Callejon to force a Petr Cech save with his legs at the back post.

Arkadiusz Milik had the ball in the back of the net on 24 minutes, but was flagged offside in an extremely tight decision. There is no VAR in the Europa League, as otherwise that would’ve gone to a check.

Moments later, Milik was onside only to turn his diving header wide from a Piotr Zielinski cross in a very promising position.

Ramsey pulled up clutching his left hamstring and had to make way for Henrikh Mkhitaryan just 34 minutes in.

However, Arsenal scored with their first genuine opportunity, as Alex Meret did not set his wall out properly, leaving a huge gap at the far top corner where Alexandre Lacazette curled his free kick from 25 metres out.

This made it 3-0 on aggregate, with Napoli needing four goals to qualify, as Arsenal also now had a precious away goal.

Callejon continued to waste chances, his header over the bar and a ferocious volley wide of the far post on Insigne’s cross, while Zielinski also had an effort charged down by a sea of Arsenal legs.

Carlo Ancelotti had to gamble after the break, so introduced Dries Mertens for defender Nikola Maksimovic. Fabian Ruiz twice wasted promising opportunities set up by Insigne, but Meret needed a sensational reaction save one-on-one with Emmanuel Aubameyang.

Mertens bundled over the line, but only after Koulibaly had been flagged offside in another extremely debatable decision. Insigne did spring the offside trap, only to then pass it straight to Cech.

Moments later, Insigne was substituted for Amin Younes and seemed surprised, but trying very hard not to look upset. He then refused to sit on the bench, standing next to it instead and occasionally leaning on the dugout roof.

Milik managed to turn and saw his shot deflected wide by Laurent Koscielny, but the Poland international missed an absolute sitter on 74 minutes. Mario Rui whipped in a low cross that went past Nacho Monreal, but Milik somehow got it stuck under his feet from six yards as he came sliding in.

The man who came closest to scoring for Napoli was Arsenal defender Monreal, as only a desperate Cech reaction save prevented him turning a Mario Rui cross into his own net.

Napoli 0-1 Arsenal (0-3 agg)

Napoli: Meret; Maksimovic (Mertens 46), Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam (Mario Rui 71); Callejon, Allan, Zielinski, Fabian Ruiz; Insigne (Younes 60), Milik

Arsenal: Cech; Papastathopoulos, Koscielny, Monreal; Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka (Elneny 60), Kolasinac; Ramsey (Mkhitaryan 34); Aubameyang, Lacazette (Iwobi 68)

Ref: Hategan (ROU)