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Lacazette assures Arsenal's progression to the semis on placid night in Naples

Pin Lacazette killed off the tie with a nice free-kick. AFP
Lacazette killed off the tie with a nice free-kick. AFP

Lacazette assures Arsenal's progression to the semis on placid night in Naples

Paul Singh by Paul Singh @besoccer_com - 2 9,592

Alexandre Lacazette scored the only goal of the game from a 36th minute free-kick in a 0-1 victory over Napoli in the Europa League quarter-final second leg at San Paolo. The Gunners won 3-0 on aggregate where they will face Valencia.

Arsenal qualified for the semi-finals of the Europa League thanks to a comfortable 0-1 victory over Napoli in the Europa League quarter-final second leg. Despite only having 33% of possession, Emery's side defended very comfortably and Napoli were lacking the end product to cause Arsenal any trouble. A Lacazette free-kick in the first half meant Napoli needed four and the game was done and dusted.

Napoli started strongly with good pressure on Arsenal. Callejon found Insigne who was unable to control the ball on one occasion and the Arsenal defence had to be alert in the opening minutes. In the eighth minute, Arsenal had the opening chance of the game. Meret had to punch away a Xhaka free-kick from near the corner flag when the Swiss international decided to go for goal.

Arsenal then woke up and Kolasinac threatened Napoli's right for large parts of the evening and Aubameyang managed to force a corner out of Insigne. Napoli then had a glorious chance to hit the front with 17 minutes on the clock. Aubameyang was dispossessed in Napoli's half by Koulibaly which started the counter, Fabian, Koulibaly and Callejon all combined before the Spaniard shot across the goalkeeper. It was going in until Cech dived to stop it with his legs. And that was not their only scare. Seven minutes later, Milik scored after an Insigne pass, but he just strayed offside and it was disallowed.

They were not deterred though and Milik had another go in the 28th minute. Fabian passed for Zielinski and he then put in a splendid cross from the far side which was headed wide by the unmarked Milik. Arsenal then responded and Aubameyang tested Meret.

The away side lost Aaron Ramsey to injury after he pulled a muscle, but they did not dwell on that loss and they killed the tie shortly afterwards. Lacazette was fouled by Maksimovic and the Frenchman himself took the free-kick 30 yards from goal. It was a good free-kick, but it went to the goalkeeper's side and Meret was out of position. Instead of being on his left hand post, he took a few steps to the middle and he was unable to get back to stop it. He could only watch it sail into the net and with it, Napoli's hopes of staying in the competition had gone up in smoke.

Napoli had three chances to claw one back before half-time, but in all honesty, it was a mountain to climb. Callejon headed over a Ghoulam cross, one minute later, in the 42nd minute, the Spaniard volleyed wide after Insigne had reached the by-line and cut back for him and then Zielinski tries an incredibly ambitious effort from 45 yards which did not surprise Cech. Napoli's frustration was clear to see and Insigne was carded for booting the ball away after being penalised for a handball in the middle of the pitch.

In the second half, it was all Napoli. However, Arsenal were comfortable and Napoli's balls in were woeful. Callejon was especially culpable. The half started in very open fashion and Fabian smashed over the bar after good play by Allen and Insigne and then in the 48th minute, Allan got dispossessed by Lacazette, he handed it off to Mkhitaryan and then the Armenian squared for Aubameyang whose shot was superbly saved by Meret

In the 56th minute, Napoli had another goal disallowed for offside. Koulibaly headed a Zielinski cross field ball and Mertens smashed home. Koulibaly was fractionally offside though and the score remained 0-1. Napoli continued to attack even though they knew it was too late. Insigne hit a very tame effort after a lovely pass from midfield and then Milik spurned another opportunity in the 66th minute after he turned in the box.

There was also tension and Koulibaly had an argument with Sokratis although it was unclear what the issue was. Kolasinac may have caught him with a stray arm, but the Greek did nothing. In fact he and other Arsenal players had to calm the Napoli defender down. At the end of the game, he then argued with Kolasinac, possibly aware of who the culprit had been. 

Mario Rui's introduction twenty minutes from time helped Napoli cause more danger. Milik and Zielinksi had chances, but the closest they came to scoring was when Nacho Monreal fired one of Rui's crosses straight at his own goalie. Cech was able to save thanks to his quick reflexes and despite Rui's positive introduction, they did not look like scoring. The game ended with Mkhitaryan firing over and then Fabian missing a good chance from the far stick after another top Rui cross. That said, it was always going to be a mountain to climb and Arsenal eased their way into the last four.

Paul Singh

Paul Singh

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