Arsenal to face Valencia in Europa League semi-finals after win over Napoli
Victory secured by goal from Alexandre Lacazette is marred by injury to Aaron Ramsey
18 April, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
Alexandre Lacazette rifled home a 25-yard free-kick as Arsenal won in Italy
Quarter-Final, Second Leg
ARSENAL 1 (Lacazette, 36)
(Arsenal win 3-0 on aggregate)
ARSENAL reached the semi-finals of the Europa League for the second season in a row tonight (Thursday) after completing the Italian job by beating Napoli in their own back yard.
Alexandre Lacazette rifled home a 25-yard free-kick to seal a 1-0 victory at the San Paolo Stadium, and a 3-0 win on aggregate.
Some of the shine was taken off the result, however, when Aaron Ramsey limped off injured in the first half – sparking fears that he may now have played his last game for the club.
On paper it was a tie that looked pretty straightforward for the Gunners following their 2-0 victory in the first leg thanks to a strike from Ramsey and Kalidou Koulibaly’s own goal. But as the old adage goes, the game isn’t played on paper, and the Arsenal fans were expecting a nervous night.
Those nerves weren’t really tested until almost midway through the first half when a Napoli counter-attack saw Koulibaly charge down field and play a lovely ball to Jose Callejon who, from a tight angle, saw his effort blocked by Petr Cech.
The home side were clearly in a generous mood as they squandered another golden opportunity moments later. Piotr Zielinski whipped a dangerous cross into the box and, with Laurent Koscielny playing a clutch of Napoli players onside, the ball invitingly arrived at Arkadiusz Milik. The Polish striker completely miscued his header wide from close range.
Then came the moment that could derail the Gunners’ domestic run-in as Ramsey went down clutching his hamstring. The midfielder, who has been one of the north Londoners’ most influential players this season, limped out of the action, raising concerns that he may have played his last game for the club having already signed a pre-contract agreement to join Juventus in the summer.
The visitors needed a lift, and they got it 10 minutes before the break thanks to Lacazette. The French forward was fouled 25 yards from goal, and picked himself up to smash the resulting free-kick past goalkeeper Alex Meret.
Napoli now needed four goals. And they should have been left wanting five just minutes into the second half when Ramsey’s replacement, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, played a low cross to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who saw his point-blank shot brilliantly saved by Meret.
Arsenal will now play Valencia over two legs in the semi-finals, kicking off at the Emirates Stadium on May 2, before travelling to Spain on May 9.
NAPOLI: Meret, Maksimovic (Mertens, 45), Chiriches, Koulibaly, Ghoulam (Mario Rui, 71), Callejon, Allan, Zielinski, Fabian, Insigne (Younes, 61), Milik
Substitutes not used: Ospina, Hysaj, Malcuit, Verdi
ARSENAL: Cech, Koscielny, Sokratis, Monreal, Maitland-Niles, Torreira, Xhaka (Elneny, 61), Kolasinac, Ramsey (Mkhitaryan, 34), Aubameyang, Lacazette (Iwobi, 67)
Substitutes not used: Leno, Mustafi, Guendouzi, Ozil